Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Come to Jesus?

What is a "come to Jesus" moment, and can Jews also have this experience (while remaining Jewish)? (Question spurred by a post on Facebook that stated that Richard Dawkins had a "come to Jesus" moment in 2010 - although he has not converted to Christianity, as far as I know).

Monday, January 11, 2016

Fire in B'Tselem's offices in Jerusalem caused by electrical problem, not arson

It is a relief to see that the fire in B'Tselem's offices was not caused by arson - may they be able to return to work speedily.

From the New York Times
JERUSALEM — A fire in the Jerusalem offices of an Israeli human rights group that monitors the treatment of Palestinians was caused by an electrical problem, and was not the result of arson, officials with Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services said Monday.

The fire broke out late Sunday at the offices of B’Tselem and was initially considered suspicious. The group has been a target for right-wing politicians and activists in their recent campaign against organizations critical of the Israeli government that receive funding from foreign governments. But fire investigators concluded that the fire began with a short-circuit in a ceiling and said that there had been no sign of any break-in.

B’Tselem, also known as the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, said in a statement that it was “relieved” and eager to get back to work. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

B'Tselem offices in Jerusalem destroyed by fire

The offices of the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem in Jerusalem were destroyed tonight by fire, probably as the result of arson. The second Tweet shows the destroyed inside of the office. The same office building also contains the offices of the organization that runs the Hand in Hand bilingual (Arabic/Hebrew) school.
From the B'Tselem Facebook page:

My friend Batya Kallus wrote on Facebook:
The smell of the fire and smoke is lingering in my head after standing outside on the sidewalk as the fire department broke windows in Btselem's offices to allow the smoke to escape.

Ted Cruz and the "Body of Christ"

Ted Cruz is not happy when "non-believers" like atheists, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and others vote in American elections. He wants the "body of Christ" to awaken and vote for him. He claims to be "pro-Israel" but he is actually in favor of a one-state-solution that ignores the claims of Palestinians and that would ultimately destroy Israel as a Jewish state.

In an interview with James Dobson on January 4, 2015, in Winterset, Iowa, Cruz had this to say:
Cruz: Well, Dr. Dobson, you are absolutely right. In the last presidential election, a majority of evangelicals did not vote. Fifty-four million evangelicals stayed home. In the last election, millions of Reagan Democrats and blue collar Catholics across the Midwest and New England stayed home. 
I believe the key to wining in 2016 is very simple. We have to bring back to the polls the millions of conservatives who stayed home. We have to awaken and energize the body of Christ
We look at our federal government now. We have a federal government that is waging a war on life, a war on marriage, a war on religious liberty. We have a federal government that is advancing a secular agenda, that puts the ability of Bible-believing Christians to live our faith more and more in jeopardy, that is appeasing radical Islamic terrorism, in fact refused to even acknowledge its name. And if you look at the federal government, you might as, why do we have a government attacking life, attacking marriage, attacking faith, attacking religious liberty. 
Well is it any wonder when a majority of believers are staying home? If we allow non–believers to elect our leaders, we shouldn’t be surprised when our government doesn’t reflect our values.
Where does the phrase "body of Christ" come from and what does it mean? From the New Testament. See, for example, these passages from Ephesians and Colossians:
Ephesians 1:22-23: “And he (God the Father) placed all things under his feet (Christ’s) and appointed him the head over all things for the church, which is his Body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” 
Ephesians 4:15-16: “Let us in every way grow up into him who is the Head, Christ, from whom the whole Body, being fitly joined together and united through every joint with which it is supplied, according to the working in measure of each single part, promotes the body’s building up of itself in love.”
Colossians 1:15-20:  "He is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the Head of the Body, the church; he is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."
In these passages, the "Body of Christ" is the church, united under the leadership of Christ. The imagery is of a body with Christ as the head. Ted Cruz uses this explicitly Christian religious language to try to persuade Christians (and not anyone else) to vote for him. Ted Cruz isn't interested in anyone else actually participating in American democracy - for him, only Christians, ideally, should determine who our leaders should be.

Notice that he said, "If we allow non–believers to elect our leaders..." "Allow" non-believers to elect our leaders? Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, atheists, Buddhists, etc. vote by right and not by sufferance, as is enshrined in our Constitution.

He's used this language before. In a conference call to supporters on December 31 he said:
“If we awaken and energize the body of Christ– if Christians and people of faith come out and vote our values– we will win and we will turn the country around,” Cruz told volunteers on a conference call Tuesday.....
Cruz warned that, as the election nears, the attacks on his campaign will become more vicious. “I want to tell everyone to get ready, strap on the full armor of God, get ready for the attacks that are coming,” he warned. “Come the month of January we ain’t seen nothing yet.”
The "full armor of God" is also a biblical phrase, from Ephesians 6:11: "Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

Some more about his religious stances, according to the Washington Post (August 6, 2015):
“Believing is not simply sitting aside and doing a polite little golf clap,” Cruz told the congregation at his friend Robert Jeffress’ congregation, First Baptist Dallas. “Believing is putting everything you have, your heart, soul, life, putting everything (into) standing for what’s right.” 
His campaign website and his U.S. Senate biography tout among his accomplishments as solicitor general of Texas that he fought for the “constitutionality of the Ten Commandments monument at the Texas State Capitol and the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Cruz has said he is judicious about mentioning religious views. In 2013, he told David Brody, a host at the Christian Broadcasting Network, that politicians have “a special obligation to avoid being a Pharisee, to avoid ostentatiously wrapping yourself in your faith. Because I think in politics, it’s too easy for that to become a crutch, for that to be politically useful.” 
Even so, he was back this summer on Brody’s show, where he calculated that if all evangelicals — including more than half who he says sat out the last election — “will simply show up and vote our values, we’ll turn this country around. We can turn our country around, but only if the body of Christ rises up.”
Despite his call for the "body of Christ" to rise up and vote for him, a call which would seem to exclude anyone who isn't a Christian, "Cruz is an ardent Zionist," according to the Post.
[S]peaking to an Arab Christian audience in Washington last September, he ran straight into a wall of disapproval by people who think Israel has taken Palestinian lands illegally and driven out Christians as well as Muslims. Politico said Cruz was booed off the stage for calling for absolute support for Israel, accusing those who disagreed of being “consumed with hate” and concluding, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”
On July 6, 2015, in a debate with Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz said, in reference to the Supreme Court vote authorizing same-sex marriage:
Cruz, the Texas senator, said a five-justice majority "ignored the text of the Constitution" and said the cascade of judicial and public support for same-sex marriage threatens religious liberty in America. He said he hopes the ruling "serves as a spark, to start a fire that becomes a raging inferno as the body of Christ stands up to defend the values that have built America."

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Two men indicted for the murders of the Dawabshe family

Israel has finally indicted two men for the murders of the Dawabshe family: Amiram Ben-Uliel and an unnamed minor (could it be Odess?). Haaretz reports:
Israeli prosecutors filed murder charges on Sunday against two Jewish citizens for the arson attack in the West Bank that killed three members of a Palestinian family last July.
Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old from Jerusalem, was charged with three counts of murder, as well as attempted murder for the unsuccessful attempt to set alight another house.  
An accessory to murder charge was filed against a minor who is suspected of participating in the incident, while two others were charged with violence against Palestinians.  
It remains unclear whether other suspects held by the Shin Bet security service and Israel Police were released or if investigations are ongoing. 
Ben-Uliel was detained by the Shin Bet on December 1. According to the indictment filed at Lod District Court on Sunday, he committed the act himself, in retaliation for the June murder of Malachai Rosenfeld, not far from the West Bank village of Duma. Before the arson, Ben-Uliel and the minor, who was charged as an accessory for allegedly participating in the planning of the attack, scouted villages before settling on Duma. 
According to the charge sheet, the two also planed to attack the nearby village of Majdal, with the purpose of killing people in their beds. 
On the night of the attack on the Dawabsheh home, Ben-Uliel decided to proceed with the arson alone after failing to meet up with the minor at the appointed place. He allegedly searched for a home that was inhabited and used his first firebomb on a two-storey building that turned out to be uninhabited. He then proceded to the Dawabshehs' home, prepared his firebomb in the yard and spray-painted graffiti on the walls, before throwing the firebomb into the house and fleeing on foot. 
The eldest son in his family, Ben-Uliel grew up in the settlement of Karmei Zur. His father, Reuven, is the rabbi of the settlement and also serves as the rabbi for Mechina Nokdim, a preparatory program for religious youths entering the army. After the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammad Abu Khdeir last July, he signed a letter condemning the act. 
For years, Amiram Ben-Uliel was part of the Hilltop Youth movement of Jewish extremists, although not its head. He was the face of the Ramat Migron outpost, and spent time in the Giulat Tzion outpost and the settlement of Itamar. Two years ago, he married Orian Nizri, an activist known for her extremism and violence. They lived in a bus in the Adei Ad outpost. After the Duma arson attack, they moved to Jerusalem and became ultra-Orthodox. The couple has a baby. 
Ben-Uliel has been involved in several criminal cases. He previously expressed that he does not recognize Israeli courts and demands to be judged according to traditional Jewish law. Ben-Uliel is the only suspect detained in the Duma issue who was not placed under a Shin Bet restraining order, indicating that he somehow managed to evade the Shin Bet’s radar..... 
Also charged were Yinon Reuveni, accused of setting fire to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in the Galilee, and another minor, identified only as A., accused of a series of incidents of vandalism and arson against property and cars. Reuveni and two minors were also charged with setting fire to a building near Jerusalem's Dormition Abbey last February. 
A. is a resident of the Tzofim settlement and the son of the community's rabbi. He is also a member of Tzohar, a religious Orthodox Zionist organization and part of the Hilltop Youth movement. He was inspired to join the movement by his older brother, who is known to the Shin Bet as a right-wing extremist with a violent past. 
A. had been detained by the Shin Bet in the past, but was always released due to lack of evidence. After one of the investigations, he published a video in which he explained that he remained silent during questioning because communicating with the Shin Bet was akin to communicating with representatives of the "Kingdom of Evil." 
Nine suspects have been detained as part of the police and Shin Bet investigation, which is still in progress. In total, 23 people were suspected of violence against Palestinians. 
A break in the case came three weeks ago, when Shin Bet began to use what they termed extraordinary measures during interrogations, first with A. At the beginning, the minor admitted his involvement in other incidents, but not the Duma firebombing. Under torture, he admitted they planned the event, but he had fallen asleep and did not arrive to the location in time. After his incrimination, special interrogation tactics were used on Ben-Uliel, who admitted to the crime and recounted the incident..... 
The Shin Bet did not address the nature of the investigation, but in a briefing on Sunday morning said that a part of The Revolt network, which aims to topple the government, became stronger at the end of 2013. The organization's documents, which were found but have not yet been published, indicate that its intent is to name a king, reconstruct the Temple, eliminate idolatry, expel Gentiles and install religious coercion in the public domain.