Tag Archives: Esther

As West Bank Settlers Try to Take More Palestinian Land

Rabbi Arik Ascherman lets us know

As West Bank Settlers Try to Take More Palestinian Land

I am actually in a bit of pain. I have barely felt most of the blows I have received in recent days from settler youth sent by their elders to accompany cows and sheep on a rampage of theft in the fields of the Taibe junction we had planted with Bedouin shepherds. These are mere children trying to be tough. However, a week ago Tuesday one of them managed to hit me in the back with the stick he was brandishing. I am trying to avoid overuse of pain killers, except for the adrenalin every day when I return to keep the cows and sheep out of the fields.

In addition to the physical pain, there is the great sadness that adults are corrupting these children in this way. I have been oscillating between telling them that they are thieves, and we have nothing to talk about, and telling them that I pray they will find an uncorrupted corner of their souls that will inspire them to return to what God asks of them. Almost every day I ask them if they wish to act like the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, or like Amalek, summarizing the words of Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch I cited on my Times of Israel blog two weeks ago on the reading for the Shabbat before Purim, Deuteronomy 25: 17 – 19:

Don’t Forget:

Don’t forget a thing if the day will come when you will want to be like Amalek, and like Amalek you won’t want to remember your obligations or to know God, but will look for the opportunity in small or big matters to exploit your advantage to harm other human beings. Don’t forget this when the day will come, and you will want to rid yourself of your role and mission as the Jewish people that you accepted among humanity.

This week I have been suggesting to some of these troubled youth that we set up a “Reish Lakish club.” Reish Lakish was a thief who changed his ways and became a scholar frequently cited in the Talmud.

Last Thursday night, immediately after the reading of the Purim Megillah, we had an emergency meeting postponed from the previous night with a representative of the Taibe Municipality, a leading Palestinian activist, and legal counsel. As I will explain, the Book of Esther came to life for me.

For much of the past three years the struggle has primarily been that of Torat Tzedek and the Bedouin shepherds, with some support from the Municipality. Landowners have taken action when settlers tried to set up additional outposts on their lands. However, from the additional outpost Neriya Ben Pazi successfully set up on “State Land,” the settlers have taken their incursions, intimidation and theft of everything the shepherds plant for their flocks, to a new level. Our successes in 2019 to significantly cut down the level of theft were reversed in 2020 both because of this outpost, and because of incredibly heightened State support for settler aggression this past year. In 2020 settlers forced many Bedouin off the land, and now have begun to plow some of it themselves. Between fear of what the State can do to those who raise their heads, and tensions between the landowners and the Bedouin working and living on the lands, the landowners have been overly slow to take the steps necessary to save their lands.

Day after day, we have literally been holding them off. We stood guard as those shepherds who have not been totally intimidated planted. In areas where the fear was too great, we did the planting as well. We have been in constant conversation with the legal authorities, demanding that they do their job. Because last year’s losses have left family’s financially strapped, we helped secure financing for seed and tractors and contributed ourselves. Settlers have savagely responded by intensifying their attempts to ensure that their flocks eat everything that has been planted just as it is beginning to grow. They want the shepherds who dare to resist to believe that they will not benefit from even one stalk of the barley that was to feed their flocks from May through September. They call or “visit” the shepherds to warn them that they will pay a price for any connection with us. We call the security forces, who say they will do nothing until they see ownership papers, but have taken no action when owners have lodged complaints and even discouraged owners from doing so. They usually refuse to identify suspects, but last year froze a case by claiming that the perpetrators were not known. When there are enough of us, we can successfully keep the settler flocks out of the planted areas. I admit there have been days when I have broken the rules and been there alone, because I can’t bear to watch what happens otherwise. Expelling flocks alone is physically more challenging, and we are less likely to be attacked when the settlers know that we are filming them from several angles. I was alone when hit in the back on Tuesday.

Then, there have been the days I have just walked away and expelled flocks when the police have refused to do anything, and then had the audacity to order me not to do anything.

At the meeting, the lawyer explained the hard facts. With the settlers acting as if the land is theirs, and even plowing some of it, the next step will be to claim that it is theirs legally. They are already smirking and crowing that the Bedouin have fled, and won’t be coming back. On Friday, one of them scoffed at the idea that the ownership papers of “goyim” mean anything. At the meeting the Palestinian activist assured that many would support the Municipality and the owners and the Bedouin if they take the decisive legal and other steps that must now be taken.

For me the meeting was a Megillah moment. The most dramatic scene for me in Megillat Esther is the back and forth messages between Mordechai and Esther that transform her from a passive woman doing what she is told to a bold and brave leader:

Esther told Hathach to take back to Mordecai the following reply:

“All the king’s courtiers and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any person, man or woman, enters the king’s presence in the inner court without having been summoned, there is but one law for him—that he be put to death. Only if the king extends the golden scepter to him may he live. Now I have not been summoned to visit the king for the last thirty days.”

When Mordecai was told what Esther had said, Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther:

“Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.”

Then Esther sent back this answer to Mordecai:

“Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens will observe the same fast. Then I shall go to the king, though it is contrary to the law; and if I am to perish, I shall perish!”

So Mordecai went about [the city] and did just as Esther had commanded him. (Esther 4: 10 -17)

Like Mordechai, I as a privileged Israeli Jew can paternalistically instruct Palestinians or Israelis in need of public housing, or whoever, what to do. Or, there can be a magic moment when the oppressed become empowered to be partners in fighting for their rights and dignity. We may have reached such a moment on Thursday – a moment in which we all realized that there is a reason why we are here. I use the word “partners.” Mordechai speaks of the salvation that can come from another quarter if Esther does not act. We spoke of all the aid that would come from other quarters if the villagers do act.

Ken Yehi Ratzon May it be the Will of God, Who is never mentioned in the Book of Esther, but was present. Together –– the privileged, the oppressed and God –– in partnership for a better world.

B’Vrakha (In Blessing),

Arik

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Speaking up and Celebration of Purim

Tonight starts the celebration of Purim, for many known as the Jewish carnival. In many families it is a pleasant day for the kids they being allowed to dress up and them looking for presents which are sent by family members and friends. First the children were asked to fast and to keep those things that the like much, to share with others who have less then them.

From today until Schmini Shel Pesach the final day of Passover on Nisan 22, commemorating the Splitting of the Red Sea, the climax of the Exodus from Egypt, and the day when we focus on the final liberation, the one that’s yet to happen. We look at the days of or moments of liberation the Hashem has given to His People. These days we remember the time of Moshe and Estêr, but also we reflect on the way God is with us all the time.

Starting with the commemoration of the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from the wicked Haman his plot

“to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,”

as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).

Esther before Ahasuerus, by Franciszek Smuglewicz, 1778

The Jew-hating Haman, appointed prime minister of the Persian Empire under King Aḥašvērōš, convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.
Mardəkī or Mordecai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to the Most High Elohim. After the first wife of the king had been executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favour in the king’s eyes and became the new queen, though she refused to divulge her nationality. After Haman had required to kill the Jews Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity, which would mean when the decree would be executed his beauty and loved one would be killed also. To avoid such drama Haman was hanged and instead of him Mordechai was appointed prime minister. A new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated. In the capital city of Shushan, they took one more day to finish the job.

Since Haman had thrown lots to determine when he would carry out his diabolical scheme this remembrance period is also called “Feast of lots”.

Queen Estêr (Esther) is the heroine of the Megillah tale, and has been a character used in several films and some ballets. From a simple girl she could take a very high position, which made her able to use her influence to save the Jewish people. But this was only possible by revealing her nationality. She could have been quiet and let the Jews been killed, but preferred to speak, endangering herself. Though the king madly in love with her did not kill her but killed the man who had asked for the Jews to be killed.

Married to a non-Jew she was stuck having the privilege to live in a palace, and the years after this event was still unable to join her people in their celebrations. She had saved her people, but could not save herself from her ‘castle-walls’. She was trapped, living between two worlds.

We have to take care we get not trapped, but also that we do not stay silent. Certainly in these times when we can find more and more people who do find that this world only belongs to (trinitarian) Christians. Looking around and following the news, we hear several times a week how Jews are bullied or even how certain people try to kill Jews on the street (like the incident in Antwerp last week).

Rabbi Michael Knopf who writes extensively on matters of halakhah (the Jewish legal tradition) a few days ago wrote about Purim and the Responsibilities of Privilege and looking at our position in this world wrote:

We cannot be truly safe, truly free, truly prosperous, until everyone is safe, free, and prosperous.

He also remembered Martin Luther King, Jr. who wrote,

“I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (“Letter from a Birmingham Jail”).

These coming days we especially look at the way God helped His People and how they acted in their life on the way to the Promised Land. Most of them never saw that place which could have been an ‘heaven on earth’. Throughout history we have seen many pogroms and years of torture and killings of our ancestors. These days we can remember them but also remember the liberation of so many. Because these days that is going to be our focus, how the Elohim is there to help us and to guide us to be able to live in a world which does not like the Children of God. Going up to Pesach, the climax of the year 15-22 Nisan, remembering the Passover and liberation of Gods people.

The Rabbi reminds us:

If you are reading this column, chances are good that you are among the ranks of the most fortunate people to ever live.
Mordechai‘ s challenge to Esther is, therefore, our challenge as well. When there are those in our world, in our country, whose lives are at risk, do we stand by, fearful that speaking up will cost us our position? Or do we remember that our fate is bound up in their fate, too, and perhaps we have attained our privilege for just such a crisis?

This was the question of Esther’s time. This is the question of our time. As we celebrate Purim, let us honor Mordechai’s challenge, and recall Esther’s heroic response. {Purim and the Responsibilities of Privilege }

On the Israel Forever Foundation website and on Inspiration from Zion: This is a Love Story we also find the warning

Today we are not witnessing the Holocaust but there are world leaders who advocate for the elimination of the Jewish State. There are individuals who openly declare that the genocide of the Jewish people should have been completed. Antisemitism is again becoming something that is socially acceptable to express in public. {Purim: Not to speak is to speak}

And a question

In a world where Antisemitism is again becoming socially acceptable, where Jews are told that they cannot be both feminists and Zionists and many Jews are afraid to speak out about the injustices against our people – what message could be more relevant? {Purim: Not to speak is to speak}

 

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Additional reading

  1. Purim or Ta’aniet Estêr
  2. Beginning of weeks for the Feasts of deliverance
  3. The son of David on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread
  4. High Holidays not only for Israel
  5. 8 Reasons Christian Holidays Should Not Be Observed
  6. Observance of a day to Remember
  7. Around the feast of Unleavened Bread
  8. Day of remembrance coming near
  9. Actions to be a reflection of openness of heart
  10. Solution for Willing hearts filled with gifts
  11. Vayikra after its opening word וַיִּקְרָא, which means and He called
  12. Deliverance and establishement of a theocracy
  13. Preparation for Passover
  14. A new exodus and offering of a Lamb
  15. Sukkoth, Gog, Magog, Armageddon, a covenant and Jerusalem
  16. Wednesday 5 April – Sunday 9 April 30 CE Pesach or Passover versus Easter
  17. Most important day in Christian year
  18. Most important weekend of the year 2016
  19. This day shall be unto you for a memorial and you shall keep it a feast to the Most High God
  20. 14-15 Nisan and Easter
  21. 14 Nisan a day to remember #1 Inception
  22. 14 Nisan a day to remember #2 Time of Jesus
  23. 14 Nisan a day to remember #3 Before the Passover-feast
  24. 14 Nisan a day to remember #4 A Lamb slain
  25. 14 Nisan a day to remember #5 The Day to celebrate
  26. Easter holiday, fun and rejoicing
  27. A Great Gift commemorated
  28. Jesus memorial
  29. Thinking about fear for the Loving God and an Invitation for 14 Nisan
  30. What to do in the Face of Global Anti-semitism

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  7. The purim miracle 2
  8. Deceit Meets Truth at PurimPurim… The Invisible Hand – By MarcPurim: Not to speak is to speak
  9. Purim or Feast of lots
  10. Purim Sameach!
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  12. The Rebbe on Parashat Zakhor and Purim (March 23-24, 1940 in the Warsaw Ghetto)
  13. For Such a Time as This
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  17. #Purim Life Takes A-Way M’om’ents; Thy Divine Sight, Makes A-Weigh For More Meant/Mentorship of Meritorious M’om’entum’s Immaculate/Infinite/Evolutionary Worthiness Exalted Renaissance Orientated C’om’munion’s……………
  18. Purim, Exile, and Redemption
  19. Purim and the Responsibilities of Privilege
  20. The Coin Flip (Purim)
  21. Purim: The Upside Down Drama of Esther
  22. Esther 9, the Jews triumph, Purim celebrated.
  23. Purim 2018
  24. The Purim-miracle 4
  25. For Such a Time as This

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