Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, in which we remember the salvation of the Jewish People at the mercy of the elements in Sinai and our 40-year journey from Egypt to the Land of Israel, is called, too, HeHag[1], The Festival, emphasizing its especially joyful and festive character. We are specifically commanded by the Divine to delight in this Festival. God unequivocally tells us, "Ve'Samach'ta be'Chage'cha" - "And you shall rejoice in your festival"[2], a mitzvah as important as constructing the Succah[3] (the hut commemorating this festival) or Arba'at Haminim[4] - the Four Species we carry in the week of Sukkot.

 

 

While being joyful is an essential pillar of this festival, how can we explain the inclusion since medieval times[5] of reading Megillat Kohelet (the book of Ecclesiastes[6]) in Sukkot by countless Communities? - Kohelet, one of the 5 books of the Bible, along with the first part of the Book of Job, which expresses the most pessimistic view of the purpose of human existence.

Out Sages ascribe Kohelet to the pen of King Solomon in his old age. It is totally different from the rest of the Tanach, and questions some of the conceptual foundations on which a large part of the Bible rests. This is possible because it is one of The Writings, the third part of the Bible: if The Torah is the direct revelation of God to the People of Israel and, through us, to all Humankind; and if The Books of Prophets bring the revelation of God through His Chosen Leaders on topical issues of their time (except the theme of Messianic redemption, which pertains to the future), The Writings go in the opposite direction, when Man, from his particular circumstances, speaks to God. So the Psalms, Proverbs ... and Kohelet (the King of Jerusalem who says: "Vanity of vanities: all is vanity"[7]) express different human existential realities and circumstances, according to the author of each work.

So, of all the various human expressions embodied in the Bible, why is the Festival of Joy an occasion to read a book that expresses weariness, boredom, and despair?

To the traditional answers to this question, I venture to add two further possible directions: Kohelet, King of Jerusalem, was a man who enjoyed everything that we see today as success: wealth, power and surrounded by beauty. However, he comes to see all this as worthless vanity, symptoms of wrong emphases in his own life, of an unbalance between what he achieved and the really important things he postponed. The Post-Talmudic Tractate of Sofrim introduced the Book of Kohelet into our Festival of maximum Joy perhaps to remind us of the reasons why we need to celebrate again and again, reasons we often forget or take for granted: our good health; love, companionship and communication with our family and friends; the opportunity to earn our livelihood through work; life in a Jewish Community based on mutual support and shared values we hold dear; involvement in activities like Maccabi that stimulate us and become part of who we are; the ethical bases that sustain us - our Torah; our gloriously flourishing national life, the State of Israel.

On the other hand, perhaps we are commanded to read about Kohelet's despair, skepticism and confusion on our Festival of Joy do that we shall be reminded that pain, disappointment, and downfall are integral features of life and that despite this, we are able to enjoy all that is good in our lives, the good never disappears, even in our darkest, hardest and distressful moments. That's life: a combination of the really important things which elevate and make our lives sublime and happy, and everything else, those things that reduce and devalue our lives to "vanity of vanities."

May God grant us the opportunity to celebrate the profound bliss of another joyful Succot, full of song and dance, with our families and communities.

May God give us the wisdom to differentiate the real reasons for our joy from the vain, futile, and transient things devoid of genuine value, things so often confused in our World as marks of true success.

And may God enlighten us to always find light in the darkness, sense in the void, and joy in the challenges which life presents to us.

With best wishes,
Chag Succot Sameach!
Chazak ve'ematz!

RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO
Deputy Director-General &
Director of Education

[1]Vayk. XXIII, 39, 41; Bamid. XXIX, 12; Dev. XVI, 14; I Mel. VIII, 2; Yechez. XXXXv, 25; Nech. VIII, 18.
[2]Devarim (Deuteronomy) XVI, 15.
[3]Vaikrah (Leviticus) XXIII, 42.
[4]The four species we shake during Succot: LULAV - palm frond, ETROG - Citron, HADAS - Myrtle & ARAVA -- Willow. "And you shall take for yourselves on the First Day the fruit of a beautiful tree, the branches of date palms, branches of the myrtle tree, and branches of the willow tree, and you shall rejoice before Hashem, your G-d, for Seven Days." (Vayikra 23:40). See also Mishnah Succah III, 4.
[5]"This custom is not obligatory since it has no Talmudic basis and even the obligation mentioned in the post-Talmudic Tractate of Soferim is doubtful. Indeed, this custom was never adopted by most Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish communities." Excellent article of Prof. Rav David Golinkin in http://www.schechter.edu/responsa.aspx?ID=18
[6]Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) is one of the five Megillot (scrolls) read in the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, the 9th of Av and Purim: Esther on Purim; Eikhah (Lamentations) on Tisha Be'av ; Shir Hashirim (The Song of the Songs) on Pesach, and Ruth on Shavuot.
[7]Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), I, 2.

Maccabi World Union, 7 Peretz Berenstein, Ramat Gan, 52105 Israel

 Photo provided by Maccabi World Union

 

 

 

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Monday, 23 July 2018), addressed the 13th Annual Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington DC by video link. Following are his remarks: 

"Thank you, Pastor Hagee. Thank you CUFI for supporting Israel. We appreciate your support, and we thank you for it. We appreciate the support of Christians around the world. 

Jews, Christians, so many others can agree on one thing—Israel is a miracle, a state in the heart of the Middle East that has known democracy, pure democracy and liberty every day of its 70-year history, a pluralistic, open society, a democracy where diversity is celebrated, not feared. Christians also know another fundamental truth: Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 70 years. And Jerusalem will always be our capital. 

Thank you President Trump, and thank our many, many Christian friends around the world, for recognizing this basic truth. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Israel is also the only country for thousands of miles where Christians not only survive, they thrive. Christian holy sites are protected and Christian worship is done without fear. Christians have achieved incredible heights in Israel. We have an Arab-Christian who served on our Supreme Court for 15 years. We have others – diplomats, businesspeople, university professors, doctors, everything. They’re in every field – many, many examples of Christians who contribute greatly to Israeli society and share in the great miracle of Israel’s success. 

Sadly, some countries don’t respect Christians. In Iran, Christians are brutally persecuted. Christian pastors have spent years in prison. Now, this is an issue which I believe should concern everyone. And let me say clearly: Israel stands in complete solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iran. And I ask: Why are so many people silent as Christians are jailed and tortured in Iran? 

Well, I can say this: We in Israel will not be silent, and I will continue to raise the plight of the long-suffering Iranian people – Christians, Bahai’s, students, journalists. Iran’s regime is a point of darkness in the Middle East. Israel is a point of light. 

The great news is that Israel has never been stronger. Nations from around the world are flocking to Israel. They seek our ingenuity. They seek our technology. They seek our intelligence, in both senses of the word. 

Israel still faces many threats. On our southern border, the fanatic terrorist group Hamas calls for genocide of Jews. In the north, Hezbollah is stockpiling massive numbers of missiles aimed at Israel. And Iran, well, Iran openly calls for Israel’s annihilation. 

But Israel is strong. We will not let thugs and tyrants bully us. We will always defend ourselves. We will prosper. We will thrive. And Israel’s strength is not merely because of our army; it’s because of our spirit. And it’s because of the spirit of friends like you around the world. 

Thank you for always standing with Israel. You are truly among our greatest friends in the world. I cherish that friendship, and I cherish your solidarity. Thank you for standing with Israel. Thank you for standing with the truth. Thank you all." 

 
 
 
 
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States with over one million members and one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world. We have only 25 staff, but serve over one million members and conduct over 40 pro-Israel events every month
 
 
 Photo CUFI Conference
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

On Tuesday February 27, 2018, the second annual QASMUN conference was held at the Al-Qasemi high school in Baqa al-Gharabiya, focusing on youth in conflict zones.

 

During the conference 250 students from over two dozen schools and cities participated in seven committees, addressing the situation of youth in conflicts in Yemen, Pakistan and Myanmar, as well as the issue of child soldiers, and the role of education during armed conflicts. An advanced committee created a resolution that offered recommendations for a binational Israeli-Palestinian curriculum to promote peace.

 

After a full day of debates and negotiations, the committees voted on their respective initiatives. The students then had a dinner break before heading to the closing ceremony.

 

At the closing ceremony, Dr. Dalia Fadila, principal of Al-Qasemi, welcomed the guests to the Al-Qasemi school and conference. The director of QASMUN, Reham Abu Asba, thanked all of those who had helped in making the conference happen. Rev. Canon Nicholas Porter, the founder of the Jerusalem Peacebuilders, offered words of encouragement for the MUN participants, many who had come to a conference for the first time.

 

 

Stephanie Baric, an international relief and development professional with almost 25 years of experience addressing poverty and social injustice in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans, was the keynote speaker, and also addressed a range of questions from students on the issues of feminism, youth empowerment, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

QASMUN Secretary General Taqwa Ghanayem discussed what she has gotten out of MUN:

“Model United Nations helped me grow into a leader, get to know more what is going in the world, and become confident in myself. MUN gave me the passion to keep working hard and to change myself and my community. I am so grateful that I had the chance to become part of the wonderful MUN world!”

 

During the awards part of the ceremony, the top delegates in each committee were called up to the stage to receive their awards. These included Muhammad Omar Darawshi (Iksal HS), Eman Abu Abeid (Al-Qasemi) and Baraa Abu Ras (Salesian Sisters) in UNGA1; Husain Hasan (St. Joseph), Malk Halil (Hand in Hand), and Khadija Nukati (Beit Safafa) in UNGA2; Layan Sharkei (Al Qasemi), Ibrahim Alian (Beit Safafa) and Hala Asaad (Salesian Sisters) in UNGA3; Shahd Massarwa (Almjd Taybe), Yara Qudsi (Salesian Sisters), and Leen Jabara (QSchools Tira) in UNGA4; Majdi Yassin (Salesian Sisters), Mira Afifi (St. Joseph), and Bana Shadafneh (Iksal) in HRC; Dona Milhelm (QSchools), Samira Hallak (Hand in Hand), and Feras Marjieh (St. Joseph) in UNICEF, and Daniel Mikhailov (Ort Rabin), Tala Abu Dalo (Beit Safafa), and Almira Farah (St. Joseph) in the Special Committee.

 

Additionally, a number of students were called on stage as Jerusalem Peacebuilders scholars for the 2018 summer, including: Aviv Liverant, Banan Shadafni, Baraa Abu Ras, Daniel Mikhailov, Eliran Ben Yair, Khadija Nukaty, Leen Jabara, Mariam Abdallah, Rama Halabi, and Tamim Mansour.

 

QASMUN 2018 was part of the Debate for Peace MUN series, as an Interfaith Encounter group supported by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

For more information about future events, please see the website here: https://debateforpeace.wordpress.com/upcoming-events/

 Photo credits: Faris Hans/Debate for Peace

 

 

 

 

  

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Monday, 16 July 2018), in Sderot, met with local council heads from the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip* and made the following remarks at the end of the meeting:

"I have just finished an excellent meeting with the heads of councils in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. I told them that we are in a prolonged struggle.

Just as we are now completing the blocking of the tunnels and as we took action and succeeded in stopping the mass storming of the fences, I have directed the IDF to defeat and stop the terror of incendiary kites and balloons, and we are in the midst of the process.

It is important that Hamas understands that it faces an iron wall and this wall is comprised, first of all, of a determined government, of strong local leadership and Zionist settlement, and that we will continue to strengthen it and – of course – the IDF.

We are proud of them and I am proud of the marvelous local residents who are facing difficult days. But I am convinced of our common strength to rebuff, deter and, in the end, defeat this Gaza-based terror."

From Prime Minister Netanyahu's answers to questions:

"I was just in a kindergarten where I saw small adorable children. We are committed to them and this is a continuous process. I do not want to tell anybody that it is over.

The day before yesterday we took very strong action against Hamas and dealt it the strongest blow it has taken since Operation Protective Edge. It must be understood that whoever asks me these questions needs to be prepared for the continuation of the struggle.

There is an exchange of blows here. It is not over in one go and I cannot comfort those who have taken the most difficult losses. This is very hard to take, but we know that we are in a prolonged Zionist struggle.

For 100 years we have been fighting terror; we fight it forcefully. This place right now is the confrontation line between Islamic terrorism and the state of the Jews and we are determined to win. This entails an exchange of blows which are not yet over."

From Prime Minister Netanyahu's answer to a question about the kites:

"Indeed we have instructed the IDF to stop this. We do not accept, I said this yesterday as clearly as possible and it is worth their while to listen to me, especially on the other side, there is no such thing from our perspective of a ceasefire that makes an exception for incendiary kites and balloons. There is no such thing. From our point-of-view, this does not exist and therefore we are in the midst of a process. I will say this for the seventh time and it will, I hope, get through. But if it will not be understood from my words, it will be understood through the actions of the IDF."

* Attending the meeting were Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, Shaar Hanegev Regional Council Chairman Alon Shuster, Sdot Negev Regional Council Chairman Tamir Idan, Eshkol Regional Council Chairman Gadi Yarkoni and Hof Ashkelon Regional Council Chairman Yair Ferjon.

Photo credit: Haim Zach (GPO)

 
 
 
 
 
100 years of international recognition of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their historic homeland, the Land of Israel
 
November 2, 2017, marks 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, a historic statement of sympathy issued by the British government for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. Lord Arthur James Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, penned the historic letter on behalf of the British Government, to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, a prominent leader of Britain’s Jewish community.