Shabbat Nowruz

Shabbat Nowruz

Shabbat Shalom / Happy Nowruz

Nowruz Nah RuzNowruz is the new year celebration for Iranians which comes on the Spring Equinox – which is today. It is a time for joy, hope, celebration, presents. President Obama called out “Happy Nowruz” yesterday, as this day arrived in the region formerly known as Persia, due to the Earth reaching that designated place in its orbit around the sun. This day is also significant to the Zoroastrian Faith, The Baha’i Faith, and others.

Lunar Eclipse 2015 / Blood MoonToday also, however, happens to be the first Jewish Sabbath after the recent elections in Israel. And it comes during a cycle of Blood Moons that many believe have historic prophetic significance. In other words, this day is at the center of a swirl of real-world and symbolic happenings. Let’s take stock of the situation

Israel faces greater uncertainty in the region, including the fear that the $5B in funds to rebuild Gaza, and the efforts of Abbas at the UN continue to pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. The Middle East Forum recently published an excellent summary of this – a balanced representation of the challenges facing the new government in Israel. Obama and IranHere in America the President and other elected representatives are at odds over what is to be done in the region as he pursue negotiations with Iran that many feel will lead to disaster. One reason this seems to be a valid concern is related to the New Year beginning now in Iran. Their New Year holiday coincides with that of the Baha’i Naw-Rúz, and they are a sizable religious minority in Iran, to which I happen to belong. And yet Iran has a long history of persecuting the Baha’is – including murder, terror, torture and incarceration. This does not bode well for the future of mankind.

Thankfully, there is a God in heaven who will see to it that His Will is ultimately fulfilled.

The random virtues card I drew was cooperation. “Working together for the good of all… the willingness to stand side by side and use the different gifts each of us has to offer.” Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.” General Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th President of the U.S.A.

Amen.

Dwight D. Eisenhower EisenhauerFrom the linked article above “The Eisenhauer (German for “iron hewer/miner”) family migrated from Karlsbrunn, Germany, to North America, first settling in York, Pennsylvania, in 1741, and in the 1880s moving to Kansas. Accounts vary as to how and when the German name Eisenhauer was anglicized to Eisenhower.”

Two thoughts come to mind. Christ was to return with a Rod of Iron, to set up 1,000 years of peace. And and “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks:” which would require an Eisenhauer.

Netanyahu has been referred to as a modern Churchill, who also comes to my mind in this context, but I had not thought to compare him to Eisenhower, who served in WWI and was the supreme allied commander in WWII. It was the US entry in WWII that ultimately saved what was left of the Jewish population in Europe and elsewhere, enabling the establishment, in 1948, of the Jewish state, which collected the desperate and dying remnant of the people still clinging to the Covenant of Moses.Juif

There is much in the news about Netanyahu’s approach to cooperation, and a two-state solution. The controversy is related to whether more pressure should be put on Israel or its enemies to cooperate. Many feel that a certain minimal standard of cooperation needs to be applied to both parties, rather than the path taken by my heritage-nation, Sweden for there to be more cooperation by the Israeli’s.

Beat their Swords into PlowsharesThese are important topics, because, to reverse the Iron hewer’s quote,  only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can prevent the need for force, as men look towards the dawn of eternal peace.

 

Netanyahu’s Moment

Netanyahu’s Moment

Benjamin Netanyahu will soon address Congress in a polarizing Polaroid moment. He’s a lightning rod for US internal politics highlighting tension between the three branches of Government and the US population.  Crossroads MediumThe Executive Branch is livid, and overreacting.  The Legislative Branch is divided, but pulling strongly against the President. The Judicial Branch may become embroiled in challenges to Executive Branch actions. The Red / Blue state divide is mixing and morphing to purple as issues collide and alignments slide.

In short, the US, Israel and the world stand at a major crossroad.

Where do you stand?

This Article might provoke some thought in that regard.

My 6 year old daughter pulled Mindfulness as the Virtues Card for me to reflect upon. It is “living reflectively, with conscious awareness of our actions, words and thoughts – attentive to others needs. Living mindfully lightens our lives by helping us to detach from our emotions. We transform anger to justice. We cultivate our inner vision, aware of life’s lessons as they unfold.”

Wow.Netanyahu's Moment

On the back of the card “Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but the light?… Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things?”

Tao Te Ching

“Mindfulness brings us serenity.”

Amen

Beautiful Striped Pajamas

Beautiful Striped Pajamas

To follow up on my Never Again? Shut Up! blog I decided to review  kindred movies that deal with the Holocaust in parallel ways, each of which is stunningly effective. Before doing so, let me preface the reviews with a few comments about the pending visit of Benjamin Netanyahu – or Bibi as he is commonly known.

This recent Politico Article illustrates the fallout caused by Congress’ invitation for Bibi to speak to it.  The article quotes Martin Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel under Bill Clinton saying “nobody wants to be put in the position of taking sides… Democrats who are supporters of Israel don’t want to have to choose between supporting Israel and supporting their president.”

DiscordNancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives echoed this sentiment when she, according to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill “expressed her concern that casting a political apple of discord into the relationship is not the best way forward given the formidable challenges our two countries are facing together”.  It appears she blames Bibi.  I’ll keep my opinion to myself on this, and invite you to reflect on where the “political apple of discord” originated.

Was it the invitation by John Boehner, Speaker of the US House of Representatives? Bibi’s acceptance? President Obama’s reaction? The responses by Representatives in Ms. Pelosi’s Party? Or do the causes lie with others, inside or outside the US?

But getting back to the topic of remembering the Holocaust, the origin and continued existence of the embattled “Jewish State” is directly tied to the unbelievable suffering of Jews throughout history, culminating in the Holocaust.  Denial of the Holocaust and the refusal to accept the legitimacy of Israel, and its right to defend itself, go hand-in-glove.  On the world scene many people and nations today have turned Anti-Zionism into a gross caricature of the Antisemitism that empowered the annihilation of over six million Jews.

Antisemetic caricature

It took the tiny nation 50 years to achieve a population as large as that, and since then the forces that sought to destroy it before it got established, and which have conspired against it ever since, have continued to grow in strength and influence.  The global narrative against Israel is eerily similar to that which existed in Weimar Germany, throughout sections of Europe, and pockets outside of it, in the build-up to the Holocaust.

In the US we’ve generally been supportive of Israel, but as our current president seeks to normalize relations with traditional enemies, including Iran, many believe that he has betrayed Israel, a nation we have traditionally supported. Clearly, the world is, in fact, being forced to choose.  And while it is not Israel doing the forcing, it seems to be the very presence of the Jews who, like Dickens’ Ghosts of Christmas, haunt anti-semites, past, present and future. Speaking of Christmas, a wave of religious persecution unheard of in centuries is sweeping the world, as indicated by “Christmas Slaughter”, a Gatestone Article highlighting that, in the Muslim world “Christmas celebrations were, as usual, tense and sometimes bloody”.

The first of the two movies I’d like to discuss is “Life is Beautiful”, by director Roberto Benigni, which won three Oscars in 1997. This implausible romantic comedy morphs into a story about a father trying to help his son survive a Nazi Concentration camp.  roberto benigni nicoletta braschi life is beautifulIt celebrates the power of the Human Spirit, giving visual voice to the sentiments Viktor Frankl expressed in “Man’s Search For Meaning”.  Frankl eloquently and convincingly argued that those who were able to find meaning in their suffering were more likely to survive. Against all odds, both Frankl and Benigni pull off a miracle.  Helping us understand this aspect of the Holocaust and believe that in some finite way, individuals were able to exercise a fragment of control, even in the most horrific and hopeless situations, which at times made the difference between life and death. This is one aspect of the Holocaust that needs to be remembered – the power of the Faith of those Jews, and others, who, against all odds, survived. This is the rare movie I have watched more than once, and though I last saw it over decade ago, it sticks with you, in a very positive way.

The movie, however, that inspired this blog was one I watched last night;  “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” directed by Mark Herman.  This lesser known and less decorated movie is etched more clearly into my psyche than the lighter, and more inspiring movie I referenced above.  boy in the striped pajamasIt is Chilling.  Haunting.  And memorable for similar, but distinctly different reasons. Both movies illustrate how the innocence and imagination of a young boy, faced with the horror of genocidal ethnic hatred, has the ability to overcome what otherwise would be the extinction of the soul. Both movies illustrate how a belief in one’s father, supported by the love of one’s mother, gives the needed left and right wings for the spirit of the child to soar above the downward spiral of an evil so grim it presents the gassing and burning of people, based on their religious and cultural ethnicity, as a solution.

The difference between the two is the nature of the father.

I won’t spoil either movie, but strongly recommend you watch them both, with this in mind.  What I will say before pulling a random Virtue Card to guide us to conclusion, is that the Title of my trilogy and this Blog “The People of the Sign” really centers around that question.  What is the Nature of our Father – capital F – our Divine Creator? And how do we identify with Him? My book posits that, for the Jews it was the Sign of the Sabbath Day, which gave them an identity the Nazis could hang a yellow star upon, branding them for slaughter.

The card I pulled was Cooperation. I resisted my initial desire to draw again, which would be contrary to numerous virtues, and instead decided to cooperate with it. Here’s a selection of what’s on the card:

“Cooperation is working together for the good of all. It is the willingness to stand, side by side and use the different gifts each of us has to offer. We seek common goals in service of a unified vision.” The card features a great quote by Dwight Eisenhower “Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace”.

I’m glad I chose to cooperate with it.  I’m of the opinion that we do face an emergency, and that force will be needed to deal with it. At the same time, the only solution is cooperation. Within congress. Between congress and the President. And with Israel, who perhaps has more grounds than any other nation on earth to decide not to cooperate with others, in order to protect themselves.

I for one wish to hear what Bibi has to say. He represents a people whose clarity was forged by trusting in God, over millennia, and who, despite the Holocaust, haven’t given up on life, or on cooperation.

Never Again? Shut Up!

Never Again? Shut Up!

Buchenwald“You Jews – it never happened, and if you don’t shut up it will happen again.”

This quote was shared by Ben Kingsley in his recent interview about filming the story of Simon Wiesenthal in Budapest, Hungary. This is disturbing, on every imaginable level.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and on this day I’m proud to be associated with the book Genocide Revealed, which covers the culpability of Hungarian War Hero Admiral Miklos Horthy.  According to Aleksander Veljic’s book, Horthy, Hungarian Regent over occupied Serbia, was the first Anti-Semitic leader of Europe – and an inspiration to Hitler. Miklos Horthy RazziaVeljic’s one-of-a-kind book independently revealed the names, dates & places prior to the unveiling of the UN Archives which corroborated his previously disputed presentation of events.

As we remember the liberation of Jews at Auschwitz, specifically, and Buchenwald, Dachau, and all the other places and events, generally, let’s also remember the unknown-to-most Razzia in Serbia, which happened 73 years ago on January 23. The details of this horrendous event are covered in detail in Veljic’s account.

But back to “It never happened, and if you don’t shut up it will happen again.” and Ben’s calm, reasoned plea that Europe grieve.  This bears megatons of emotional weight. The sentiment expressed by the person in Budapest gives credence to the oft-repeated quote that Europe has never forgiven the Jews for the Holocaust.

This “blame-the-victim” mentality directed at Jews must be opposed by non-Jews.  Pieter Schelte Ship SSJews shouldn’t need to ask and ask and ask for the respect and consideration they are denied in Europe and elsewhere. When Jews oppose naming the largest crane ship in the world after SS War Criminal Pieter Schelte the rest of us should support their demand to change it.

Even Google, the organizer of the world’s information has failed us. I looked to see how they would change their logo today, like they do for other memorable events.  Nope, they used their standard, cheery, colorful logo above their search bar.  But they did stick a link below “I’m Feeling Lucky” – “Remembering the Liberation of Auschwitz” as though the Holocaust is something we celebrate.  Jews should feel lucky too – they were liberated!” Yippee!Google Celebrates the HolocaustThey’re smart at Google and they have reasons for this which I’m unaware of.  These reasons might affect my opinion but for now I’m disappointed to say the least.

Further words fail me in the face of this issue. So today, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I really needed a random virtues card to provide me with a lens through which to view what is otherwise a very depressing situation. “Wonder” was the card that came up.

Wonder Synchronicity“Wonder is being open to the beauty and mysteries of life. It is our soul’s appreciation for what is precious and inspiring. When we live reflectively, we delight in the signs and wonders that appear in our lives. We are alert to synchronicities that point us toward a decision or give us a deeper insight into the truth.” Sure enough, I am uplifted by these thoughts.

I suppose, in a way, it is synchronicity that brought Kingsley’s Interview,  Alexander Veljic, me, and you, together on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It does certainly open up a door of discussion.  So I will open myself up to the wonder of this day of remembrance, and that which reveals itself along its path.

I hope you will too. Let’s agree to share our thoughts with each other, and in so doing, remember to make the world a better place.

I wonder what will happen when we do?