Tuesday, October 2, 2018

New Eichmann Film Puts the Lie to Hannah Arendt’s “Banality of Evil”

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Find Hidden Openings for Kindness

When you identify yourself as a person who loves kindness, you will notice opportunities you hadn't noticed before. You will always feel that it's up to you to do as much good as you can in your life.

Love Yehuda Lave

Rap Daddy D - Simchat Torah Rap - שמחת תורה ראפ

Rap Daddy D sings The Simchat Torah Rap Copyright David Nachenberg 2017; all rights reserved.Category

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Succot and Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach share the same main kriah (Torah reading): Sefer Shemot, Parashat Ki Tisa, 33:12-23 and 34:1-26

. The source for these passages is a statement in Talmud Bavli, Megillah 31a: "Rav Huna said in the name of Rav: 'On the Sabbath which falls on the intermediate days of the festival, whether Passover or Succot, the passage we read from the Torah is 'Look − you say to me…'" (Translation, The Soncino Talmud, with my emendations)  The rationale for this particular reading initially seems clear, since we find a mention of both Shabbat and the Festivals contained therein:

Six days you may work, and on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing and in harvest you shall rest…The Festival of Unleavened Cakes you shall keep; seven days you shall eat unleavened cakes which I have commanded you…And you shall make for yourself a Festival of Weeks, the first of the wheat harvest, and the festival of the ingathering, at the turn of the year. (Sefer Shemot 34:21, 18, 22, this and all Bible translations, The Judaica Press Complete Tanach)
Rav Ephraim Piekarski notes that these pasukim (verses) contain nearly the exact same wording as earlier verses found in Sefer Shemot, Parashat Mishpatim15:16 and 23:16.
He asks, "Why did Chazal (our Sages of blessed memory) choose the verses in Parashat Ki Tisa as the kriah for Shabbat Chol HaMoed, rather than those of Parashat Mishpatim?" While Rav Piekarski provides a cogent halachically-based answer, I would like to offer my own response to his question.
Our Torah reading for Shabbat Chol HaMoed is comprised of 36 pasukim, of which the first 29 contain no mention of either Shabbat or the Festivals. Instead, they focus upon Moshe's dialogical encounter with the Almighty following the egregious sin of the Chet HaEgel (Golden Calf), and the receiving of the second set of luchot (Tablets of the Law).
Initially, we may be stymied as to why Chazal (our Sages of blessed memory) chose these 29 pasukim to be read at this time. Yet, I believe the concept of machshava (thought) links these verses to Shabbat Chol HaMoed. This idea is given powerful voice in Rav Shlomo Alkabetz's Lecha Dodi when he describes Shabbat as "sof ma'aseh, b'machshava techilah" ("last to be created, yet first in thought").  As many sources intimate, the nexus between Shabbat and Hashem's machshava in this Friday evening hymn is hardly accidental. Shabbat, and by extension the Festivals, underscore the unique import of machshava for these holy days, which provide the Jewish people with an unsurpassed opportunity for serious reflection. Moreover, in a very real sense, we emulating Hashem when we apply the thought component on Shabbat and the Festivals.
Based upon the singular connection that obtains between Shabbat, the Festivals and machshava, we can better understand why Chazal included the extended dialogue between Hashem and Moshe at the beginning of our Torah reading. Herein, we find a number of crucial spiritual concepts and theological principles that enhance our Shabbat and Yom Tov experience. Allow me to focus upon one of them: "For how then will it be known that I [Moshe] have found favor in Your eyes, I and Your people? Is it not in that You will go with us? Then I and Your people will be distinguished (niflinu) from every [other] nation on the face of the earth." (Sefer Shemot 33:16) In what way will we be niflinu if Hashem's Schechinah (Divine Presence) is amongst us? Not surprisingly, this is a question that has captured the hearts and minds of many of our greatest thinkers.
Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser (known as the "Malbim," 1809-1879) grapples with our question and provides us with an original answer:

The only way that the Jewish people will be distinguished (niflinu) from the rest of mankind will be if You [Hashem] "will go with us." This is the case, since all of the other nations of the world are guided by the hand of heavenly beings and angels, whereas we are separate from them in the sense that we are not under the control of any heavenly being or angel. Instead, "the L-rd's portion is His people Jacob, the lot of His inheritance." (Sefer Devarim 32:9) – as such, we are guided solely by His providence (hashgachato). (Translation, my own)
The Malbim's interpretation of niflinu is unique. In relatively few words, he reminds us of the exceptional relationship we share with the Almighty that is personified in a verse from a Yom Kippur tefilah we recently sang together: "ki anu amecha v'Atah Elokeinu" ("For we are Your people, and You are our G-d"). In other words, we are the Creator's am hanivchar (chosen people) and, as such, we and we alone are directly tachat kanfei HaSchechinah (under His divine Providence).
What does the expression, "am hanivchar," mean in a practical sense? In my estimation, the former Chief Rabbi of England, Sir Jonathan Sacks, offers one of the best modern presentations of this concept. He notes that many people are misled into believing that the idea of "choseness" is tantamount to G-d rejecting all the other nations and, consequently, connotes arrogance and elitism. Rabbi Sacks suggests, however, that nothing could be further from the truth: "Do not think that G-d choosing one people means He rejects every other people. Absolutely not! That was never our way. And that is why, again and again and again, G-d, the prophets say, is not our G-d only." (Public lecture: "Jewish Identity - The Concept of a Chosen People," May 8, 2001) Rabbi Sacks emphasizes a very different approach to understanding our one-of-a kind role in Hashem's grand plan for mankind. He maintains that our election enables us to bring Hashem's message to the world: "… the Jewish story, in its unique particularity, is the human story in its universality. If we would have been everyone in general, we would never have been somebody in particular. And if we hadn't been somebody in particular, we would never have a message for humanity in general."
We now see that Chazal chose Shabbat Chol HaMoed's Torah reading, with its seemingly extraneous 29 initial pasukim, precisely because these include multiple yesodei haTorah v'ikarei emunah (fundamental principles of Jewish belief) that this Shabbat uniquely allows us to contemplate. Prominent among these theological principles is the notion of niflinu – am hanivchar. Armed with Rabbi Sacks' explanation of this concept, may we ever strive to live distinguished lives so that we will serve as role models for all mankind. Then, as Isaiah the prophet taught us so long ago, may we truly be a "light unto nations," (49:6) and Hashem's "witnesses" to the entire world. (43:10). With the Almighty's guidance and our fervent desire, may this be so. V'chane yihi ratzon.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

New Eichmann Film Puts the Lie to Hannah Arendt's "Banality of Evil"

One of the most notorious lines — and lies — that grew out of the trial of Adolf Eichmann for his important role in the Holocaust, was what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil," meaning that even the most horrific people can appear insipid. Arendt was assigned to report on the 1961 trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem, but according to contemporaries, she rarely attended the trial. She came to Jerusalem having made up her mind in advance that Eichmann in particular and other perpetrators of the evils of the Holocaust in general, were ordinary nondescript functionaries. She reported on the trial with an agenda. It was not necessary for her actually to observe and listen to Eichmann because to do so might undercut her thesis. So instead she wrote a mendacious screed in which she constructed a stick-figure caricature of one of the most significant perpetrators of the Holocaust.

I use the word mendacious deliberately, because it seems Arendt knew better. One of Hitler's key supporters was Professor Martin Heidegger, perhaps the most influential philosopher of his day. Arendt was his student and lover. After the war, she tried desperately to rehabilitate him. He was anything but banal. Nor were Göring, Goebbels, Himmler, Hitler and the numerous doctors and lawyers who were tried at Nuremberg. Neither were the university students who began by burning Jewish books and ended by burning Jewish children. The perpetrators of the Holocaust — from those who organized it in Berlin to those who carried it out in the death camps and killing fields — included some of the most brilliant young men and women in Germany. Many left university to participate in the "final solution" and then returned to highly prestigious jobs in post-war Germany.

Adolf Eichmann was also anything but banal, as a perusal of the trial transcript reveals. In the new film Operation Finale, he is played by Ben Kingsley. Although the film partakes of Hollywood liberties — a romance between a beautiful doctor who in reality was a man and the film's Israeli hero — Kingsley's fictional portrayal of Eichmann is far more realistic than the allegedly non-fiction account by Arendt.

The late Professor Telford Taylor — who was my teacher, mentor, colleague and friend — had been the chief prosecutor at the Second Nuremberg Trials. He was invited to report on the trial as well. He invited me along as his assistant and translator, but I had just been elected editor-in-chief at the Yale Law Journal and could not accept his offer — a decision I have long regretted. When he returned, he gave me his account of the trial, which varied enormously from that of Hannah Arendt. Where she saw banality, he saw calculation, manipulation and shrewdness. These characteristics come through far more clearly in the film than in Hannah Arendt's deeply flawed account. In the film, we see a highly manipulative, shrewd judge of character who seeks to use his psychological insights to his advantage.

Nor was Arendt's book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, the only effort by Germans to attribute banality and ignorance to the perpetrators of the Holocaust. In Bernhard Schlink's award-winning book, The Reader, turned into a critically-acclaimed staring Kate Winslet, a woman who actively participated in the mass-murder of Jews is presented as embarrassed by her illiteracy. Readers and viewers come away believing that she may have been more typical of hands-on perpetrators than the SS and Einsatzgruppen.

Deliberately distorting the history of the Holocaust — whether by denial, minimization, unfair comparisons or false characterizations of the perpetrators — is a moral and literary sin. Arendt is a sinner who placed her ideological agenda, to promote a view of evil as mundane, above the truth. To be sure, there are untruths as well in Operation Finale, but they are different in kind rather than degree. Some of the drama and chase scenes are contrived, but what else can be expected of Hollywood? What is important is that Eichmann is presented in his multifaceted complexity, in the manner in which Shakespeare presented Iago, Lady Macbeth and many of his other villains — not as banal but as brilliantly evil.

It is essential to the past memory of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as to the future efforts to prevent recurrences of genocide, that we not simplify with ideologically driven and historically false oversimplifications such as "the banality of evil." That mendacious and dangerous phrase should be struck from the historical vocabulary of the Holocaust and the trial of Eichmann, lest we look in the future for banality and miss the brilliance of those who would repeat Eichmann's crimes.

Hope you had a great Simchat Torah

Immediately following the seven-day festival of Sukkot comes the festival of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (September 30-October 2, 2018) when we conclude — and begin anew — the annual Torah reading cycle. The holiday is marked with unbridled rejoicing, especially during the "hakafot" procession, as we march, sing and dance with the Torah scrolls.

"On Simchat Torah," goes the chassidic adage, "we rejoice in the Torah, and the Torah rejoices in us; the Torah, too, wants to dance, so we become the Torah's dancing feet."

As the month of Tishrei comes to a close, we have experienced and celebrated the most powerful moments of the Jewish year. As the Torah reading cycle comes to an end, we have read, studied and were inspired by its timeless teachings. As we start reading the Torah all over again, what new lessons, insights, and inspiration will we derive this time around?

Wishing you a most joyful holiday!

No Arab demographic time bomb
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative"
Jewish Political Studies Review, Volume 29, Numbers 3-4, September 2018
 Demographic reality defies conventional wisdom  
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Jewish State is not facing an Arab demographic time bomb; but, benefits from a robust Jewish demographic tailwind of births and net-immigration.  

For example, between 1995 and 2017, the number of Israeli Jewish births surged by 74%, from 80,400 to 140,000, while the number of Israeli Arab births grew by 19% during the same period - from 36,000 to 43,000 births.

Moreover, contrary to conventional wisdom, the trend of Israeli emigration has slowed down.  Thus, the number of Israelis staying abroad for over a year was expanded by 6,300 in 2016 (the lowest in ten years - a derivative of the growth of Israel's economy), compared to 8,200 in 2015 and 14,200 additional emigrants in 1990. At the same time, Israel's population surged from 4.8 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2018.

Since the end of the 19th century, the Jewish-Arab demographic balance has systematically defied the demographic establishment's assessments and projections.   

For instance, in March 1898, Shimon Dubnov, a leading Jewish historian and demographer, projected 500,000 Jews in the Land of Israel by 1998, defining Theodore Herzl's Zionist vision as "a messianic wishful thinking."  However, Herzl was the ultimate realist and Dubnov was off by 5.5 million Jews!

In October 1944, the founder of Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), and the luminary of Israel's demographic and statistical establishment, Prof. Roberto Bachi, projected 2.3 million Jews in Israel in 2001, a 34% minority. Bachi's projection reflected the demographic establishment's underwhelming assessment of Jewish fertility and immigration (Aliyah) and the overwhelming assessment of Arab fertility. In 2018, there are seven million Jews in Israel, a 65.5% majority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), enjoying an effective demographic tailwind.   

During the 1980s, the ICBS sustained its traditional, minimalist assessment of Aliyah, dismissing the potential of an Aliyah wave from the USSR. But, in defiance of the demographic and statistical establishments – and due to a most assertive, pro-active Aliyah policy by Prime Ministers Ben Gurion, Eshkol, Meir, Begin and Shamir - one million Soviet Jews immigrated to Israel.    

In 2000, consistent with demographic political correctness, the ICBS projected a gradual decline of Jewish fertility rate from 2.6 births per woman to 2.4 in 2025.  However, by 2017, the Jewish fertility rate was bolstered to 3.16 births per woman and 76.5% of all Israeli births were Jewish, compared to 69% in 1995.       
 The Westernization of Arab demography
In 1969, Israel's Arab fertility rate (nine births per woman) was six births higher than Israel's Jewish fertility rate. However, that gap was erased by 2015 (3.11 births each), and in 2016/17 the Jewish fertility rate was higher than the Arab rate (3.16 births per woman and 3.3 when both Jewish spouses were Israeli-born). Moreover, the Arab fertility rate in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is 3 births per woman, compared to 5 in 2000.   In fact, in 2018, Israel's Jewish fertility rate is equal to Jordan's, while exceeding the fertility rates in all Arab countries other than Yemen, Iraq and Egypt.     

The rise of Jewish fertility reflects the enhanced optimism, patriotism, attachment to roots, communal responsibility and a substantial decline in the number of abortions.

Furthermore, while conventional wisdom assumes that the surge of Israel's Jewish fertility rate was triggered by the Ultra-Orthodox community, reality documents a moderate decline of the Ultra-Orthodox fertility rate (due to the growing integration in the job-market and academia) - while a substantial increase of the fertility rate has been demonstrated by Israel's secular sector, which is the largest sector of the population.   
At the same time, the Westernization of Arab fertility (in Israel, Judea and Samaria and throughout the Middle East) is a derivative of the following phenomena:

*Intense urbanization has transformed the 70% rural Arab population in Judea and Samaria in 1967 to a 75% urban population in 2018;

*Most Arab women in Israel, Judea and Samaria have pursued dramatically enhanced education, increasingly completing high school and pursuing higher education;

*Rather than getting married at the age of 15 and beginning reproduction at 16 – as did their mothers and grandmothers – contemporary Arab women tend to delay and shorten that process;

*Arab women have improved their social status, seeking to advance their own careers, thus ending their reproductive period at the age of 45, rather than 55, resulting in less births;

*Rapidly declining teen-pregnancy; 

*Rapidly expanding family-planning;

*Youthful male emigration, among Judea and Samaria Arabs, has widened the gap between the number of Arab males and females there;

*Arab women in Israel, Judea and Samaria, just like Arab women throughout the Arab World have substantially expanded the use of contraceptives.

According to a June, 2012 study by the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB), 72% of 15-49 year old Palestinian married women prefer to avoid pregnancy, trailing Morocco (78%), ahead of Jordan (71%) and Egypt (69%).  A growing number are using contraception, as family planning services have expanded in the Arab region.
 Auditing, rather than echoing, the official Palestinian data
In contrast to the Israeli and global demographic establishment, this essay audits – rather than reverberate/amplify - the official data of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). The essay examines the records of the PCBS against the data published by the Palestinian Departments of Health, Education and Interior, the Palestinian Election Commission, The World Bank, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel's Authority of International Passages, etc.

Unlike the demographic establishment, this essay does not indulge in projections, which are subjective by definition, impacted by a litany of unpredictable domestic and international social, economic and geo-political factors. Instead, this essay focuses only on well-documented and verifiable birth, death and migration data.

Since 2004, "The America-Israel Demographic Research Group" – consisting of three Americans and six Israelis, including this writer – has documented significant inaccuracies and misrepresentations by the PCBS, totaling over one million Arabs in Judea and Samaria and about half a million in Gaza.  For instance:

1. On February 26, 1998, upon completing the first Palestinian census, the Head of the PCBS, Hasan Abu-Libdeh, stated at a press conference: "We counted 325,000 persons living outside the Palestinian lands for more than one year." The inclusion of such a contingency in a census is prohibited by international standards, until – and if – the overseas residents return for, at least, 90 days. Furthermore, such a contingency expands systematically through births (which exceed deaths).  This malpractice was confirmed by the 1998 website of the PCBS: "The de-facto approach was adopted with some exceptions: All Palestinians studying abroad irrespective of the study period…. Palestinians who live abroad for more than one year, and who have a usual place of residence in the Palestinian territories…."

It was further reaffirmed on October 14 2004, when the Palestinian Election Commission stated that 200,000 overseas residents – over the age of 18 – were on the roster of eligible voters. Since in October 2004, 18 was the median age, the number of overseas residents, included in the census, expanded to 400,000 persons. On October29, 2014, the Palestinian Undersecretary of the Interior, Hassan Ilwi, told the Ma'an News Agency: "Since 1995, we have registered about 100,000 children born abroad."

2. A double-count of the 330,000 Jerusalem Arabs (whose number expands systematically due to births) has taken place since the 1997 Palestinian census, because they are included in the official count of both Israeli and the the Palestinian Authority.

3. Over 100,000 Arabs (mostly from Judea and Samaria) have been doubly-counted – by Israel and the Palestinian Authority – as a result of marrying Israeli Arabs, which accorded them an Israeli status (permanent residents or citizens). This contingency is, also, growing due to births.

4. A 32% inflated number of births was documented by a September 7, 2006 study by The World Bank.

5. Deaths have been under-reported as evidenced by the 2007 census, which included Arabs born in 1845…. Moreover, in 2009, the PCBS reported 1,900 deaths in Gaza, while claiming that 1,391 Arabs were killed during Operation Cast Lead…. A June 10, 1993 study by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (which stopped auditing the Palestinian numbers in 1996) echoed studies conducted during the Ottoman and British rule of the area, indicating: "If the Palestinian population registration is accurate, then Palestinian life expectancy is higher than life expectancy in the USA…." 

6. A 280,000 net-emigration has been documented, since the 1997 Palestinian census, by Israel's International Passages Authority, which controls all land, air and sea passages to/from Israel, Judea and Samaria (and Gaza until the "disengagement" of 2005), while the PCBS claims zero net-migration…. The 1950-1967 documentation by Jordan and Egypt reveals that net-emigration has been systematic in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, except for the 1993-95 Oslo-driven importation, by Israel, of some 100,000 Palestinians from terrorist camps in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, the Sudan and Lebanon. In recent years, the scope of net-emigration from Judea and Samaria has been 20,000 annually.

According to a 1946 document, compiled by Israel Trivus and submitted by David Ben Gurion to "The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry" ("No Arab majority in the Land of Israel"), should one accept the official British Mandate Statistics – which echoed the Arab numbers with no scrutiny (as is the current practice) – then Arab natural increase in the Land of Israel is the highest in human history, dramatically higher than customary in the Arab World. The 2018 demographic reality
Contrary to political correctness, which has embraced demographic fatalism – repeatedly frustrated by reality - this essay has embraced due-diligence, documenting the reality of Jewish demographic momentum. 

In 2018 – irrespective of the international norm to regurgitate official demographic numbers without due diligence – there are 1.85 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria (not 3 million as claimed by the PCBS), 1.6 million Israeli Muslim Arabs, 130,000 Israeli Druze, 130,000 Israeli Christian Arabs and seven million Jews - a 65.5% Jewish majority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria, compared with a 9% Jewish minority in 1900 and a 39% minority in 1947.  While Arab demography has experienced powerful Westernization, Jewish demography has benefitted from a robust demographic tailwind of fertility and an annual net-immigration of 25,000-30,000 in recent years.   

The latter has been the most critical engine of growth of the Jewish State, representing a core value of the Zionist idea: the Ingathering (Aliyah) to the Homeland. In 2018, there is a unique window of opportunity for another wave of Aliyah from France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Britain, additional European countries, Argentina, the USA, etc.  Such a wave would follow the waves, which have enriched the Jewish State, every 20 years, since 1882, provided that Jerusalem revives the pro-active Aliyah policy, which was implemented by all Prime Ministers until 1992, but replaced by a pro-active absorption policy since 1992.

In 2018, Israel is the only Western democracy and advanced economy, endowed with a relatively-high rate of fertility, which facilitates the sustained growth of the economy, as well as a potential expansion of the military ranks - if necessary - while boosting the level of national optimism.  

Against the backdrop of the aforementioned demographic documentation, the suggestion that the Jewish State is facing an Arab demographic time bomb, is either dramatically mistaken or outrageously misleading.  Or both….

Israeli medical startups making waves

It's a great week for Israeli medical companies, as two major deals have been announced.

See you tomorrow

Hope you had a beautiful Sukkot

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

2850 Womble Road, Suite 100-619, San Diego
United States


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