Jack Reimer ● Boston Jewish Advocate
There are many miracles involved in Israel. The first, and the most obvious, is that it somehow still exists. The newspapers announced this week that Egypt—which is just one of the hostile countries that surrounds Israel—recently reached a total of a hundred million people! Hezbellah, which is a rabid foe of Israel, now has control of both Gaza and Lebanon. Iran, whose leaders have pledged to destroy Israel, continues to strive to become the dominant figure in the Middle East. And yet, Israel somehow survives.
When you count the population figures of Israel’s enemies, it is hard to understand how Israel has survived. There was one Zionist leader—I don’t remember which one it was—who said “that you do not have to believe in miracles to be a Zionist—but it certainly helps.”
And there is a second miracle that characterizes Israel and that is the one that this book tries to describe. It is true that there is corruption in the country. It is not a state composed of angels or of saints. It is true that there has been a coarsening of the discourse, not only on the floor of the Knesset where politicians berate each other with unseemly language, but on the crowded highways of the country, where impatient drivers yell at each other when they find themselves caught up in bottlenecks.
This is understandable in a country that imports a quarter of a million cars each year and that does not have the infrastructure to support this much traffic.
But what is hard to explain is what this book records: the amount of volunteerism in Israel, and the number of people who not only come to each other’s rescue in time of trouble, but the number of people who are ready to travel to any part of the world where people are coping with hurricanes or floods or tsunamis and need help.
You would think that a country which is constantly condemned in the United Nations would turn inwards and be concerned only with its own welfare and its own defense. You would think that a people that has so few allies in the world would become cynical and would not care when other nations are in distress. And yet, as this book documents, this is not so. Let there be a hurricane in Greece, or a fire in Australia, or a disaster at a public school in America, or a typhoon in the Philippines, and Israelis are on the way.
Syria is one of Israel’s most implacable foes, and so you would think that Israelis would rejoice over the fact that it is caught up in a brutal civil war. You would think, to paraphrase what Henry Kissinger once said about the Vietnam War: “It is too bad that there can’t be two winners”. And yet Israel for years maintained what was called ‘a good fence’ on the border with Syria and took in thousands of civilians who were in need of surgery and urgent medical care. And it even sent doctors into Syria to set up emergency care facilities and to bring in medical supplies.
David Kramer records the experiences of some of these Israeli soldiers and civilians who have gone to places all around the world—some under the official sponsorship of the Israeli government and some as volunteers with ngos. Some of them are even in China right now, helping the scientists there cope with the Coronavirus, and helping the therapists cope with the traumatic stress that so many of the civilians are enduring there.
Will this book do any good in changing the attitudes of those countries that are hostile to Israel and who believe the stories that demonize Israel that are so widespread in the world today? Probably not, for many people think only once, and then repeat their points of view over and over again. But perhaps there are some people who understand that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.
And even if this book does not influence the rest of the world, we hope that it will influence Western Jews—especially those on college campuses—and help them to see the real Israel—which is a mixture of callousness and generosity, or corruption and kindness, which ought to be a model to the world.
Jack Riemer is the author of two new books: Finding God in Unexpected Places and The Day I Met Father Isaac in the Supermarket, which are both available at Amazon.com
Dov Peretz Elkins ● Jewish Media Review
In State of the Heart, David Kramer takes us on a journey of Israel’s humanitarian efforts that began more than 70 years ago and continues unabated throughout the world today.
In this extraordinary and inspiring collection of over 50 stories, personal interviews, and photographs, David describes the benevolence and altruism that characterizes the nation of Israel. He engages the reader with narratives that identify and provide a glimpse into the compassionate soul of the Israeli people.
Featured in these accounts are descriptions of life-saving technology and innovation, helping the disabled and teens at risk, managing food collection and distribution programs for the disadvantaged, immigrant absorption and elder care, infertility programs, women’s empowerment and human rights, rescuing victims in the aftermath of natural disasters worldwide, developing and providing life-saving solutions to those in developing nations, cleaning up and protecting the environment, and so much more.
State of the Heart captures the unique level of concern, care and uncompromising sense of mission, undertaken by Israelis, within Israel and around the globe.
David Kramer is an educator, author and social entrepreneur. He has spent the past ten years helping Israeli and global non-profit organizations tell their story through a social start-up he founded in Israel. David spends much of his time meeting with tour groups in Israel, connecting them to the reality of life in Israel. He served in the Israeli army and lives in Jerusalem with his wife Tova and their five children.
Alan Jay Gerber ● The Jewish Star
In his 2011 book, “Intergalactic Judaism” (Urim Publications), Rabbi David Lister of the United Kingdom presents a Jewish view of space travel.
Much of the theological discussion in this book is based on the teachings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch whose “advocacy that one sublimate secular learning and culture into opportunities to serve G-d … “has had a major influence on my life and work,” according to Rabbi Lister.Read the rest of this entry »
Rabbi Ari Kahn • Explorations
Jewish medical ethics is a robust field, which quickly grows as the medical and scientific inquiry advances. While many volumes have been written on Jewish medical ethics, Jason Weiner’s Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision-Making is unique. Rabbi Weiner has written an excellent and important work from a perspective unlike others who have addressed this topic. While previous studies have been published by experts in Halacha, or experts in medicine, or experts in ethics. Rabbi Weiner may, in fact, be all of the these, but first and foremost he is a chaplain; he works in a hospital, and deals with patients on a daily basis. While I have studied, taught, and even given psak(halachic rulings) in many of the areas discussed in this book, my involvement is often theoretical. Reading actual cases, and learning from Rabbi Weiner’s experience, sensitivity, and wisdom, is both instructive and invaluable.
One powerful example begins on p.93: Rabbi Weiner describes his interaction with the parents of a child suffering from what turned out to be a terminal illness. These parents asked if they were permitted to pray for their son’s recovery, and Rabbi Weiner answered in the affirmative. When the illness took their son’s life, the devastated parents criticized the rabbi for allowing them to foster false hope.
The Oxford University and Vatican libraries are to jointly digitise 1.5m pages of ancient texts and make them available free online.
The libraries said the digitised collections will centre on three subject areas: Greek manuscripts, 15th-century printed books and Hebrew manuscripts and early printed books.
The areas have been chosen for the strength of the collections in both libraries and their importance for scholarship in their respective fields.
With approximately two-thirds of the material coming from the Vaticanand the remainder from Oxford University’s Bodleian libraries, the digitisation effort will also benefit scholars by uniting materials that have been dispersed between the collections for centuries.
“Transforming these ancient texts and images into digital form helps transcend the limitations of time and space which have in the past restricted access to knowledge,” Sarah Thomas, director of the Bodleian Libraries, said on Thursday.
“Scholars will be able to interrogate these documents in fresh approaches as a result of their online availability.”
The initiative has been made possible by a £2m award from the Polonsky Foundation.
“The service to humanity which the Vatican library has accomplished over almost six centuries, by preserving its cultural treasures and making them available to readers, finds here a new avenue which confirms and amplifies its universal vocation through the use of new tools, thanks to the generosity of the Polonsky Foundation and to the sharing of expertise with the Bodleian libraries,” Holy See librarian Cardinal Raffaele Farina said.
The original article appeared in The Guardian.