Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement
(January 14, 2020 / JNS) There's no escaping controversy any time that Israel or the Palestinians are mentioned. That's a lesson the producers, writers and star of the long-running "Jeopardy!" television game show learned to their detriment this past week when a clue involving the location of the Church of the Nativity was used in an episode that aired on Jan. 10, though it was taped last fall.
In a category titled "Where's That Church?" contestants were asked to identify the location of the house of worship that Christians believe to be the birthplace of Jesus. Katie Needle, a retail supervisor from Brooklyn, N.Y., and the show's defending champion at the time, answered (in the form of a question, as the game's rules require), "What is Palestine?" But to her surprise, longtime host Alex Trebek told her she was wrong. Another contestant named Jack Maguire countered, "What is Israel?" and won $200 for answering correctly.
The show then went to commercial break, and reportedly, after the producers and chief writer Billy Wisse huddled with Trebek, the question about the Church of the Nativity was eliminated. A new one was substituted, and the show went on with Needle ultimately defending her title. But when the show eventually aired, the deleted sequence mentioning Bethlehem was the one that viewers saw in a mistake that the show says it regrets.
It led to an avalanche of criticism against the game show, Trebek and Wisse (who is the son of Ruth Wisse, the distinguished Jewish scholar and eloquent advocate for Zionism) on social media from critics of Israel who saw it as an example of Zionist propaganda that sought to erase Palestine from the map
Adding to the storm over the segment is the fact that Needle is actually a supporter of the Palestinian cause and has defended the anti-Semitic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), while also criticizing Israel and proclaiming "Palestine should be free" on Twitter.
But while Alex Trebek won't decide the fate of the Middle East, the correct answer to the question he posed isn't a matter of trivia.
While much of the world agrees with Needle that Bethlehem is in Palestine, there is currently no such legally constituted nation.
Under the terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority autonomously governs most of the territory that is commonly known as the West Bank, where Bethlehem is located. But Oslo did not grant the P.A. does sovereignty. Nor does it exert sovereign rule since Israel still maintains security control of the region. Final disposition of the area awaits negotiations that would, in theory, partition the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
Repeated attempts at negotiations have been tried ever since the P.A. was established. Israel has made offers of independence that would have given the Palestinians an independent state in almost all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip (now ruled as an independent state in all but name by the Hamas terrorist organization) and a share of Jerusalem in exchange for ending the conflict. Each time, the Palestinians have responded "no" to such proposals. The P.A., led by Mahmoud Abbas—who just entered the 16th year of the four-year term as president, to which he was elected in 2005—is still unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.
So rather than conclude peace with Israel, the P.A. has tried an end run around negotiations by asking the United Nations and other governments to recognize the existence of a State of Palestine that doesn't exercise the authority of a state. That's why it isn't actually a member of the United Nations, though the Palestinians have a delegate there and at many of the world body's agencies. Needle's answer notwithstanding, Bethlehem cannot be considered part of state that has no sovereign rights or legally agreed-upon borders.
But neither was her fellow contestant correct when he said "Israel" since the Jewish state doesn't actually claim it to be part of its territory. It is instead part of territories that are disputed.
The area is often wrongly termed as being part of "Palestinian lands" or "Palestinian territories." However, there has been no fully recognized sovereign nation there since Great Britain governed the entire country under a Mandate for Palestine granted it by the League of Nations in 1922 as part of its promise to help develop a "national home" for the Jewish people. Before that, it was governed by foreign conquerors such as the Turks and their Ottoman Empire. At no point in prior history was there a Palestinian Arab entity or state exercising sovereignty in any part of the country.
Bethlehem was illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967, and came into Israel's possession in June of that year in a defensive war. Its right to the territory is just as valid as that of the P.A. But unless and until the Palestinians finally decide to make peace, it will remain in legal limbo.
Those who wish for Needle's answer to be considered correct should stop tweeting at Trebek or casting aspersions at Billy Wisse. Instead, they should direct their criticism at the Palestinians. As long as they remain unwilling to accept the existence of Israel, there will be no two-state solution to create a real state of Palestine.
In fact, it is now just as accurate to say that Bethlehem is in Judea. That was the biblical name of the region that was widely used throughout history to describe that part of a region the Romans renamed Palestine in order to try to erase its Jewish identity.
If the Palestinians want the existence of a state of Palestine to be recognized, they must choose peace and stop trying to expunge the Jewish history of the region. Until that happens, Bethlehem will remain as stateless as a Palestinian people that seem unable to give up their war on the Jews.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.
2.3 Million People Visited Auschwitz in 2019, (and I was one of them)
A record 2.32 million people visited the sites of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz and Auschwitz II-Birkenau in Poland last year, the Auschwitz Memorial announced on Tuesday.
That number is about 170,000 more than in 2018, which also broke previous records.
At least 1.1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz.
Some 81 percent of last year's visitors learned about the camp's history with one of the museum's 340 guides, who conduct tours in 21 languages. More than 14,000 people in organized groups visited the sites as part of study visits, which is approximately a 20 percent increase compared to the previous year.
According to data in the online reservation system, in 2019, the memorial was visited by at least 396,000 visitors from Poland, 200,000 from Great Britain, 120,000 from the United States, 104,000 from Italy, 73,000 from Germany, 70,000 from Spain, 67,000 from France, 59,000 from Israel, 42,000 from Ireland and 40,000 from Sweden.
"However, [the] data [is] not complete because in relation to the 730,000 visitors who came to the memorial in international groups, the organizers of the trips did not declare a particular country," said Andrzej Kacorzyk, director of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. "Consequently, we are undertaking actions aimed at making the statistical data more detailed through the electronic system for booking entry cards."
The museum added that as many as 900,000 users follow its account on Twitter, and more than 300,000 use the museum's profile on Facebook with 80,000 on Instagram.
Synthetic Tzitzit Distributed in the Army
Q: I heard that there are problems with the tzitzit that are distributed in the army, because they are made of synthetic material. Are they 'kosher' according to halakha, and can a bracha (blessing) be made over them?
A: Let's start with the basics: Any garment that has four corners requires tzitzit. Indeed, there are poskim who are of the opinion that only a garment made out of wool or linen is obligated from the Torah, and garments made from any other material is obligated from Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical ordinance) (Rif, Rambam, and S. A. 9:1), while others say that all garments are obligated from the Torah (Tosafot, Rosh, and R'ma). In any case, whether the obligation is from the Torah or from Divrei Chachamim, one is obligated to place tzitzit on any garment, no matter the material it is made of, and recite a bracha over them when worn.
A Synthetic Garment
However, a leather garment is exempt from tzitzit, because it is not made by weaving as clothing is, rather, it is made out of one surface (S. A. 10:4; Levush, Shulchan Aruch HaRav). Also, nylon sheeting from which an apron or covering is made to protect workers while at their job, is exempt from tzitzit.
Some poskim say that a garment made of synthetic fiber is exempt from tzitzit, since it could have been made as a single casting like leather (Mahari Shteif 28; Iggrot Moshe, O.C. 2:1). However, in the opinion of the majority of Achronim, there is a difference between a leather garment, and a garment made of synthetic fiber. Leather is inherently not made like a garment, because it has no fibers, therefore, it is exempt from tzitzit.
However, when a garment is made from synthetic fiber, it is obligated in tzitzit (Har Tzvi 1: 9). But as far as reciting a bracha is concerned, some poskim had reservations, and due to the safek (doubt), they instructed not to recite a bracha on such a garment (Tzitz Eliezer 12: 3; Ohr L'Tziyon 2:3).
However, in the opinion of most poskim, a bracha should be recited over tzitzit placed on a garment made of synthetic material (Rabbi Aurbach ztz"l in She'elot Shlomo 3:17; HaRav Eliyahu ztz"l in Ma'amar Mordechai, Yamot Ha'Chol 7: 67-68; Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz, shlita in Milumdei Milchama 112, who testified that this was also the opinion of Rabbi Heinkin ztz"l).
Synthetic Fabric has become Standard
All the more so today should a bracha be recited over tzitzit placed on a synthetic garment, because over the decades, since the debate about synthetic garments began, the production of synthetic material has greatly improved. In the past, they were of poor quality – they were not warm enough in the winter, and caused sweating in the summer – only because of their low price was it used to make cheap clothing. In the meantime, however, their quality has improved amazingly, and today, quality clothing is made from it, sometimes even considered finer clothing than those made from natural materials.
In practice, when discussions about synthetic clothing began, only a small percent of the clothing was made from synthetic materials, and they were worse looking than other clothing. But today, more than 70 percent of the world's manufactured threads are made of synthetic material, and the majority of the world's garments are made from synthetic materials, thus a typical piece of clothing is made from synthetic material.
Therefore, a garment made of synthetic thread is considered a garment for all intents and purposes, and there is no safek one should recite a bracha over tzitzit placed on such a garment.
Tzitzit in the Army
Most of the tzitzit currently distributed in the army are from dri-fit fabric, which is a synthetic fabric woven by special technology, and used to make sports activity clothing. Its main advantage is that it is aerated and evaporates sweat, and therefore, is comfortable and pleasing to soldiers, and serves both as an undershirt, and a tallit katan.
These tzitziot arrived to the army with the help of Rabbi Yedidya Atlas (IDF Rabbi, res.). During Operation 'Pillar of Defense', when the soldiers spent long days in the field unable to wash or change clothes, sweat eroded the tzitziyot, and the army had to dispose of 10,000 tzitziyot. It was then that the initiative was made to produce talitot katanot from dri-fit.
In any event, these talitot are 'kosher' without safek for reciting a bracha. In addition, the army also distributes talitot made of cotton, and of course, there is no safek about them as well.
In Judaica stores another type of tallit katan is sold, which is made of polyester, mesh material. In the distant past the army may have distributed them, but for at least twenty years, they are no longer distributed.
Regarding such mesh talitot, a more considerable safek arose, as they are not made like other garments woven from threads, but from cast threads. Nonetheless, in the responsa 'Az Nidbaru' (7: 52), Rabbi Binyamin Silber is of the opinion that one should recite a bracha over them, since in practice, they are made as a garment that has threads. This is also the opinion of Rabbi Rabinovich shlita. And although their reasoning seems compelling, since many poskim had their doubts about this, in practice, it is correct not to recite a bracha over them. This is what I wrote in 'Peninei Halakha: Likutim Aleph' 1:8, footnote 6.
This article appears in the 'Besheva' newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.
There have been many heroes who enabled the establishment and the success of the State of Israel. One person who does not receive enough credit for the integral role that he played in Israel's establishment is Clark Clifford.
Who, you ask?
We will get back to Clark Clifford soon.
While the United States has been Israel's greatest international ally, this wasn't a given in the spring of 1948. As the leaders of the future state of Israel were deliberating whether or not to declare a state as the British Mandate was coming to an end, the US State Department led by Secretary of State George Marshall, was doing everything in its power to stop Israel from declaring its independence.
Marshall was not the first secretary of state to be against the establishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. Robert Lansing, secretary of state for President Woodrow Wilson told the president that the United States cannot support "turning the Holy Land over to the absolute control of the race credited with the death of Christ." The State Department even fought against a 1922 joint resolution in the US Congress expressing support for the "establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine." State Department officials even tried to torpedo the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947 and, once they realized it would pass, they tried to cut Israel's territory in half by taking the Negev desert region out of the plan's allotment for the Jewish state.
Even once the Partition Plan passed on November 29, 1947, State Department officials tried to replace it. Warren Austin, the United States representative to the UN, raised an idea on March 19, 1948 suggesting that the UN take a step back from partitioning Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state and instead place the Holy Land under the auspices of the United Nations "to maintain the peace and to afford the Jews and Arabs of Palestine, who must live together, further opportunity to reach an agreement regarding the future government of that country." They did so despite the fact that the US Consulate in Jerusalem reported that in their opinion "both Arabs and Jews regard trusteeship scheme undesirable and most observers feel bloodshed will now increase tremendously."
President Truman was incensed with this. He recorded the following words in his diary:
This morning I find that the State Dept. has reversed my Palestine policy. The first I know about it is what I see in the papers! Isn't that hell? I'm now in a position of a liar and a double-crosser. I never felt so in my life. There are people on the 3rd and 4th level of the State Dept. who have always wanted to cut my throat. They are succeeding in doing it.
But Truman also remained silent at this point. Secretary of State Marshall was a powerful force in Truman's cabinet and Truman wrote that the trusteeship idea was just temporary to deal with the emergency created by the British leaving the region on May 15, 1948.
As Israel moved closer to announcing independence upon the British departure, the State Department took further steps to try to prevent it. Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State, worked towards a proposal to give most of Palestine to the Arabs while in his words "leaving the Jews a coastal state running from Tel Aviv to Haifa" (a fraction of the area given to the Jewish state in the Partition Plan.) At the same time, UN representative Austin proposed a new UN resolution that would condemn Israel for declaring independence. Marshall went as far as telling Jewish leaders that not only would the United States not support a new independent Jewish state, but they would not provide any military support if that new state was in need of it in the face of Arab attacks.
On May 12, just three days before British forces and officials were to leave Palestine, Marshall held a fateful meeting with Truman. Marshall, who was America's highest- ranking uniform officer during World War II was not the only one arguing against US recognition of the Jewish state. Defense Secretary James Vincent Forrestal and Under Secretary of State Robert Lovett joined the meeting and strongly urged the president not to recognize a new Jewish state if it were to be declared.
Lovett suggested that recognizing a Jewish state was nothing more than an attempt to win Jewish votes in the upcoming November 1948 presidential election. He also suggested that the new Jewish state would be filled with Jewish immigrants who were in fact communist agents working for the Soviet Union.
But there was one more person in that meeting – White House Counsel Clark Clifford, a close friend and adviser to the president. Clifford argued that a new state committed to democracy would do wonders for the chaotic Middle East. In Clifford's memoirs he relates that Marshall was "red with suppressed anger as I set forth the case for the immediate recognition of the Israeli state." Marshall told the president that if he followed Clifford's advice, then "the great dignity of the office of president would be seriously diminished." He went as far as saying that if the president supported the new Jewish state then in the November election, "I would vote against the President."
Clifford further wrote that "When I finished, he (Marshall) exploded, 'Mr. President, I thought this meeting was called to consider an important, complicated problem in foreign policy. I don't even know why Clifford is here.'" According to Clifford, Truman replied, "Well, General, he's here because I asked him to be."
In the end, Truman recognized the newly declared Jewish state minutes after it was declared on May 15, 1948. It is clear that he did so based on his deep belief in the Bible which promises the Holy Land to the Jewish people. In fact he later said:
I had faith in Israel even before it was established, I knew it was based on the love of freedom, which has been the guiding star of the Jewish people since the days of Moses. I believe it has a glorious future before it, not just as a sovereign nation but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.
President Truman in the Oval Office, receiving a Menorah as a gift from Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion (center), and Abba Eban, the Israeli Ambassador to the US: 05/08/1951
But, with his most important cabinet members being strongly against this recognition, Truman needed the voice of a trusted friend arguing that supporting a democratic Jewish state in the biblical and ancestral homeland of the Jewish people would create a beacon of light and stability in the Middle East, and that this was in America's best interest.
And Clark Clifford was the right man in the right place to make that happen.
United States recognition of Israel was critical to its survival in the face of worldwide criticism and condemnation.
And that makes little-known Clark Clifford a hero of Israel.