Tag Archives: Jewish History

But HOW could this happen?

I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at gun control through Jewish history, so I did so for a research paper a couple of years ago, but I think it is all still relevant.

I often hear people say “Oh, but why did this happen?” I think we should look at the question of how things like this can happen, by examining the role of the victim disarmament laws in place during the time period.

As Dave Kopel points out in his paper To Your Tents Oh Israel i weapon control dates way back for a conquered people. From I Samuel 13:19-22: Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.” But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads. So on the day of the battle there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and Jonathan his son had them. Mr. Kopel points out that governments must control people’s ability to access weapons by also preventing them from making them. Therefore, there were no Israeli smiths.

Whenever Jews lived with Muslims, they lived as dhimmis. This meant they would be facing many restrictions of common rights. First they had to pay jizya, which is a tax any non-Muslim will have to pay to be allowed to live among the Muslims. In addition to that, the Jews living amongst the Muslims were forbidden to testify in court cases if the case involved a Muslim, nor were they allowed to bear arms.ii These restrictions enabled many attacks against the helpless Jews to succeed.

The May Laws in Russia carried many restrictions for the Jews. In some of the areas where pogroms took place some of the Jews attempted for form self-defense groups, but they would be disarmed by the government who appeared to have been involved in instigating some of the pogroms. Firearm registration for all was introduced on April 1, 1918, and in October of 1918 all firearms, ammunition and sabers were ordered to be turned in. The exception was Communists were allowed to keep their weapons. Pogroms in Russia occurred 1881-1884, 1903-1906 and 1917-1921 with each wave of pogrom being increasingly violent towards Jews.iii

Nazi Germany is the easy to use to illustrate how restrictive gun laws can be used to control a population or discriminate against or eradicate a segment of it’s citizens. The Nazi government kept good records. In 1928 the Weimer Republic enacted the “Laws on Firearms and Ammunition”. These laws stated that a person had to have a government permit to do each of the following: one to own or sell a firearms, one to carry firearms (including handguns), one to manufacture firearms, and professionally deal in firearms and a separate one to buy ammunition. Then the government decided who got them based on it’s decision if a person was “trustworthy” enough and if they could demonstrate what the government decided was a good need. This would be the 1928 German version of what is advocated by some in America currently as “Universal Background Checks”. If at some point the government decided they didn’t want someone to have a weapon or ammunition, they simply didn’t renew the permit. In September 1935 the “Nuremberg Laws” were enacted and the Jews lost their civil rights. On March 18th 1938 the “Nazi Weapons Law” was enacted. No Jew was allowed to own or work in a business involving firearms. Kristallnacht occurred on November 10th, 1938. On November 11, 1938 the Nazi Weapons Laws was broadened and no Jew was allowed to own a weapon, any weapon, not just a gun. Since the permitting system had been in place for some time the Nazi government knew who had what weapons, they were marked with serial numbers and where they could be found. This ensured that the Jews, who by now were not considered citizens of Germany could do little to resist the coming attacks.

An interesting note is that America’s “Gun Control Act of 1968” was based on the “Nazi Weapons Laws”. Senator Thomas Dodd was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials and brought back a copy of the Nazi Weapons Laws. He had it translated by the Library of Congress. He then pushed for similar legislation in the “Gun Control Act of 1968”, which was signed into legislation.iv

The results of these type of laws are made very clear as by the end of our class observance of Yom HaShoah and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising will both have occurred.

Some of the Jews trapped in the Warsaw ghetto formed defensive bands and attempted to fight back. They realized they would not succeed for long, but they fought for their honor, and for the chance that some of them might make it out alive. The Yad Vashem web site has interviews with the survivors of the uprising and they talk about the pitifully small amount of weaponry they had available and their lack of training or experience. But they wanted that chance, that chance to live.v

The British attempted to keep the Jews disarmed in the forming state of Israel

On more than one occasion the British soldiers retaliated against the Irgun by rioting and attacking Jews and Jewish owned businesses. The British also turned a blind eye to Arab guerillas sneaking into Israel, or even knowingly armed them by supplying arms to TransJordan. Indeed there is a long history of attacks upon Jews in their homeland by both Arabs and British. These attacks were either ignored by the British or they made attempts to cover them up, as in the Hebron massacre. Even after the Hebron massacre the British refused to allow the Jews to arm themselves for protection. vi

Israel would seem to be a country that would understand the need for a armed populace. They have not been that way to the extent it might be thought. On July 31, 2013 Public Security Minister MK Yitzchak Aharonovitch called for tighter restrictions on firearm ownership.vii A little over a year later after the massacre at a Jerusalem Synagogue he called for relaxing controls.viii

Moshe Feiglin former MK, also called for easing restrictions on firearm ownership for citizens. His sentiments were expressed with the statement “The answer

is that the State of Israel is not increasing our liberties; it is reducing them. Dictatorship confiscate citizens’ weapons. ‘The State alone will take care of all your security needs’.”ixIsrael does have soldiers throughout the country that ride public transport with their weapons. There has still been many attacks on unarmed citizens in Synagogues, streets, and shops when one was not close enough to stop the attack before casualties resulted.

Europe has seen a rise in antisemitism over the last few years. In 2014 the Metropolitan Police have recorded a 120% increase in antisemitic crimes, but hate crimes are generally under reported. A Human Rights Watch article reported “the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency found that three quarters of respondents living in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden, and the UK felt antisemitism had increased in the country where they lived over the previous five years.”x Both Europe and the United Kingdom have very restrictive firearms laws, and yet attacks appear to be increasing on the defenseless as evidenced by the above statistics.

The divide between the church and the synagogue, that certainly played into the role of the attacks on Jews in Russia, the Spanish Inquisition, Germany and the Muslim countries. In those instances there were attempts to force them to convert to either Christianity or Islam as an alternative to torture and death. In the case of Germany, conversion was not an option as the Nuremberg laws defined who was or was not a Jew. Conversion was not offered or relevant, it was based on heritage. In this case, the church played a role

in terms of helping the Nazis and spreading antisemitic thought. The recent attacks do not appear to be related to the divide between the church and synagogue, but are based solely on hatred of Jews, because they are Jews. But throughout time and country one thing has remained the same. The laws in place restricted Jews from being able to carry out the Torah commands of self-defense such as Exodus 22:2-3 and defense of others Leviticus 19:16. Finally there is the law of pikuach nefesh. In the case of saving a human life, it trumps all others. It’s hard to obey G-d’s law when you are prevented by man’s, to paraphrase Rabbi Dovid Bendory.xi

i(Kopel, 2007)

ii(Wikipedia, Muslim and Arab Antisemitism)

iii(Isseroff, 2009) (Kopel, 1995)

iv(Simkin and Zelman, 1993)

v(Ochayon, Undated)

vi(Hollander, 2009) (Jewish Virtual Library) (Lapidot, 1999)

vii(Ya’ar, 2013)

viii(Dvorin, 2014)

ix(Gold, 2015)

x(Leghtas, 2015)

xi(Bendory, 2009)

Kopel,D (April, 2007). To Your Tents Oh Israel! Retrieved 15 April, 2015 from http://davekopel.com/Religion/To-your-tents-o-israel.pdf

Wikipedia. Persecution of Jews, Muslim and Arab Antisemitism. Retrieved 15 April, 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Jews

Jewish Virtual Library (2013). CHMIELNICKI (Khmelnitski), BOGDAN. Retrieved 20 April, 2015 from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0004_0_04259.html

Kopel,D (24 March, 1995). Lethal Laws. Retrieved 20, April 2015 from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1272846

Issaroff,A. (2009). Zionism and Israel – Encyclopedic Dictionary: Pogrom Retrieved 21 April, 2015 from http://zionism-israel.com/dic/pogrom.htm

Zelman,A. And Simkin,J. Gun Control-Gateway To Tyranny (1993). Jews For The Preservation of Firearm Ownership Publishers, p. 1-14.

Wikipedia. Kristallnacht Retrieved 15 April, 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristallnacht

Ochayon,S. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Retrieved 20 April, 2015 from http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/education/newsletter/30/warsaw_ghetto_uprising.asp

Yad Vashem. Fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto. Retrieved 20 April, 2015 from http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/warsaw_ghetto_testimonies/fighters.asp

Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Defense Organizations: The Role of Jewish Defense Organizations in Palestine. Retrieved 20 April, 2015 from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/defense.html

Lapidot,Y. Chapters in the History of the Irgun. Retrieved 22 April, 2015 from http://www.etzel.org.il/english/ac03.htm

Hollander,R. Anti-Jewish Violence in Pre-State Palestine/1929 Massacres (23 August, 2009) Retrieved 15 April, 2015 from http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=118&x_article=1691

Ya’ar,C. Israel To Consider Stricter Gun Control Laws. (31 July 2013) Retrieved 15 April, 2015 from http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/170453#.VToMABdVFX8

Dvorin,T. Aharonovich to Ease Restrictions on Weapons Permits (18 November, 2014) Retrieved 15 April, 2015 from http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/187597#.VToMxBdVFX8

Feiglin,M. Citizens Carrying Firearms Prevent Terror. (22 January, 2015) Retrieved 25 January, 2015 from http://jewishleadership.blogspot.com/2015/01/mk-moshe-feiglin-citizens-carrying.html

Leghtas, I. In 2015, Anti-Semitism Should No Longer Be a Reality in Europe (18 February, 2015) Retrieved 20 April, 2015 from http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/18/2015-anti-semitism-should-no-longer-be-reality-europe

Bendory,D. Man’s Law Kills Again – The Sin of Gun Free Zones. (12 November, 2009) Retrieved 20 April, 2015 from http://www.ammoland.com/2009/11/mans-law-kills-again-the-sin-of-gun-free-zones/#axzz3YDa9BUi8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear World

I’ve decided to try to be creative. I made ya’ll a movie. The reading was part of a radio program and then I spent time collecting pictures I thought would go well with each part and tried to make the timing on the photo and the reading come out right. Yeah, I love ya’ll that much. So this is my first, and possibly only, multimedia video column.

Not long after I heard this recitation as part of Walter Bingham’s radio show I heard about some Jewish leaders in Rhode Island who are lobbying some of the pro-self defense legislators in the state to make it easier for criminals to attack defenseless people. They felt that if good, law-abiding citizens did not have the means to defend themselves and criminals were aware of that, then crime rates would surely drop. That children would be safer as they watched their parents attacked, unable to have the means to mount an effective defense of themselves and their children. Well, perhaps I’m paraphrasing a bit, a little.

But I was sad to hear this. Like I said, after having heard the recitation, and hearing the cries for more defenseless victims I can only shake my head. There are those that think they can find logic in why some are attacked. Dafna Meir was attacked because she lived in Otniel. No, she was attacked because she was Jew living in Israel. The horrible photos are from the Har Nof Synagogue massacre. Not to mention Hevron. There have been attacks on Churches, Synagogues and Jewish Community Centers in the U.S. And law enforcement have managed to stop some before they happen. I read a column that says ISIS now has a hit list of 15,000 people in the U.S. One entire church is on it. Some of the people have been notified by the FIB FBI that they are targets, many have not and the list is not publicly available. I guess what with covering for Hillary and all, it takes away from the time available to let people know they are targeted by ISIS. In the article it talks about an attack that was recently thwarted at a large church in Detroit.

But as I listened to the speaker, and thought about the images I could put with the reading I can’t help but wonder if those community leaders calling for defenseless victims shouldn’t do a brief review of history, at the least a brief review of Israeli history. Seems like there is an old saying. Something about “Those who ignore the past….”

So, without further ado, your movie….סרת

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We Are A Miracle

August 13, 2016 was the 9th of Av, or Tisha B’Av 5776. Since nothing is to mar the joy of Shabbat, it was observed on the 14th of August.

I realize, that’s yesterday, but I can’t let it go without sharing a couple things.

The first is something wonderful I got from my teammate, Y.B. a wonderful true story honoring the spirit and commitment of  Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam.

Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam
Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam

 Defiance on a Death March
The Klausenberger Rebbe z’tl on 9 Av

Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam became one of the youngest rebbes in Europe, leading thousands of followers in the town of Klausenburg, Romania, before World War II. His wife, eleven children and most of his followers were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

In the summer of 1944 the Russian Army moved west and pushed the Nazis further and further back across Poland into Germany. The Germans, in an effort to cover their crimes forced thousands of slave labourers on death marches across Poland. The Rebbe had previously spent time in Auschwitz and on a work detail in Warsaw, sifting through the rubble of the now vacant Warsaw ghetto on his hands and knees, forced to look for anything that might be of value for the Nazi war effort.

As the Russians moved closer the Rebbe along with 6000 other prisoners were forced to march for twenty miles a day, in the scorching Polish summer. The death camp of Dachau in Germany was to be their final destination of which just 2000 made it.

On the march, the prisoners were starved of food and water and any stragglers were shot immediately. On the day of Tisha B’Av (9th of the Jewish month of Av), Jews mourn the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem as well as many other disasters that have happened on this painful day. One of the signs of mourning of Tisha B’Av is that Jews remove their leather shoes (leather shoes being an inappropriate sign of comfort and luxury on this solemn day).

On this day and on this march, the Rebbe removed his shoes. Despite all that had happened to him, he refused to give up on the Jewish observances that made him who he was. The Nazis saw this as a sign of rebellion and decided to have some fun at the Rebbe’s expense. They made him march alongside the column on broken stones and gravel. They joked as his feet became bloodied and bruised.

At one point they thought he was trying to escape down the embankment so they shot him. He was hit in the arm and tumbled down the embankment. In an effort to stem the bleeding, he took bark and leaves from a tree and wrapped it around the wound. It was at that point in his life, when faced with such unimaginable pain, hatred and adversity that the Rebbe demonstrated forever that there is no depth from which the human spirit cannot rise.

It was at that point that he swore to God that should he survive he would build an institution based on the Jewish values of love, peace, equality and tolerance, all of the values the Nazis despised. He swore that he would build a hospital in the land of Israel that would epitomise everything the Nazis tried to destroy.

Today, that hospital is Laniado in Netanya.The hospital was built in 1974. After the maternity unit was opened, the Rebbe asked the nurses and staff to call him immediately when the first baby was born. A few days later he received the call with the good news. Upon hearing, the Rebbe said in a broken voice, ‘zeh ha nekama sheli’, ‘this is my revenge’. This is my revenge – life will defeat death, hope will defeat pain, compassion will overcome hatred.

May this Tisha B’Av be the last before our mourning is turned into joy and celebration.

And this one I have for you.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I seem to have some dust in my eye.

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73 years ago today, Warsaw

Today, 73 years ago began the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Some say it ended on May 16th, but there are other sources that say that it lasted on until fall. But the Jews in the ghetto held out longer than the nation of Poland.

The thing was, everything had been fine in Poland. Until it wasn’t.

Weapons of survival
Weapons of survival
Photo from the Ghetto Fighters House in Acco, Israel

As candidates debate how best to get America disarmed, this is worth remembering.

Not only were there precious few weapons available, most of the Jews in the ghetto didn’t know how to use them.

But I will leave you with something strong, proud and brave.

Zog nit kein mol- Jewish partisan song, but that’s Yiddish.

THIS, is Hebrew!

NEVER.AGAIN.

 

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Purim Reflections

If you are unfamiliar with Purim, why and what is being celebrated, there is a helpful video at the end. The story of Purim comes from the Book of Esther in the Tanakh, or First Testament. The name “Purim” comes from the word “Pur” which means “Lots” as Haman, the villain of the story cast lots to determine which day he would destroy the Jews. Haman became miffed at the Jews because Mordechai, Esther’s Uncle, would not bow down before him. Haman was quite impressed with himself. So this year’s Purim is very interesting to me, being a patterns person and all. So under the “The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same” banner let’s have a look.

One of the things one does on Purim is hear the reading of the story of Esther, usually in a Synagogue. Let’s contrast that with the Temple Mount, the one that is the holiest sight in Judaism. For sometime now muslims have been attempting to prevent Jews from going to visit the temple mount. They are already forbidden to pray there. The muslims have rioted near the area where the Jews are allowed to gain entrance to prevent them from entering. When they do enter, they are attacked verbally and lately, physically. Some of the muslims attempting to stop the Jewish visitors from seeing the temple mount are now children who shout “Allahu Akbar” Luckily the police were right there to stop it. Oh, wait, my bad. They were right there, they just didn’t stop it. Nor did they intervene when a member of the waqf guard assaulted a Jewish visitor. Physically, not just verbally. But, hey, good luck, because the Israeli police were right there this time and they sprang into action, and they.. oops, my bad again. They were right there, they just didn’t do anything. Ok, so this year reading the story of Esther on the Temple Mount was not a promising proposition.

Another part of Purim is a lovely meal, traditional food would include Oznei Haman or Hamantaschen filled with poppyseed filling. Although I have now seen a huge variety of filling choices I want to try. So let’s see what is of interest this year in the food category. Ahh, back to the Temple Mount. I see they are having a delightful FREE, yes FREE Al Aqsa Buffet. But wait, that can’t be, because that would be illegal. And calculated to offend, much like their playing football on the Temple Mount. Think of it as carrying on a lively soccer game in the House of Worship of your denomination. Not on the athletic field behind the building. In the sanctuary. To Jews the entire Temple Mount is holy, to muslims, not so much. Just the al aqsa mosque, which is why they have destroyed Jewish artifacts trying to erase the Jewish presence.

So what else for Purim. Ah, costumes. I rethought my first choice, and came up with a better idea. I’m sure that’s common, thinking through the costume and what you want to do with it. Thankfully we’ve come many years from when a madman wanted to wipe every trace of Jews from the earth. Except we haven’t. A mere couple weeks ago a young man named Avraham Goldschmidt was attacked on his way to a wedding by a knife wielding manic. Avraham fought him off with his tefillin bag while shouting if someone had a weapon to “neutalize him”. It was Avraham’s good fortune that Nir Barkat is the mayor of Jerusalem and not someone like Bloomers, DeBlasio (is that still his name this week?) or any of the astroturf group Mayors Against Self-Defense. Nope Nir is cut from a different cloth. His bodyguards drew their guns and Nir rushed the terrorist after he dropped the knife. All this can be viewed on closed circuit TV. Which despite the videocams being right there did actual zip/nada to stop the crime. A thought for those that think those security cams are useful. Along with tefillin, Jews often wear a Kippah. Now that’s not part of a costume per se, but it is something that is part of Jewish dress. Unless you are a Jew in Ramallah Israel. NYC Councilor David Greenfield was asked by U.S. officials on his visit to Israel to remove his Kippah when he left the U.S consulate. To his credit, after first ascertaining he wasn’t placing the other members at risk, he refused to remove it. NYC Councilor David Greenfield is no shrinking violet, no he isn’t. That video is well worth watching too.

So, without giving away the end of the Purim story, let’s just say self-defense was involved. So, what is the application for today? Well, there certainly have been a plethora of attacks on Jews lately and antisemitism is on the rise all over the world. And the response from the leaders of the different countries has been a parade? Well, except from the U.S. In the U.S. the regime harfed that the correct response to terrorism is not to kill the terrorists, but to give them jobs instead. What a load of harf! Things are so bad, that as my colleague Y.B. has pointed out Rabbi Margolin suggested Jews at risk be granted a special permit to be armed. I would suggest that most people without a crystal ball are at risk, but that’s just me.

In the article Is it Just Fashionable to Hate the Jews? Rabbi Joseph Potasnik points out “It’s not a big deal to hate the Jews.” The author concludes “Jews are a nice easy nonviolent target”

But if Bibi Netanyahu is setting the tone for going forward, that could begin to change. From one of his speeches

And as Prime Minister of Israel I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them. For 2000 years, my people, the Jewish people, were stateless, defenseless, voiceless. We were utterly powerless against our enemies who swore to destroy us. We suffered relentless persecution and horrific attacks. We could never speak in our own behalf, and we could not defend ourselves. Well, no more! No more. The days when the Jewish people are passive in the face of threats to annihilate us, those days are over.

But hey, it’s not like Iran wants to destroy Israel or America! I don’t know what would ever make you think that! I mean Iranians love Israel and America, just look at this recent domino competition in which they prominently displayed American and Israeli flags. Nope, no hostility here!

 

Is it just me or does anyone else find the timing of Bibi’s speech to congress interesting. Not in terms of Israeli elections as the current regime has harfed, but in terms of Purim, when Ester spoke to the King on behalf of her people.

Purim celebrates the survival of the Jews against one of the attempts to wipe them off the face of the earth. There have already been many, there will be more. The attacks we’re seeing now are against Jews, Christians and other faiths, well, except for one. Wise people will be prepared, if they are someday there may be another holiday similar to Purim, because with Purim, none of the Jews died because Esther rose to the occasion, and so the Jews were allowed to defend themselves when the attackers came.

“They tried to kill us.  We won.  Let’s eat!”

 

Good deal. May we all do our best to rise to meet the occasions that come before us.

 

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