With Rabbi Yitzchak Shochet. 

Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi or follow him on Twitter @RabbiYYS. [divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I’m at Birmingham University, where some of my friends are Jewish. Israel is always a flashpoint issue on campus. Do you think if Israel stopped occupying the land and reverted to a two-state solution there would be less tension?

Asaf

 

Dear Asaf,

Let’s cut to the chase. You suggest all the antagonism is attributed to “occupying the land,” Why did six Arab countries try to destroy Israel before 1967 when there were no settlers or settlements?

You’ll tell me because of the War of Independence in 1948 which resulted in hundreds of thousands of Arabs fleeing their homes and becoming refugees. So why did the Arabs initiate that war against Israel in 1948 and thus create, through their own error, the refugee problem? Why did they not accept the then United Nations partition of Palestine and accept the reality of Jewish existence in the Jews’ ancient homeland?

Better still, why did the Arabs hate us before 1948? Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini was a close friend of Hitler in the 1930s. On one of his visits to Germany he said, “The Jews are the fiercest enemies of the Muslims,” and an “ever corrupt element” in the world. So no, I don’t think a two-state solution is going to resolve anything. If it would, I would be the first to sign up.

But relinquishing control to those committed to your annihilation is like signing your own death warrant. In the words of Abba Eban, “first they said Jews to Palestine. Now they say Jews out from Palestine. They don’t want us here, they don’t want us there. They simply don’t want us to be.” You want peace on campus? Park your politics and leave the rhetoric at home. Use the university for study and not for an opportunity to vent. [divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I’m an active United Synagogue member and have noticed how my community seems divided over the number of women looking for enhanced religious expression. Some feel it’s a break from tradition while others think it doesn’t go far enough. Can’t there be some sort of compromise position?

Denice

 
Dear Denice,

I think your concern is one that is quite common among most United Synagogues. I do appreciate why women may be looking for a more religious outlet. The onus is on every member to understand the community is bigger than any one person or group. To this end, the challenge is to always strike the right balance. Perhaps a good starting point is that those who beat the drum for more female involvement should also consider some of the fundamentals.

Why is a US Women’s Forum taking place next month with- out much – if any – emphasis on mikvah, Shabbat candles, the cornerstone of the Jewish family, and uniquely feminine mitzvot? Why don’t those women who love banging on pulpits demanding more rights also insist on more ritual? Perhaps when there’s a whiff of traditional values on the agenda everyone will feel more comfortable. [divider]

Dear Rabbi,

Purim is coming and I expect a spiel from you again about moving out of the country. I‘m writing now to spoil your annual joke.

Gideon

 

Dear Gideon,

Guess what? I’m not moving anywhere this year. Now you have to wonder – is that true, or is that really the spiel this year, because I am planning to move on? Keep guessing, and watch this space. [divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I’m an avid online reader from across the pond with a question. Do you think it is appropriate for Jewish youth to be learning martial arts? I live in a very religious neighbourhood in New York where such classes have been introduced after school. I think teaching kids any form of violence is counter-productive.

Barry

 

Dear Barry,

Gosh! I wonder what you would say about rabbis that do the same. I know one who trains three times a week, in kickboxing and Thai boxing – pretty violent stuff. Just look up to the picture above this column and you can see him. For me, it is a great health benefit – not to mention a stress burner. Just ask my trainer Dave.

He knows just to mention the name of certain members and boy, do those punches and kicks fly. (If any one of my members are reading this – no, not you). For kids, it has the same benefits, plus it builds confidence. One of the key elements of any martial art is discipline, so it won’t be used in any negative way other than in self-defence. In my book, kids doing that instead of everything else out there today is only a good thing. Now go join an adult class of the same. [divider]