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November 03, 2005 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-11-03

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Time For Muted Celebration

iven our culture, we don't
do well even with good
news. If it comes, we
worry about all possible implica-
tions, real or imagined.
So the first reaction to some
thaw in the anti-Israel policies of
the United Nations is: Oy vey, What
does this mean? Who knows, but
the United Nations — which for
some 50 years has institutional-
ized anti-Semitism and treated
Israel like a pariah — has in
recent months been respectful and
polite to the Jewish state.
For instance, consider Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's address to
the General Assembly in mid-
September. While Jews probably
expected ---, understandably —
for Sharon to be boycotted,
scorned and perhaps booed in his
first address to the U.N., he was
received warmly.
More recently, Israel even pro-
posed a resolution (on the effects
of Palestinian terrorism on chil-
dren), the first ever by Israel. In
addition, it has submitted its can-
didacy for a two-year seat on the


Security Council for the 2018-2020
term. Yes, that's right: It is seeking
a seat on the Security Council.'
The New York Times reported a
number of other positive develop-
ments, including a seminar on
anti-Semitism in 2004, a resolu-
tion condemning anti-Semitism
that passed with 177 votes, a spe-
cial session marking the 60th
anniversary of the liberation of
Nazi Germany death camps, the
installation of an exhibit on
Auschwitz in the U.N.'s lobby and
the organization's Secretary-
General Kofi Annan attendance at
a ceremony at Yad Vashem in
In addition, the Times pointed
out, this summer, Dan Gillerman,
Israel's U.N. ambassador, became
the first Israeli to preside over the
Assembly in 52 years.
So, as they say, what's going on?
There are, of course, probably
many reasons, many years in the
Annan finally may be embar-
rassed by his leadership and fail-
ing to curb the anti-Israel and

anti-Semitic factions.
This bold decision was a
Throughout his tenure, he
loud and clear message
failed to oppose the vilifi-
that Israel is prepared to
cation of the Jewish state
make sacrifices for
and, by implication, sup-
peace. This strategic
ported hatred of Israel.
move could not be easily
Moreover, his problems
dismissed. The naysay-
with U.N. scandals may
ers tried but failed with
have forced -him to demon- Berl Falbaum the world generally rec-
Corn munity ognizing the courage
strate some leadership and
V iew
attempt to "change his
and foresight of Sharon's
image" from a leader who
not only condoned the U.N.'s poi-
In addition, the United States
sonous atmosphere and Israel
has played an important role in
bashing, but who also may be cor-
garnering support for Israel, and
rupt. He certainly understands
that may have accelerated in recent
that he has been morally bankrupt months. The U.S. historically has
and his lack of moral resolve has
been the only reliable supporter of
contributed to the cynicism about
Israel in the U.N. and as more
the usefulness of the U.N.
countries seek better relations with
Even those who might be criti-
the U.S., they recognize the need to
cal of Israel's policies recognize
be less vituperative toward Israel.
that the Jewish state has been
Given President Bush's overall
unfairly isolated in the world body support of Israel — he has been
while dictators and authoritarian
instinctively one of the most sup-
states that violate the most basic
portive presidents of Israel —
human rights are treated with dig-
those who spew venom at the U.N.
recognize that they need to be
Sharon's unilateral decision to
more accommodating whether
withdraw from Gaza had to help.
they like it or not if they want any

kind of alliance with the U.S.
Obviously, a relationship with
the U.S. does not rely solely on
U.N. members being more accom-
modating to Israel. But it certainly
does not hurt to temper outrage at
the only democracy in the Middle
East when the world's most power-
ful leader is determined not only
to defend Israel, but also spread
the principle of democracy.
Whatever the reasons — they
probably are deep seeded, highly
complex and subject to quick
turnarounds — the change is
more than welcome.
Should we celebrate? Perhaps a
little. Should we still worry Yes,
not so much because of our cul-
ture — we'll worry no matter what
— but because of the U.N.'s dema-
gogic history towards Israel.
More than a half-century of
enmity cannot be erased in a few
months. ❑

Bed Falbaum, an author, a West
Bloomfield public relations executive
and a former political reporter,
teaches journalism part time at
Wayne State University in Detroit.

In Pursuit Of Social Action

s Israeli government min-
ister. with responsibility
for the world Jewish com-
munity I have the privilege of
meeting Jews of all types from all
over the world. There are huge
cultural, historical and theological
variations among us, and these
lend color and variety to our peo-
But the differences also create
problems. The deep rifts that
occurred in Israel over the issue
of disengagement from the
Palestinians and the battles
among different groups demon-
strated once again the profound
divisions among us. The Jewish
people stand in danger of split-
ting into different factions with
different narratives.
Amid so much diversity what
can unite us?
On a daily basis, we witness the
disgrace that is attached to reli-
gion when it's linked with the
horrors of priests engaging in



child abuse and the fanaticism of
"religious" suicide bombers.
Tragically, our own faith also
has spawned instances of the des-
ecration of God's name. The rab-
bis recognized these and declared
that it was our failure to show
care, compassion, decency and
loving kindness to one another
that caused so many of our sor-
In our own times, the massacre
of Arabs at prayer in the mosque
in Hebron and the murder of
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak
Rabin 10 years ago this month
were desecrations of God's name
that drove me to put to aside my
work in the rabbinate to enter
Israeli politics. I felt that it was
crucial for the Israeli government
to work on a grand scale to
change Judaism's image from one
of intolerance and fanaticism and
restore it to one of ethics, toler-
ance and compassion.
Yet the desecration of God's
name has not ended. Like so

many of you, I was
of ethics and kindness,
shocked and bewildered
so that our behavior
when I witnessed the
always brings credit to
terrible scenes of hurri-
our heritage and to our
canes hitting America's
Gulf Coast, the devasta-
That's why I'm so
tion they caused and the
delighted to announce
victims' suffering.
Rabbi Michael that in partnership with
In the midst of this
the Koldor organization,
tragedy, it has been won-
leading rabbis, youth
derful to see how many
movements, student
Jewish communities
organizations, commu-
have stretched out their arms to
nity centers and synagogues, my
help those who have lost every-
office is launching the Jewish
Social Action Month in Cheshvan,
Wherever I travel in the Jewish
which begins this year on Nov. 3.
world, I'm struck by the way that
It falls one month after Rosh
ordinary Jews are determined to
Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so ifs
perform kiddush Hashem —
a time to draw on all the resolu-
sanctification of God's name —
tions we made over the High
and to avoid a hillul Hashem, the
Holidays. It's also a month with
desecration of God's name. The
no festivals in it, enabling us to
concept of kiddush Hashem offers dedicate time to social action.
a powerful challenge that has par-
Throughout the month, Jews
ticular resonance in our times.
from across the globe will per-
Each one of us has to ensure
form acts of loving kindness to
that the word "Jewish"' is always
their neighbors, both Jewish and
associated with the highest levels
gentile. Israeli Friends of the

Earth, for example, will launch
initiatives to clear up the debris
that ruins our countryside; Israel's
police force will engage in proj-
ects to show care and concern in
the community; one youth move-
ment will organize a sports event
for the underprivileged, while
another will arrange a national
blood donation drive.
Ifs beautiful to see how in
Israel, South America, North
America, Russia and Europe, Jews
ranging from chief rabbis to the
most secular will be engaged in
social-action activities. I very
much hope that you will feel
moved to join the project; to per-
form kiddush Hashem and turn
our world into a better place.
I look forward to hearing about
your activities. ❑

Rabbi Michael Melchior is a deputy
minister in the Israeli government
with responsibility for Israeli society
and the world Jewish community. E-
mail him at:

November 3 2005


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