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Religious Faith Depends on a Way of Life, Not the Other Way Around

In a series of blog posts, Moshe Koppel has systematically described the differences in worldview between two archetypal Jews: the educated, secular “Heidi” who grew up in postwar America and the deeply traditional, Polish-born Holocaust survivor “Shimen”—touching on nearly every topic but belief in God. He argues that the latter issue isn’t as fundamental as it may seem:

[You might ask]: aren’t the disagreements between Shimen and Heidi about how to live merely second-order differences that follow inevitably from their irreconcilable beliefs about nature, history, and theology?

Well, if you insist, we can talk about these irreconcilable differences of belief. But, I’ve got to tell you right up front that the answer to your semi-rhetorical question is no. Young Shimen didn’t contemplate nature and history and conclude, like the biblical Abraham [is described as doing in various midrashim], that there must be a “ruler of the castle.” He was raised to honor particular values and traditions long before he had the most rudimentary ability to contemplate the stuff of belief. And among the traditions that he honors is the affirmation of certain claims about the world.

Simply put, the direction of the causality implicit in the question above is exactly backward: in fact, values and traditions are primary, and beliefs are derivative.

Read more at Judaism without Apologies

More about: Belief, Judaism, Religion & Holidays

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy