The battle for the Jewish State taking place as no one pays attention and Six Days Shall You Shall Work is a Mitzvah as well as not working on Sabbath and When The PC Police Come For Our Books By Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum and Temple Mount Closed to Muslims and Jews
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. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
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Democratic plan to contain Covid 19:
No immigration screening:
Massive taxes on pharmaceutical companies:
Caps on vaccine cost:
No animal research:
Elect Joe Biden:
Retain the House
Retake the Senate:
Allow camping on city streets
Allow people to defecate on sidewalks.
Yeah, that's gonna contain it.
whatever you are, be the best. Don't be satisfied with second; nobody ever remembers who finishes second. ~Al Unser
For fast-acting relief, try slowing down. -Lily Tomlin
There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.~French Proverb
Temple Mount Closed to Muslims and Jews
The Islamic Waqf announced Sunday that it was decided to close the Temple Mount complex to Muslim worshipers in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to Haaretz.
The Waqf operates the site on behalf of Jordan in cooperation with the State of Israel.
Israel and Jordan have been discussing the possibility of closing the site for some time due to the increasing numbers of those becoming infected with the virus.
Israeli police will also block Jewish worshipers from praying at the site, according to Har Habayit.org.
The battle for the Jewish State taking place as no notices
We are witnessing a very open, no holds barred battle for the leadership of the government in Israel.
Not news in of itself.
The technical issue is who will fulfill the critical position of Speaker of the Knesset?
Which side has the right to claim the position as theirs is the tactical battle being fought today The Supreme court, in a precedent-setting move, directed the current speaker, Edelstein of the Likud, to leave his position in favor of that of the Left/Arab coalition since the elections gave them more seats than the Right bloc.
The legal argument of the Right is that according to the law, the speaker transfers the seat only just before the new government begins their term in office. As of yet, there is no Left/Arab government formed; not even a proposed coalition. Edelstein is waiting for that time and not a moment before does he intend to leave the position.
This is the legal argument in which the Supreme court intervened against the Right and Edelstein. This is a groundbreaking development that once again exhibits the perfect record of the Supreme court in their automatic support of all things Left.
However, this tactical battle is only a symptom of the super strategic issue that has really been the elephant in the room of the Jewish state since its inception. The question is, is it acceptable for the state that was built for the Jewish people and for its future be determined by non-Jews?
Can its course and very nature be determined by those who work tirelessly to destroy the "Jewish" aspect of this state? The founders and the subsequent captains of the Jewish state refused to address this question.
After all, can a citizen, any citizen be excluded from the democratic process? Unthinkable! Not to be discussed."Jewish and Democratic" state is the banner that was proudly held high by the founders who were super proud of our democracy and chose to ignore the theoretic dangers to the Jewish state deeply and menacingly embedded in that slogan.
Those very few who dared to raise the issue and suggest solutions that would ensure the Jewish part of the state even at the expense of the "democratic" part of the slogan were scoffed at and banned from decent society and eventually from participation in the political process.
So much for democracy...Today the demons that the few dared warn about are upon us; not around the corner but in our living room. When I say us, I refer to those for whom a Jewish state was the only reason for fighting for this land and people that rose from the ashes in 1948.
It was not a crusade for Democracy but a sacrifice for a Jewish state. The anti-Jewish Arab parties and their Left and opportunist allies clearly do not share this vision. The large majority of Jews of Israel see their Jewish state being delivered at this moment into the hands of those whose very reason for getting up in the morning is to wipe out the "Jewish" part of their state. They are bewildered. How has it come to this?
Our Jewish democracy now finds itself in a situation where the haters of the Jewish state are successfully using that democracy to determine the course and nature of the state.
The elephant in the room refuses to be ignored any more.
Ideas, that help explain how the world works
False-Consensus Effect: Overestimating how widely held your own beliefs are, caused by the difficulty of imagining the experiences of other people.
Six Days Shall You Shall Work is a Mitzvah as well as not working on Sabbath
Sabbath observance is a law of G-d. G-d rested from His creative labors on the seventh day and called it the Sabbath (see Genesis 2:2; Exodus 20:11). The Lord commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath holy (see Exodus 20:8–11; Deuteronomy 5:12–15).
There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, Every place that it is mentioned that you must rest on Shabbat, it also says that you should also work six days a week ...
Actually, in ancient times, people basically worked EVERY day.
The Jews were unusual because they did NOT work every day.
But yes, in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) the Jewish people are informed that they must work SIX days, and then stop working for a day, in remembrance of God's Creation and the liberation from slavery in Egypt.
Slaves are forced to work. Free people can choose.
'Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the Sabbath (seventh/rest) day is for the Lord. On it you shall not do any work, nor your son nor your daughter, nor your maidservant or your manservant, not even your livestock, or the foreigner within your gates…' Exodus 20:9
Keeping the Sabbath is a major institution of Judaism.
Ahad Ha'am famously said: "More than Jewshavekept Shabbat, Shabbathas kept the Jews." This is usually interpreted to mean that Jews which cease to observe the Sabbath, shortly cease to identify as Jews, and assimilate into the larger non-Jewish community.
Even today, most Jews calibrate their opinion of other Jews' adherence to Jewish law by asking only two questions: Does he keep kosher? Does he observe Shabbat?
Saying that someone is 'Shomer Shabbat' (lit. a guardian of Shabbat, meaning that this person keeps/observes Shabbat) is shorthand for saying that this person is fully observant of Jewish law and traditions.
As for whether the Bible says YOU should work six days and take the Sabbath off, that depends. Are you Jewish? then yes, this is a law for the Jewish people for all time.
If you are not Jewish, this is not a law that applies to you. However, we do know, from various studies, that it is definitely healthier for people to take regular rest breaks and stop to 'smell the roses', so to speak.
So in principle, it is a good thing to take regular breaks and a day off from time to time, no matter who you are.
Jews keep the Sabbath day holy is by resting on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8). But what are we resting from? Notice the other half of the Fourth Commandment: "Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work" (verse 9). God commands that we labor and do all our work in six days! This is not a suggestion, it is a command—and it's just as important as the Sabbath half of the command. In fact, the harder we work, the more we will get out of the Sabbath.
G-d is a creator who works for a living, and His purpose is to reproduce Himself through man. As G-d's children, we must be willing to labor and work as the Father does. "The spirit or intent of this law shows that a man is normally expected to keep busily engaged in gainful work during the first six days of the week."
When Adam was first created, G-d placed him in the Garden of Eden and commanded him "to dress it and to keep it" (Genesis 2:15). "Dress it" here also means to labor, to work; by implication, it means to serve as a bondman or to be a slave of labor.
In order for Adam to make bread, he had to till the ground, plant the seeds, and labor to bring them to harvest. After the harvest, there was still the milling, kneading, and baking involved to make the bread.
G-d could have arranged some other, less labor-intensive way—where we were designed to live on air only or by eating the soil, like an earthworm. But He wanted us to work for our food!
We must remember that there is nothing negative about G-d's instruction. G-d commands men to work, and to work hard—but it is not some kind of punishment or sentence.
Submitting to this command actually makes man truly happy and content because it keeps us in a right relationship with G-d. It keeps us active, working and producing—just like G-d!
Even when G-d rained manna from heaven directly into the Israelite's' camp, it wasn't as easy as picking up bread off the ground and eating it. It came in the form of tiny seeds, and they had to go out and gather it every day, grind it in mills, beat it into the dough, and bake it in pans to make cakes (Exodus 16).
They weren't allowed to store up large quantities and make a bunch of bread all at once; G-d specifically commanded them to gather a certain amount every day except Friday, when they were to gather enough for the Sabbath day as well (verses 16-19). If they tried to keep it overnight on any other day, the manna would spoil. It was a test commandment, G-d said, and notice what part of the test they failed: "Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them" (verse 20).
They wanted to make extra so that they wouldn't have to work the next day! Failing the test involved their refusal to work on the other six days!
The Bible has about 900 references to employment and work habits. It is G-d's nature to work diligently, and He wants us to be just like Him. God is a workman who is always on the job. That's the way He wants us to be, both men and women.
Human nature wants to be lazy, but a true Spiritual follower ought to be a diligent, hard worker.
But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." A man's responsibility is to provide for himself—and especially for those of his own house. Married women who are not employed outside the home should diligently apply this godly work ethic in the home.
These scriptures show that it is not God's will that we give handouts to lazy dropouts or able-bodied persons who will not work. If there are those who refuse to work, who are indolent and lazy, others are expressly forbidden to give them money or food or any kind of assistance which they otherwise could acquire on their own by working.
If you don't currently have a job, first, realize your primary job is to get a job. Do not be lazy in your search. The correspondence course reads, "Get up early in the morning—consistently—and start out either arranging interviews, or pounding the pavement early every morning, and don't quit until you've put in a full day's work looking for work!"
Simply obtaining a job is not where exhibiting a godly work ethic ends. As employees, we are responsible for G-d to work hard, not just to our physical boss.
A good employee constantly feels pressure from G-d). Even the service we give our physical bosses is to be considered as service rendered to God.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 adds, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." That doesn't say "whatever you are good at" or "whatever you like to do"—it says "whatsoever your hand finds to do …." Not being good at something is no excuse for laziness—it actually means you must push yourself harder because of it.
G-d doesn't want us to just sit around and wait for His return. He wants us to continue working and building—both physically and spiritually.
Six Days Shall You Work
Shabbat is important, yet our behavior during the other six days is no less a part of religious life.
The Talmudic phrase bitul Torah, literally the "cancellation of Torah," refers to the time one spends occupied with the world at large, away from Jewish text study. Chol, literally "profane," refers to the six days of the week before.
Such language suggests that religious life takes place only within the temporal boundaries of ritual.
This notion is problematic and spiritually impoverished. Religious life is not a series of proscribed acts separated by spans of mundanity. To a deeply religious person, spiritual life is continuous. Moments of ritual dust off the soul and propel the individual into the following hours with renewed awareness and intention.
Parashat Vayakhel reminds us that religiosity transcends ritual. Moses addresses the whole Israelite community for the first time since his dramatic return from Mount Sinai. He briefly commands the nation to observe Shabbat Exodus 35:2-3 and then launches into a long, detailed speech about the construction of the Mishkan.
The rest of Parashat Vayakhel, and much of Parshat Pekudei, are devoted to this grand project and document the overwhelming generosity of the Israelite community to complete it. Moses' short instruction about the holy seventh-day virtually dissolves in the details of construction–building, melting, welding, and other acts that are forbidden on Shabbat. Just as the vast majority of life occurs outside of ritual acts, the vast majority of this parashah focuses on the activities of chol.
The Mitzvah to Work
Moses suggests that our work in the world before and after Shabbat is no less important than Shabbat itself. "Six days you shall do work," he commands, "and on the seventh day you shall have a Shabbat of complete rest"
Thus, the first law that Moses articulates after Mount Sinai is that we should engage in work for six-sevenths of every week. Insofar as Shabbat is a call for rest on Saturdays, it is also a call for action on all other days. From this perspective, the true observance of Shabbat is an ever-flowing, lifelong affair that usually consists of working.
This is not to say that Parashat Vayakhel disregards or undervalues religious ritual itself. Moses' few words about the observance of Shabbat could hardly be more emphatic. "Whoever does any work [melachah] on it [Shabbat] shall die," Exodus 35:2 he warns. According to the medieval commentator Rashi, Moses prefaces his speech about the Mishkan with a warning about Shabbat in order to remind the Israelite s that the Mishkan does not supersede Shabbat.
Lessons from the Mishkan
The construction of the Mishkan has traditionally been regarded as an illustration of what we should not do on Shabbat. Indeed, the Rabbis derived the 39 prohibited actions on Shabbat directly from the 39 acts of labor involved in the creation of the Mishkan.
However, we can also view this principle from the opposite angle. While the construction of the Mishkan demonstrates inversely what Shabbat should not look like, it also reveals a direct prescription for our engagement during the rest of the week.
According to Rashi, the Mishkan is a microcosm of the whole world. Like the nation who built the Mishkan as a dwelling place for the Divine, we must work to make the world worthy of that Presence. The levels of scrutiny, care and "voluntary-warmheartedness" Exodus 35:5 that define the building process in Vayakhel and Pekudei beckon us to devote equally high levels of mindfulness and spirit to our own melachah (work) at all times. We must take our work during the week very seriously.
Every act of melachah–that which we do in homes and offices, public squares and private spaces–changes the world in a constructive or destructive way.
When we purchase imported goods, what types of labor are we supporting overseas? For those of us employed outside our homes, how does our professional work–and that of our companies and organizations–hurt or help people globally? How do we use our money, time, and physical selves to pursue justice in the world?
When we speak with children, when we are at home and on our ways, when we lie down and when we rise up, do we ask ourselves which nails, knots, clasps, and sheets we will contribute to the Mishkan of the world today? These day-to-day activities are what make our world a dwelling place for the Divine.
Shabbat is important, yet our behavior during the other six days is no less a part of religious life. Shabbat is when we step back and appreciate the created world. Chol is when we step up and participate in creating that world. Piety is not only a reflection of what we observe, but also of what we build.
This is unbelievable--Democrats in San Francisco have made theft under $950 a misdemeanor & cops won't even arrest you for the crime.
San Francisco's no arrest policy has anarchic results.
Not surprisingly, this has had very predictable results.
It turns out if you tell people they won't get arrested for stealing, it's like a free pass to go shopping
The Women's Week at the Herzl Center, revealed the connection between Donna Gracia's work to build Tiberias and the Herzl State Contract.
Moshe Montefiore, Baron Rotisheld, Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl, Rabbi Reigns, Henrietta Szold, Golda Meir and Sarah Aharonson - are not only street names, but figures of names that have made a huge contribution to the establishment and establishment of the Jewish state and the growth of the Jewish people in his country.
In fact, there is one woman who can be said to be the epitome of the vision and deeds of the magnificent group of people I have mentioned. Her name is Donna Gracia or by her Hebrew name Hannah President.
A successful businesswoman, a huge philanthropist who founded and held synagogues and meetings. And equally important is a statesman and a great visionary who has for centuries advanced Herzl's vision ..
Yes, yes, hundreds of years before the state contract Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl met with the Turkish sultan to get the long-awaited approval of the then ruler of the country to establish a home for Jews, Donna Gracia was already deep in negotiations and preparing to establish a settlement for Jews in Tiberias. Only her sudden death in 1569 stopped her vision.
Donna Gracia's fascinating life story can easily turn into a successful series on Netflix, a best-selling movie or a telenovela with all mannerisms and motifs.
Without tying herself to the crowns of a leader, a visionary businesswoman or a visionary statesman and centuries before the feminist movement was formed, and the men's and women's equality revolution began, it was Donna Gracia, a fascinating woman on any scale who put women on the map A breakthrough, which has taken responsibility for its people, and has led international historical moves and all wisely, in "Thinking Different", in a groundbreaking initiative ...
The Women's Week at the Herzl Center, revealed the connection between Donna Gracia's work to build Tiberias and the Herzl State Contract that operated some 350 years later.
Between 1901-1902, Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl came with the Turkish sultan Abdel Hamid II, whose land was found in Israel, to gain autonomy for the Jews. He offers him financial proposals to pay off the empire's debts in exchange for a charter for settlement in Israel. True to his vision, he seeks to establish a national center for the Jewish people in Israel. The contacts between the two continued, but did not mature.
Almost 350 years earlier, Donna Gracia, a young woman who grew up in the Anosim family and learned that she was Jewish, succeeded where Herzl would not succeed in the future.
Donna Gracia grew up in one of the richest families in Portugal at that time. In 1528, Aunt Francisco Mendesh (Hebrew name: Zemach Benvenisti), a member of a family of merchants who became rich from trading in silver and spices, and especially black pepper, was traded under the supervision of the Royal Institution. During the prosperity of the Portuguese empire as a world power, the Benvenchi / Mendes family was among the richest families in Portugal.
In 1536, she became widowed and inherited her husband's property, which she continued to manage.
Donna Gracia's wealth was known from afar. She is considered one of the richest women in Europe in the 16th century. The family openly returned to Judaism and began to use the name of President as a surname. It becomes the cheat of the oppressed and deported Jews, and uses its power and fortune to protect Jews who are raped and to redeem prisoners.
In 1553 Donna Gracia arrived in Constantinople and continued her generous work. She set up a meeting in Galata and later also a synagogue. Its people redeemed Jewish prisoners, and it supported smart students in hospitals, schools and those in need. Printing thousands of Jewish manuscripts and publishing them was one of its largest works.
Her high status helped her and her nephew Don Joseph President to meet with the Sultan, who usually did not meet with women in foreign and state affairs at the time. Donna Gracia wants to buy a piece of land that will be home to the Jewish people. The Sultan refuses to sell it to Jerusalem, and offers Hungary instead. Donna Gracia raises the city of Tiberias - where the Jerusalem Talmud was signed, supported and leased from the area. She began building the city wall, but her untimely death in 1569 interrupted the vision and the plan was not implemented.
It is stated that when Herzl met with the Sultan after being rejected several times, he cites the precedent of the lease agreement given to Donna Gracia - as a reference to his request.
It is fascinating to think how Jewish history in general and the people of Zion in particular would have looked if Donna Grazia had not died suddenly and her vision would have come to fruition. Whereas Herzl would have won his life for Kushan of the Sultan ...
On the occasion of Women's Day this week, the Herzl Center initiated events and tours focusing on 'female Zionist leadership'.
HATIKVAH with English & Hebrew Lyrics plus Musical Notes
The title of the national anthem of ISRAEL is HATIKVAH, meaning "The Hope."
It was written by NAPHTALI HERZ IMBER (1856-1909), who moved to Palestine in 1882 from Galicia. The melody was arranged by SAMUEL COHEN, an immigrant from Moldavia, from a musical theme in Smetana's "Moldau" that is partly based on a Scandinavian folk song. Hatikvah expresses the hope of the Jewish people, that they would someday return to the land of their forefathers as prophesied in the Hebrew Bible.
The Jewish people were exiled from Israel in 70 C.E. by the Roman army led by Titus who destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. During the two thousand years of exile, the Jewish people said special daily prayers for return to Israel while facing the East in the direction of Jerusalem. They celebrated the holidays according to Hebrew seasons and calendar. Zion is synonymous with Israel and Jerusalem.
ISRAEL's national anthem - HATIKVAH was sung by ENRICO MACIAS. Video created by yours truly, GISELLE LOU PASIGNAJEN AY-AD. All photos herein are all photos of the Land of ISRAEL itself and its people, except for the first and the last photo ( The Israel flag with the Menorah and the Lion of Judah ) which I made myself. In the video, you might ask what those other symbols beside the ISRAEL flag, the Menorah and the Lion of Judah.
Well, these two are one of the the Prophetic symbols of ISRAEL namely: 1.) The Menorah — This is probably the oldest of all Jewish symbols. It has no parallel in heraldry and produces an immediate association with the subject it represents — the Temple in Jerusalem. The symbol is incorporated in the official seal of Israel. The seal features the seven- branched candelabrum of the Temple. The two artists who designed the seal took as their model the depiction of the menorah in relief on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Their original design featured a white band at the top on which was emblazoned the seven golden stars Theodor Herzl had intended for the flag of the Jewish state. But the governmental committee in charge of selecting the design decided to eliminate the stars.
The olive branches express the state's peaceful intentions. The menorah attests to the link of the Jewish people with their glorious past when a huge menorah stood in their Temple in Jerusalem. The inscription at the bottom says "Israel." This seal is used on the official government documents of the state of Israel. 2.) The Lion of Judah — The lion became associated with the Jewish people when Jacob on his death bed referred to the tribe of Judah as "a lion's whelp" (Genesis 49:9). It was adopted as the symbol of the tribe of Judah, and later, when that tribe came to dominate Jewish life, it was identified with the Jewish people as a whole. It is used on the flag of Jerusalem. The design of that flag is similar to the flag of Israel, with a white background and dark blue stripes. But a depiction of the Lion of Judah replaces the Star of David in the center. The lion is displayed against a golden background that represents the Western Wall or "Wailing Wall" as it is known in the Western world. The word above the emblem is the Hebrew rendering of Jerusalem.
The olive branches on each side represent the desire for peace, bringing to mind the biblical command to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6). HATIKVAH הַתִּקְוָה ( The HOPE ) Transliteration--- Hebrew התקוה--- English Lyrics Kol od balevav p'nimah --- כל עוד בלבב פנימה --- As long as deep in the heart, Nefesh Yehudi homiyah --- נפש יהודי הומיה --- A Jewish soul yearns, Ulfa'atey mizrach kadimah --- ולפאתי מזרח קדימה --- And forward to the East Ayin l'tzion tzofiyah --- עין לציון צופיה --- To Zion, an eye looks Od lo avdah tikvatenu --- עוד לא אבדה תקותנו --- Our hope will not be lost, Hatikvah bat shnot alpayim- התקוה בת שנות אלפי -The hope of two thousand years, L'hiyot am chofshi b'artzenu --להיות עם חופשי בארצנ -- To be a free nation in our land, Eretz Tzion v'Yerushalayim --- ארץ ציון וירושלים -- The land of Zion and Jerusalem. Check out also '' Hatikvah with English and Hebrew Lyrics ( Longer version ) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_9N1l... HATIKVAH Musical notes - can be seen in this video. Thanks for watching! Glory and Praises to our Almighty Father !!!! עם ישראל חי P.S.
When The PC Police Come For Our Books By Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum
In 1988, The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie's courageous book critical of the life of Islam's prophet Mohammed, won both public acclaim and multiple literary awards in the United Kingdom, including the prestigious Whitebread Award for novel of the year. It was also a finalist for the Booker Prize, the UK's equivalent of America's Pulitzer.
Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, however, had a far less enthusiastic response to The Satanic Verses than Britain's literati. Rising in righteous outrage, he denounced the book in the most vitriolic of terms for blaspheming Mohammed and mocking the Islamic faith. One year later, the Ayatollah announced a fatwa calling for Rushdie's death, which resulted in several failed assassination attempts on the author, who was first placed under police protection by the UK government, and later, went into hiding.
Their thirst for Rushdie's blood thwarted by these measures, terrorists galvanized by Khomeini's stridency began to strike out at random individuals "connected" to Rushdie, eventually murdering the translator of his book, Hitoshi Igarashi. Those Americans who were riveted by Rushdie's story – and left reeling by the horrific events spawned by the publication of his book – consoled themselves that both freedom of speech and freedom of the press were veritable hallmarks of our great nation, and that nothing remotely similar to the Rushdie specter could ever occur here.
In 2004, Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, who was collaborating on a film with anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the oppression of women in Muslim countries, was shot and stabbed on a street in Amsterdam while bicycling to work one morning. Rather than immediately flee the crime scene, Van Gogh's attacker, Mohammed Bouyeri, took the time to leave a note containing death threats to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Westerners in general and Jews in particular. The egregiousness of the act left the Dutch people in a state of panic and shock, dazed that their openness to Arab immigration had resulted in such a heinous crime.
Americans who were following these developments were stunned by this brazen attempt to suppress free speech in a Western country, but again looked at the efflorescence of the free press in their own land, concluding, in vast relief, that nothing similar to the Van Gogh episode could ever occur here. They blessed this great country for its immunity to tyranny, a country which zealously safeguarded basic principles of free speech and free press.
The rein of terror descending upon parts of Western Europe with ever-increasing regularity seemed unequivocally linked to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. The January 2015 invasion of the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, located in Paris, reinforced this rew reality . Armed with rifles and other weapons, gunmen from Al-Qaeda killed 12 people and injured 11 others, incensed that the paper had published cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed (this was the same terroris group responsible for the siege of the Hypercacher kosher supermarket, where four Jews were cut down in cold blood). And once again, Americans were appalled by the changing landscape in Western Europe, where measures to protect the basic principles of freedom of speech now invoked fear and trembling.
As an established institution of our democratic values, freedom of the press has been a bulwark of the American Way. Truly only something of apocalyptic proportions could ever possibly shake its strong and hallowed foundations upon which our liberty stands. And thankfully, nothing close to the extent of what occurred in the UK and Holland has ever happened here. We Americans have reveled in our privileges of both freedom of speech and freedom of press. And may we always be blessed to sip from these nectars, which we generally take for granted. Until now.
If you work in or are connected to the publishing world, you probably have already heard of the uproar that has convulsed the industry in recent weeks. The scenario that has caused furor and tumult is exceedingly far removed from the ones I just described occurring in the UK and Holland. Thank G-d, there has been no violence of any kind, and no harm has befallen any individual connected to the narrative. In other countries, the current brouhaha would probably be viewed as nothing more than a minor hiccup. But here in the United States, where we so carefully safeguard our right to free speech, the imbroglio that everyone in publishing is talking about may very well end up being a bellwether and a legitimate cause for concern.
Two years ago, ten publishing houses participated in an intense bidding war for rights to a new book that had created tremendous buzz – American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, the excruciating story of the arduous journey of Mexican migrants to the American border, seeking asylum from uninhabitable countries that were either war-torn or under the control of violent drug cartels. This book (which I read in two days, it was so riveting) puts a human face on the nameless statistics which have deluged us ceaselessly and to which some of us may have already grown inured.
Ultimately, Flatiron Press won the bidding war, and the well-oiled marketing machine was set into motion. Oprah Winfrey, who has resurrected her "Book Club" on Apple TV – returning to her immense power as a book influencer – was an avid early reader of the book , and designated American Dirt as her book club choice for early 2020.
In anticipation of the extraordinary number of readers the company anticipated in the wake of Oprah's imprimatur, the first printing was 500,000, highly unusual in today's depressed book market. A 50-city book tour was arranged. Everyone was poised for a rollercoaster ride of epic poroportions. And then the PC police came out and shook the rafters, hijacking the book's trajectory.
Everyone knows that the PC activists have taken control of our college campuses, for example, where Palestinians and Anti-Semites are regularly feted at events and deliver unimpeded lectures, in stark contrast to pro-Zionist and Jewish speakers, who are almost always given the boot, sometimes literally.
Today, people in leadership positions are careful to tiptoe around potential PC land mines, using genderless pronouns (he/she is now popularly referred to as "they") and making sure to worship at the shrine of multiculturalism. But since author Jeanine Cummins is half-Latina herself, and American Dirt is a novel, not a work of non-fiction, no one assumed that the book would come under attack. But it did. In a serious way.
Almost as soon as the book debuted a few weeks ago, Latina authors began to crucify American Dirt in loud and strident numbers. Facilitated by social media, a shivaree of dissident and angry voices hurled their condemnations at Flatiron Press for printing the book, Oprah Winfrey for endorsing it, and Jeanine Cummins for writing it. This censure, however, barely resembled what we would call polite discourse. It was tinged by malevolence and threats; it was fueled by unshackled fury. It was intimidating and harrassing. The instigators of the offensive wanted nothing less than the book's annihilation.
And why did this book inspire such unmitigated rage? "Because nobody except for a Mexican migrant has the right to depict the Mexican migrants' experience." "Because someone who does not come from a marginalized group, should not be allowed to approriate their experience. It's our culture and it belongs to us exclusively."
Mind you, we are not talking about a book that attempted to depict the Mexican migrants' experience under the guise of non-fiction reportage. American Dirt is a novel. Utilizing the genre of novel writing enables the writer to write freely from a place of untethered imagination and creativity, although in the particular case of American Dirt, Cummins did state publicly that she invested five years into researching her topic before she penned a single word. Naysayers, however, didn't care and burgeoned into a veritable lynch mob.
The PC police began to pressure Oprah to rescind her endorsement of the book, and zealots sent Flatiron Press and Cummins virtual death threats, forcing the publisher to cancel Cummins's extensive 50-city book tour (citing "safety concerns") and dial back their marketing operations.
Unpacified, Latina writers demanded to know why "real Latina writers" had been overlooked by mainstream publishers all these years when this subject was their story to tell, and why Jeanine Cummins had merited such a huge advance – $1 million. (The subject of money has come up several times in the litany of their complaints, leading some critics to wonder just what role outright jealousy played in this uproar.)
Meanwhile, Flatiron Press issued a formal apology to the Latina community for lacking sensitivity in its marketing and publicity campaigns (at a kick-off dinner, the floral centerpieces were enclosed by barbed-wire fence,which was indeed a little over-the-top, but hey that was the party planner's faux pas, not Jeanine's), stating that perhaps some mistakes had been made.
One of the accusations made by the movement to dethrone Jeanine Cummins is that "American Dirt is condescending towards Mexicans and stereotypes them unfairly." As a former graduate student in literature and adjunct college lecturer in that same field, I have to say that personally I did not encounter any kind of prejudice or bias whatsoever in Cummins's depictions of her characters. In fact, I found her portraitures to be exquisitely sensitive, compassionate, endearing, and poignant, and the horror that these migrants experienced on their pilgrimage to freedom seared my soul. I believe Cummins has been unfairly crucified for a tour de force that transcended identity politics.
In its apologetics and marketing campaign dial-back, Flatiron Press may have conceivably set a dangerous new precedent. In waving the flag of semi-surrender to the PC activists, Flatiron may have inadvertently invited or encouraged future incursions that will ultimately challenge our much cherished principles of freedom of press. If these PC activists can effectively bully and tyrannize Flatiron, an eminent publisher, who – and what subject – is next?
Even if censorship is not goverment-sanctioned but fomented by the PC police instead, the outcome of an American publisher cowering is not a pretty sight. Are we now going to be led to believe that no one has a right to compose a work of art if the subject matter isn't within their specific domain? To what ridiculous proportions can this line of thinking lead us? Should John Steinbeck have been prohibited from writing about tenant farmers in The Grapes of Wrath because he wasn't one himself? Should Harper Lee have restrained herself from penning To Kill a Mockingbird because she was a white woman, not a black man? These, among hundreds like them, had powerful impacts upon their respective societies and were probably responsible for changes (albeit slow) that came in their wake.
That works of fiction (and non-fiction as well, really, but the fact that American Dirt is a novel makes the histrionics that much more ridiculous) should be written only by people drawn from the subject's identity group is downright bizarre, bordering on the Kafkaesque – and attempts to pacify tyrannical elements is a mistake. Should this sensibility prevail and establish a toehold in American publishing, we will be opening up a nightmarish Pandora's box.
Because if the PC activists win this time, how far afield are they likely to go another time, once they've tasted the exhilarating flavor of triumph in oppressing free press? Ostracizing a novel about the Mexican experience because it was not written by a Mexican author is step one. Once oppression of American publishers becomes a viable reality, what possible scenario is next? Could it be a novel that portrays Israeli settlers in a positive light and Palestinian terrorists in a negative one? Can you imagine the outpouring of righteous wrath from the vocal left (that has been so forcefully safeguarding the rights of the Palestinians to be portrayed fairly, but never, ever the Jews) that would follow?
Meanwhile, the world is watching to see if Oprah will break from the intense pressure to which she is still being subjected. Even thought she has always been considered to be the ultimate megaphone for multiculturalism, she loved the book when she read it, and saw no flaws in its rendering. But now, as she finds herself increasingly being placed on the defensive, she has already caved in a little, promising "a deeper, more substantive discussion soon on who has the right tell what story."
But the literary human rights organization, PEN, has not allowed American values to be co-opted. In a powerful statement it issued recently it said: "As defenders of freedom of expression, we categorically reject rigid rules about who has the right to tell which stories."
This is not a small story. It may very well be a defining one for the publishing industry, and a test case with great reverberations for the future.
Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century showman and circus owner, once famously said: "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Despite the naysayers and the uproar surrounding the book, I am pleased to report that American Dirt has placed #1 on the New York Times bestseller two weeks in a row, and placed first on the Amazon charts as well. Maybe the American masses will join ranks, dig in, disregard the histrionics of the PC police, and uphold the twin pillars of democracy, which unlike Europe, has not been under siege until now. Now it has – in a very different way, of course (thank G-d, no bloodshed, no incursions, no physical trauma). But oppression can assume many forms and shapes, and physical violence is only one of them.