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Op-Ed: Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus': Big Story, Small Picture

December 19th, 2014
Jack Engelhard

Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva.

Arutz Sheva, Israel National News
By Jack Engelhard , December 15, 2014

The Biblical Balaam knew what has escaped Ridley Scott.

Director Ridley Scott’s just released “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” is one of those rare movies in which everybody is miscast, but that is not my real complaint.

Here is one part this production did get right – the Land of Israel was promised to the Hebrews, a Binding Resolution that came directly from God Almighty. Scott deserves respect for standing against today’s scoffers. Yes, the Torah was the paper of record long before The New York Times came along.

But how did all these Brits get into the picture, and all of them speaking a different British dialect? The confounding of tongues is the first problem.

You know immediately that despite a $140 million budget, this is something that got cobbled together.

Only Christian Bale (“Moses”) shows up speaking American, too much as though he rushed straight from the set of “American Hustle.” Sigourney Weaver, it seemed, blundered onto the set from another sound stage, quickly got costumed, rehearsed, reminded what movie she was in, and off she goes to collect a paycheck.

The women in this flick, we have no idea who they are or what they want. They have practically no lines and no “faces.”

Somebody forgot that during the Exodus, the real one, our incredibly gorgeous but modest Hebrew women played a big part and that if it were not for Miriam, fuhgeddaboutit, we never would have made it those 40 years. This anti-epic production tries too hard to meet our generation’s hero-averse sensibilities and thus turns a story entirely sublime into a story entirely trivial.

In Scott’s hands, and from the stitching of his four screenwriters, this is not about the Hebrew rebellion against slavery.

Rather, this is about Ridley Scott’s rebellion against Cecil B. DeMille. For everything DeMille did big, Scott does small. If DeMille splits the sea with effects so spectacular for 1956, Scott’s “Moses” in 2014 waits for the Weather Channel to report the next low tide. The Ten Commandments? Nothing to write home about.

In this telling, nobody shines, neither Bale as Moses, nor Joel Edgerton as Pharaoh, nor the digitally enhanced “cast of thousands.”

Cut to Norma Desmond from “Sunset Boulevard” (1950): “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

We know that all movies are about two movie stars, period. Usually that’s boy meets girl. In the Bible sense, usually it’s boy meets God.

So minimalism is good when it is done by someone like David Lean, whose genius was to let a whole big story get told through the eyes of one hero.

But for Scott, there was no fixed position, and this brings me to my complaint.

Why are the Hebrews shown as a filthy rabble? This, to be honest, is no fault of this director alone. All movies that feature the Hebrews of times past give us Jews that are unwashed and uncombed. Watch us against the Greeks or the Romans, and now the Egyptians, and see how well groomed our enemies are against our own tattered Hebrew extras.

The opposite is true. Since we are talking about the Hebrew Bible (more to less), turn to practically any page and there find the rules of cleanliness. Through the Torah, Judaism is all about separating the clean from the unclean; distinguishing the pure from the impure.

Through the Torah, Judaism taught hygiene to the entire world – a world that knew nothing abut the urgency of washing hands until the late 1800s.

The Jews knew it some 3,800 years ago from Scriptures and from a thousand different volumes on etiquette compiled and distilled, like the Shulchan Aruch, to remind us of the laws pertinent to cleanliness and proper behavior. So even as we travelled as slaves throughout those 40 years, we marched onward clean, disciplined and orderly – never as an unruly mob. Never.

Even in the wilderness, pitching camp along 42 stops en route to the Promised Land, every home and booth was a model of modesty and morality.

So much so that Balaam, that man who was dispatched to curse the Hebrews, could not help himself but to exclaim:

“How goodly thy tents O Jacob; Thy dwelling places, O Israel.”

Hanukkah offers Christians and Jews reasons to celebrate together

December 17th, 2014

Cortez Journal
By William J. Kuik, December 15, 2014

This year, the eight-day festival of Hanukkah begins on Tuesday evening, Dec. 16, and continues through Dec. 24.

Some people think of this holiday as the “Jewish Christmas.” While it has become customary to give gifts to friends and family at this time, it is actually known as, The Festival of Lights or The Feast of Dedication. It is a memorial of an historical event that occurred in 164 BCE. The full account is recorded within the Apocryphal book, 2 Maccabees. If you are Jewish, you are probably already familiar with the story. If you are not Jewish, you might wonder why Hanukkah should matter to you. As followers of Jesus, we can honor our faith by celebrating this festive time along with our Jewish friends or family. Before I explain why, I would like to give you a brief historical summary of Hanukkah.

In the 137th year of the kingdom of the Greeks, Antiochus Epiphanes became ruler of the Seleucid Empire. His kingdom included the land of Israel, where the political and cultural climate was in upheaval. In 167 BCE Antiochus attacked Jerusalem and took it by storm, killing or enslaving all in his path (2 Maccabees 5:11—14). Antiochus outlawed Jewish religious rites and traditions, profaning the temple in Jerusalem and dedicating it to Zeus. Many people began to accept a Hellenized culture and lifestyle. Jews who continued worshiping God as prescribed in the scriptures were executed. It was sure death to follow God’s Word given through Moses. People who followed the scriptures understood this to be a chastisement of the nation for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28; Proverbs 3:12; Jeremiah 3:12; 2 Maccabees 6:12—17).

Now there was a man named Mattathias, a Jewish priest and he had five sons who led a rebellion against Antiochus. Judah became known as “Yehuda HaMachabi,” which means Judah the Hammer. When Mattathias died, Judah took his place as leader and successfully restored Israel to Jewish control.

The first course of business was to rededicate the temple. It was decided to have a celebration modeled after Sukkot (the fall Feast of Tabernacles), sometimes people know this as the Feast of Booths. This celebration lasts a total of eight days, thus the eight days of Hanukkah (There is a legend that there was only enough oil for the menorah to burn for one day, yet it continued to burn for all eight days of the celebration. The “Hanukkah Menorah” commemorates this event.) Even to this day it is believed by many Jewish people the festival of Tabernacles models a time when the Messiah will “tabernacle” (dwell) with the people, a time when God will dwell among men. One of the big events of Tabernacles and the Hanukkah celebration was to light the massive oil lamps in the temple courtyard. That light would light the courtyards and subsequently extend out into the City of David (Jerusalem). This light could be seen from all over the city, thus the “Festival of Lights”. Hanukkah is the Feast of Dedication commemorating when the temple was rededicated after the Maccabean revolt. The “Festival of Lights” is a key part of the celebration.

The New Testament book of John chapter 10:22 talks about the “Feast of Dedication” (i.e. Hanukkah) and Jesus was walking in the temple. He took this opportunity right in the middle of the Festival of Lights to proclaim He is the Light, the Messiah (the Christ) prophesied throughout all scripture. Eighty-six times the New Testament uses the word light and points that light to the Messiah Jesus. John 8:12 says: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

At Etz-Chayim B’Yeshua (Tree of Life In Jesus) we pray you will be blessed this Holiday season by the “Light of the world,” Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah.

Bill Kuik is the congregational leader of Etz-Chayim B’Yeshua Messianic Congregation in Cortez, Colorado.

Franklin Graham: ‘War on Christmas’ is ‘War on Christ’

December 12th, 2014

Franklin Graham: America Is Waging ‘War on Christmas’ and ‘War on Christ’ Over The ‘Hatred’ of Christian ‘Culture’

The Christian Post
By Samuel Smith, CP Reporter, December 4, 2014

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, addresses the crowd at the Festival of Hope, an evangelistic rally held at the national stadium in Port-au-Prince, January 9, 2011. Photo: Reuters/Allison Shelley)

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, addresses the crowd at the Festival of Hope, an evangelistic rally held at the national stadium in Port-au-Prince, January 9, 2011. Photo: Reuters/Allison Shelley)

While evangelical leader and founder of the Samaritan’s Purse humanitarian organization Rev. Franklin Graham is claiming that America is waging a “war on Christmas,” a Christian advocacy group has sent legal memos to over 13,000 U.S. school districts reminding administrators that freedom of Christmas expression is constitutional.

Graham, the 62-year-old son of world-famous evangelical Billy Graham, wrote in the December issue of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s Decision Magazine that over “the last few decades” social culture in America has become increasingly intolerant toward Christianity, and the Christmas spirit, although millions of Americans celebrate the birth of Christ every year.

“Unfortunately, the United States in the last few decades has witnessed increased hostility toward the sacred nature of Christmas, erupting into what has become a blatant war on Christmas,” Graham wrote. “That’s because at its root and core, the war on Christmas isn’t really about Christmas — it’s about the Son of God. The war on Christmas is a war on Christ and His followers. It’s the hatred of our culture for the exclusive claims that Christ made.”

Across the U.S., many local government entities and school districts have put in place rules and regulations that prevent people from openly sharing in the Christmas spirit, or even the Christian faith, in public spaces and many have also formally removed references to Christmas from public places and events, where Christmas and other religious references were once commonly used.

Graham provided a few examples. The city of Pittsburgh now refers to the Christmas holiday as “sparkle day.” A local Minnesota courthouse has banned red poinsettias because someone claimed that the flowers were a “Christian symbol.” He also added that a Veterans Administration hospital in Georgia has banned the singing and playing of Christmas songs in public areas.

“Stores, schools and communities across America continue to find new and intolerant reasons to remove any religious references to Christmas, stripping it of any holy or historical significance,” Graham further explained. “Christian songs, prayers, and other spiritually vital connections to Lord Jesus Christ are deleted or diminished.”

While Graham did not mention it in his piece, the largest school district in Maryland voted in November to strip religious holidays from its school calendars after Muslim leaders complained that Eid al-Adha was not on the school calendar as a day off for students. This means that Christian holidays such as “Christmas break” and “Easter” are no longer officially recognized by the Montgomery County School District.

Also, a South Carolina charter school, in 2013, canceled its participation in the Operation Christmas Child program, a charity initiative run by Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization, which encourages the donation of shoe boxes filled with small gifts for underprivileged children in third-world nations.

Additionally, a number of schools around the country have banned the singing of Christmas carols.

As many school districts have come under fire from atheist and humanitarian organizations that have threatened legal action if the schools do not curb their involvement in religious activities — most prominently participation in Operation Christmas Child — the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom has vowed to help protect school districts’ First Amendment rights.

ADF, a legal group fighting for the right of Christian expression, sent a memo Wednesday to over 13,000 school districts throughout the U.S. saying that the singing of Christmas carols, and other forms of Christmas expression in public schools, does not violate the Constitution.

The memo additionally informed the school districts that the group is available to represent districts in court if their students’ constitutional rights are being challenged.

“No court has ever ruled that the Constitution demands school officials to censor Christmas carols, eliminate all references to Christmas, or silence those who celebrate Christmas,” the memo states.

ADF senior legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco said that schools have no obligation to prevent their students from participating in Christmas events, such as singing Christmas carols or donating to Operation Christmas Child program.

“School districts do not have to remove religious references from their calendars. They should not violate the First Amendment by stifling student expression about Christmas,” Tedesco said. “They can and should allow religious Christmas carols to be part of their school productions. And they can lawfully help impoverished children through community service projects, such as Operation Christmas Child.”

Parents Offended By Nutcracker Christmas Tree

December 10th, 2014
(B H Publishing Group) Todd Starnes is a regular contributor of FOX & Friends and FoxNews.com. He writes a weekly column for Human Events and TownHall.com.

(B H Publishing Group)
Todd Starnes is a regular contributor of FOX & Friends and FoxNews.com. He writes a weekly column for Human Events and TownHall.com.

The Christian Post
By Todd Starnes , CP Op-Ed Contributor, November 28, 2014

We haven’t even had time to hang the mistletoe and would you believe there are already skirmishes breaking out in the war on Christmas?

The latest yuletide battleground is Butler Elementary School in Belmont, Mass.

Over the years I’ve covered my fair share of anti-Christmas schoolhouse shenanigans. There was the dimwit who confiscated a child’s candy canes and the dunderheads who banned the colors red and green. And how can we forget about the simpletons who outlawed classroom poinsettias or the Junior League communists who rewrote the lyrics to “Silent Night”?

But those are junior varsity skirmishes compared to what happened at Butler Elementary School – where the PTA canceled a field trip to see “The Nutcracker” because there was a Christmas tree on the stage.

I’m not making this up, folks.

Television station WHDH did a stellar job reporting this act of lunacy. They report that a group of parents were alarmed at the “questionable content” of the popular ballet.

The questionable content had nothing to do with men in tights. The parents got their tutus in a twist over “O Tannenbaum.”

“In the past years, there were parent complaints as “The Nutcracker” has a religious content,” PTA co-president Barbara Bulfoni told the television station.

Well, smoke some holly and call me jolly! Heaven help the unfortunate children who gaze upon a tree decorated with ornaments and sparkly lights and tinsel.

According to the reporting of WHDH, the issue came to a boiling point during a recent PTA meeting. Parents who supported the ballet were told accused of being discriminatory.

And to make matters worse, the PTA secretly canceled the trip.

Once the parents learned the trip had been canceled – they raised a ruckus and faster than you could say “Sugar Plum Fairy” – the PTA reversed its decision.

For the record – there are no reported instances of a child spontaneously converting to the Christian faith while attending a performance of “The Nutcracker.”

I commend the PTA for coming to their senses and I raise a cup of eggnog in their honor. I may need a double.

Kasim Hafeez — A Story of a Miraculous Transformation

December 4th, 2014

FrontPage Magazine
By Joseph Puder, October 28, 2014

Kasim HafeezKasim Hafeez (32) could have easily turned into a jihadist terrorist. He was already on the right path. At home, in the United Kingdom (UK) Muslim community, and on campus, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel agitation was constant. Kasim’s own father harbored anti-Semitic sentiments. He considered Hitler a hero, and felt that his only failing was that he did not kill enough Jews. Growing up in the UK, to Pakistani-Muslim parents, Kasim was exposed to materials and opinions that were at best, condemning Israel for all the evils in the Middle East, and painting Jews as usurpers and murderers. More extreme elements in the Muslim community called for the wholesale destruction of the “Zionist Entity” and all Jews.

By the time he reached his 18th birthday, Kasim was completely indoctrinated into the fold of radical Islamism. His hate for Israel and for Jews was fueled by images of death and destruction set to the backdrop of Arabic melodies about Jihad and speeches by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Osama Bin Laden. Kasim’s jihadist views were reinforced when he attended Nakba Day rallies in the center of London, where Jihadi speakers predicted Israel’s demise while Hezbollah flags fluttered all around him.

Kasim Hafeez and I met while on his speaking tour in Philadelphia on behalf of StandWithUs, an Israel advocacy and educational organization based in Los Angeles, with offices throughout the U.S., Europe, and in Jerusalem. Kasim, a self-professed “Muslim-Zionist, and proud of it,” posited that he experienced high levels of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity taking place on British University campuses, because in his own words, “I was the anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel activist.”

Joseph Puder: Your personal story is fascinating, and your transformation astounding. To what do you attribute this change with regards to Judaism and Israel?

Kasim Hafeez: The starting point for me was picking up the Case for Israel, a book by Professor Alan Dershowitz. The book challenged my fundamental and false beliefs that fueled my anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel. This triggered my research which was an attempt to disprove what I had read in the Case for Israel. This eventually led me to visit Israel, and seeing the reality of Israel and the Jewish People. The visit changed not only my views but my life in a dramatic way. The truth set me free in ways I could not have imagined, and the more I learned, the more my strength of conviction about Israel and the Jewish people grew.

JP: Europe, it appears, is gone in terms of support for Israel, particularly on campus. What are your ideas on how to reverse that situation?

KH: We have a real mess in Europe, which is our own fault. In trying to be “liberal” and “tolerant” we have allowed the worst intolerance to infiltrate every facet of society. This is a truly difficult battle as we have willingly surrendered. The start point must be for Jews and supporters of Israel to show courage and assert their Zionism. We must halt our own retreat. Unfortunately, our universities are now infested with anti-Israel professors, and many of the academic departments are funded by rich Gulf States. We are fighting against all facets of the system to reverse a situation that the meekness and indifference of Jewish communal leadership caused.

JP: The Middle East is in turmoil, with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Al Qaeda in Libya and Yemen, and Hamas and Hezbollah on Israel’s border. How do you see the outcome of this clash among Muslims, and between the West and Islamic salafists?

KH: The Sunni-Shia schism is a 1,400 year old blood feud with no chance of reconciliation. There are so many factors to consider that make it impossible to predict. Saudi Arabia is fighting ISIS, whose state ideology created them. Iran’s regional aspirations are emboldening Shias everywhere. Sadly, there will be much more bloodshed before we are any clearer on the future of the Middle East. The spread of Islamism is a dangerous development, and it must be contained. Israel must be strong in neutralizing any threats on its borders. Any sign of weakness by Israel will only embolden the vultures that now circle it. As for the West, our only hope of containing the terror from the Middle East is a strong Israel, our furthest outpost of freedom, and the only real ally in the region.

JP: Some Europeans are converting to Islam. What motivates Britons, French, Germans, and others to do so? Similarly, many Muslims are secretly converting to Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths. How do you explain each phenomenon?

KH: Many Islamic organizations work hard to attract converts, tabling and providing free literature. They present the religion in a very relatable way, using such lines as “Jesus is a prophet of Islam.” It provides people with a support structure, a community, and a new start. When prospective converts are presented with selective excerpts, they do not have the full story. There are many videos on the internet of Europeans being converted at dawah tables with little knowledge of Islam, and it’s a sham. There is a real and aggressive Muslim campaign to convert. In terms of Muslims converting to other religions, I can only assume that when people have had to suffer under the tyranny of Muslims, they would want to be free of it. For a long time, Muslims were not exposed to other religions, and now that we are living in the internet age, information is readily accessible.

JP: What can Israel and Jewish organizations in the U.S. do to win “the battle of the minds” on campus?

KH: Show courage and pride. They have to be vocal and show they are on the side of truth. Just like in Europe, the meek retreat. Accommodating those who promote terror and anti-Semitism cannot go on. We must be active in promoting the truth. Those who spew hatred of Israel must be made accountable, and know there is a price to pay. It is time to set red lines, and make sure that those who specialize in hatred will no longer be tolerated. We will no longer be silent or intimidated. We must always make Americans realize why Israel is so important to them, and why their silence today will be to their detriment tomorrow.

JP: What are your future plans, and would you consider living in Israel or the U.S. or return to the UK?

KH: I don’t plan much for the future. I am going to be working with Christians United for Israel in the upcoming weeks, on a campus speaking tour. I will continue my work at B’nai B’rith Canada to help prepare students and anyone who wants to stand up for Israel with the skills they’ll require. I have no desire to return to Europe at all, but if I must, I will. As dear as Israel is to me, I believe my fight is outside of Israel. That’s where I can best make an impact. I would love to live in the USA. It is an incredible country, and for me the most vital battlefield in Israel’s PR war. For now, I am content being in Canada. I could never have predicted my life would have taken the direction it has. So, we shall see. I can guarantee one thing. The fight for the truth, for freedom, and for Israel will continue no matter where I am.

What made the difference in Kasim, and transformed him from a potential Islamist terrorist to an advocate for Israel is his intellectual honesty in his search for the truth. His convictions made him leave his family, friends, and country for what he believes is right and truthful. That demands true courage.

“Stop being so American”

December 3rd, 2014
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is an American Israeli, mom, branding consultant, lover of chocolate and seeker of truth. Love my people enough to call out the nonsense.

Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is an American Israeli, mom, branding consultant, lover of chocolate and seeker of truth. Love my people enough to call out the nonsense.

Blog post on The Times of Israel
By Shoshanna Jaskoll, November 30, 2014

Standing at the checkout counter watching the young woman struggle to scan my 18 pound turkey, my coat still wet from day three of torrential rains, the dude behind me looks disdainfully at my turkey, then at me, then at my turkey, and then back at me. I raise my eyebrows, daring him to speak.

He accepts the challenge. His face half pity and half condescension, he drawls, “I never really ‘got’ Thanksgiving. It’s so silly. You’re in Israel now, be Israeli. Stop being so American.” Then he adds, “I’m French.”

I stood looking at this man in all his self righteous glory. On a good day, I have no patience for idiots. On day three of wet and cold? My patience had washed away long before. Many, many retorts ran through my mind — but, quite unlike me, I held my tongue… mostly.

But it really, really bothered me. And so, of course I posted on FB.

Oh hey, you know what’s obnoxious? Telling the American (who you don’t know) who is buying a turkey that you’re ‘not into the whole thanksgiving thing, and we are in Israel and you should just be Israeli already. Enough with the American stuff’ with a sour puss on your face. Then telling her that you’re French bc dude, that clears it right the %^~~ up.

I myself had never been very ‘into’ Thanksgiving, it is entirely probable that I have called it silly myself (I am not above being obnoxious on occasion).

But, the whole day, his comments festered, made worse by those who commented by agreeing with my unsolicited opinion giving Frenchman… not only was Thanksgiving bashed, but so was the country I was lucky enough to grow up in.

I had started the day just buying a turkey for my husband and ended up in a full on defense of Thanksgiving Day and the United States of America. And, oh say can you see, a few hours later I was planning a no holds barred Thanksgiving feast.

The US took in my family — my father’s family a few generations earlier when they ran from Russia, and my mother at the age of two and a half. My grandmother had to begin her life again, for a third time, after losing a husband and children to the Nazis and Poles. The man who would become my grandfather made it to the US by boat after losing a wife and children in the war. He had everything taken from him, including his second wife who died on the journey. Left penniless with a young daughter, a once wealthy man began again, in the United States of America.

As Jews, we are told to honor the lands we live in — deena de-malkhuta deena — means that the laws of the land are our laws. Is Thanksgiving a law? No. It is however, a national holiday, one that is free of religion or anything else that might conflict with Judaism and Halacha. There is no problem with having a turkey dinner and discussing what we are grateful for, including the land that has taken in so many of our people and given us the freedom to worship without fear!

My poor Frenchman cannot go back to the place where he was born and feel half as safe as the Jews in the United States. Perhaps he does not ‘get’ Thanksgiving because he cannot ‘get’ being grateful for a place that has given him freedom and safety outside of Israel.

Jews are often suspected of having other loyalties before the loyalty to the land they live in. It has gotten us in heaps of trouble when no wrong has been perpetrated. Shall we disdain a day of thanks (started by the way, by a group of people running from religious persecution in thanks for survival in a new land), for no good reason other than it is not ‘ours’?

As Jews, we are commanded to acknowledge the good that people do for us. Yes, we thank God everyday, but do we thank the bus driver? Our teacher? Our siblings or parents? Being grateful for a country that has harbored us, and people that do things for us every day, is far from ‘silly’.

Has America gotten out of control in its pursuit of happiness? I say so right here in Naked & Afraid in the Dunkin Donuts — and Black Friday psycho-ness surely brings it home, but I will tell you one thing. I would rather see people in the streets fighting to get a TV at Best Buy then what I saw in Paris — people fighting to break into a synagogue and lynch the Jews.

So, thank you Mr. Frenchman, for you have brought out the proud American in me and God shed His grace on me, I will be making a damn turkey the Shabbas after Thanksgiving for as long as I am privileged — even while gratefully living in the Holy Land — because to disdain as silly the place that took in my family and gave us rights and freedom would be… odieux.

*My brother in law is French and he is awesome. Please do not judge all French people by this dude. ;)

Ugandan pastor: The West doesn’t understand Islamic ideology

November 27th, 2014

Pastor treated in Israel for acid burns: West doesn’t understand reality of Islamic ideology
The Jerusalem Post
By Ariel Ben Solomon, November 11, 2014

Umar Mulinde. (photo credit:Courtesy)

Umar Mulinde. (photo credit:Courtesy)

Ugandan pastor Umar Mulinde, a Christian convert from Islam, said growing up, he constantly heard “Jews are the most hated people by God.”

He had no relationship with Jews, and “did not even know where Israel was on a map,” but he was taught to hate it.

Muslim hate is mainly religiously based and when he became a Christian, all of a sudden the preachers were “talking about love, and a lot about Israel,” Mulinde said, in an interview in his most recent visit for treatment after an acid attack threatened his life and severely damaged his face.

“It is part of the Islamic mind, and the Western mind refuses to accept the reality of Islamic ideology,” he said.

On December 24, 2011, Muslims in Uganda threw acid on him and severely burned his face, neck and back. He was transported to Sheba Medical Center for treatment with the help of Israeli friends, and has been returning for treatment.

At the hospital, Mulinde has met Arab patients from countries that are enemies of Israel.

Israeli Arab hospital workers, after discovering his name was Umar — an Islamic name — approach him talking bad about the country. However, he said, they soon realize that he is not going to have any of it, and they stop their comments.

Asked if he thought about changing his name, he responded no, “but maybe I should add a third Jewish name!” “After my conversion my perspective changed completely — I changed my heart.”

Only about 12 percent of Ugandans are Muslims, but they are radical, he said, pointing out that Muslim clerics from Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and even Pakistan radicalized Muslims in his country.

The foreign clerics are busy spreading their interpretation of Islam throughout Uganda, using dawa – institutions of social welfare services and religious education.

In the 1960s and ’70s the Muslim community was much more moderate, but in the 1990s they started to become radicalized, he said.

Mulinde, 40, was born a Muslim and is now the head of the Gospel Life Church International in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. He is married and has seven children.

Since he converted to Christianity in 1993, his life changed.

His family disowned him, saying he was dead, and they and other Muslims tried to kill him.

He gave his bodyguards the day off, thinking there would be no attack on Christmas Eve.

“They [the Ugandan state] know where the attackers are,” the pastor said, adding that they are in the country and being protected by corrupt leaders who have been paid off by the Muslim community.

“When someone leaves Islam,” Muslims must kill him “in the service of Islam,” he said One who kills an apostate “gets honors” and will go “directly to heaven,” he said.

Israel to send supplies to Ebola-stricken West Africa

November 25th, 2014
The Ebola virus. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Ebola virus. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Israel set to send equipment and medical supplies to Ebola-stricken West Africa
Posted on November 11, 2014

(JNS.org) The Israeli government is in the final stages of preparing to send much-needed equipment and medical supplies to the West African nations stricken by Ebola.

The shipment, which is leaving from the Israeli port city of Ashdod to the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, includes six cargo containers full of special equipment used to set up portable field hospitals.

“Each clinic consists of 20 beds and it’s a fully equipped clinic with beds, and with carts and treatment carts and oxygen and certain medications and protection gear,” Gil Heskel, the head of Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Aid and Development, told Reuters.

Currently, the Israeli humanitarian group IsraAID is the only organization from the Jewish state operating in West Africa, where it provides training to healthcare workers to address the psycho-social impact of Ebola.

The Israeli government will put the West African countries in touch with Israeli aid groups in order to send more volunteers, doctors, and other medical staff from Israel. Aid will also be distributed to Cameroon and the Ivory Coast to prevent the disease from spreading there. The total cost of the assistance is approximately $314,000.

Iran’s 9-point list for destroying Israel

November 22nd, 2014

Iran’s Khamenei takes rhetoric to new level with 9-point list for destroying Israel
JNS.org
By Sean Savage, November 11, 2014

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Credit: www.sajed.ir via Wikimedia Commons.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Credit: www.sajed.ir via Wikimedia Commons.

Iranian Supreme Leader the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is known for his anti-Zionist rhetoric, has issued perhaps his most detailed tirade to date in a Twitter post titled “9 key questions about the elimination of Israel.”

“Why should & how can #Israel be eliminated? Ayatollah Khamenei’s answer to 9 key questions. #HandsOffAlAqsa,” read the introduction to Khamenei’s tweet, posted Saturday.

The hashtag #HandsOffAlAqsa referred to the recent tensions between Arabs and Jews at the Temple Mount. Last week, masked Arab rioters threw rocks and shot fireworks at Israeli security personnel at the holy site in Jerusalem, marking the latest outbreak of violence there.

As part of the tweet, Khamenei proposed a referendum that would serve as a means for the elimination of Israel.

“So far as I know, Khamenei’s idea of a referendum has not been proposed by the Islamic Republic of Iran until now. It suggests that the Iranian leadership wishes to make common cause with the leftists also wanting to see Israel disappear,” Dr. Daniel Pipes, founder and president of the Middle East Forum, told JNS.org.

The first answer provided within Khamenei’s nine points accuses “the fake Zionist regime” of trying to achieve its goals via “infanticide, homicide, violence & iron,” with the only solution to these “Israeli crimes” being the “elimination of this regime.”

The “practical & logical mechanism for this,” according to Khamenei, is through a “public and organized referendum” for all the “original people of Palestine including Muslims, Christians, and Jews,” excluding “the Jewish immigrants who have been persuaded into emigration to Palestine,” who “do not have the right to take part.”

In addition to the referendum, the Iranian leader called for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to fight against Israel, rejecting any U.N.-moderated negotiation.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's nine-point list for destroying Israel. Credit: Twitter.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s nine-point list for destroying Israel. Credit: Twitter.

On Monday alone, a 26-year-old Israeli woman was killed in a stabbing attack near the Jewish community of Alon Shvut in Judea and Samaria, and an Israeli soldier was stabbed to death at the entrance of the Hagana train station in southern Tel Aviv. Two vehicular terror attacks also recently took place near light rail stations in Jerusalem, causing Israeli civilian deaths and many injuries.

Earlier this year, Iran had announced that it was increasing its effort to arm Palestinians in the West Bank.

“Arming the West Bank has started and weapons will be supplied to the people of this region,” said Iranian paramilitary network chief Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the Times of Israel reported.

The timing of Khamenei’s tweet also comes as the P5+1 nations—the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China, and Germany—are nearing a negotiated solution with Iran ahead of the Nov. 24 diplomatic deadline. On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned world powers not to rush into a bad deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

Referencing Khamenei’s plan, Netanyahu said in a statement that he sent a letter to the P5+1 countries that highlights Iran’s desire to destroy Israel.

“[Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is] publicly calling for the annihilation of Israel as he is negotiating a nuclear deal with the P5+1 countries,” Netanyahu said.

“There is no moderation in Iran,” he added. “It is unrepentant, unreformed, it calls for Israel’s eradication, it promotes international terrorism, and as the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report just said, it continues to deceive the international community about its nuclear weapons program. This terrorist regime in Iran must not be allowed to become a nuclear threshold power. I call on the P5+1 countries—don’t rush into a deal that would let Iran rush to the bomb.”

Last week, the IAEA said that its investigation into the potential weaponization of Iran’s nuclear program has stalled due to the Islamic Republic’s refusal to cooperate with the probe. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, sent a letter to Khamenei in mid-October expressing the countries’ shared interest in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

Israeli demolition of Palestinian home follows synagogue attack

November 20th, 2014

Los Angeles Times
By Laura King, November 19, 2014

Israeli soldiers run from tear gas during clashes outside the Ofer military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Nov. 18. (Majdi Mohammed / Associated Press)

Israeli soldiers run from tear gas during clashes outside the Ofer military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Nov. 18. (Majdi Mohammed / Associated Press)

A thunderous explosion and the crunch of collapsing masonry early Wednesday heralded the revival of what had been a largely abandoned Israeli tactic: the demolition of family homes of Palestinians who stage attacks against Jews.

Less than 24 hours after four religious scholars were killed while at prayer in a Jerusalem synagogue, and a police officer was fatally wounded while trying to thwart the attackers, Israeli forces before dawn surrounded a four-story building in the Silwan neighborhood of predominantly Arab East Jerusalem. They evicted those inside and methodically rigged the structure with explosives, sending a blast reverberating across the valley and leaving the building standing but uninhabitable.

The demolished home did not belong to one of the synagogue attackers; some of its residents were relatives of a man who nearly a month earlier drove a car into a crowd waiting at a Jerusalem tram stop, killing an Israeli 3-month-old girl with American citizenship and a 22-year-old woman who was hoping to immigrate to Israel from Ecuador.

But the demolition carried an unmistakable message: After the carnage at the synagogue in the devout West Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed that destroying homes would be one of the principal countermeasures wielded by Israel. The killers in Tuesday’s attack died, but their families, he said grimly, could expect to pay the price.

“We will not accept this reality,” said Netanyahu, who also ordered measures such as increased gun permits for Israeli Jews, checkpoints at the entrances to Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and more guards in public places.

Home demolitions, roundly despised by Palestinians, were strongly condemned by the international community and human rights groups when the practice was most widely in use, more than a decade ago. The United Nations and others described it as an unfair form of collective punishment.

Demolishing Palestinian homes as a punishment, deterrent or both dates to Israel’s capture of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The practice reached its height during the second Palestinian intifada, when about 700 Palestinian families — about 4,000 people — were left homeless between the autumn of 2000 and early 2005, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

To some, the tactic raises moral issues. In Israel, though, the tenor of the debate is somewhat different, centering on the question of whether home demolitions are a true deterrent against attacks.

During the intifada, Israel’s security establishment harbored differing schools of thought on whether knowing that their families would be made homeless gave attackers pause or merely served to radicalize those left behind — younger brothers, cousins, neighbors.

“The demolition of houses is a controversial topic,” commentator Alon Ben-David wrote in Wednesday’s editions of the newspaper Maariv. He said the Israeli military’s assessment was that demolitions were not effective, but that officials from the domestic intelligence service Shin Bet “could tell you about the dozens of fathers who handed over their terrorist sons in order to keep their houses whole.”

Others said demolitions were one of the few weapons in a frustratingly scant Israeli arsenal against the current wave of attacks, which security officials believe are inspired by anti-Israeli incitement but have not been carried out with training and support provided by any particular militant faction. Before the synagogue attack, six people had been killed in the last month, run down with cars or stabbed by Palestinian assailants.

“I have no doubt these [home demolitions] must be done, otherwise these attacks will happen again and again,” analyst Uzi Rabi told Israel Radio. “But this is the micro level. This must be accompanied by an overall strategic approach to counter the motivation of ordinary people who go to sleep at night and wake up with the decision to carry out attacks such as yesterday’s.”

The Israeli military said in a tweet early Wednesday that “demolishing terrorists’ homes sends a sharp message to anyone targeting civilians or members of the security forces: terror and hurting innocent people carries a heavy price that will be paid by those who choose to continue this path.”

But after the demolition in Silwan, the family of Abd Rahman Shaludi, the 20-year-old whose vehicle careened into a crowd at a light-rail stop Oct. 22, telegraphed defiance. The family has said Shaludi, who left the scene on foot and died after being shot by a police officer, lost control of the vehicle and did not intend to hit the crowd.

“Israel thinks if they demolish our homes, they are going to prevent these acts,” the family matriarch, Inas Shaludi, was quoted as saying by Palestinian media. “But what they do not know is that violence brings more violence.”

The demolition left chunks of rubble scattered over a wide area and littered the ground with broken glass. Palestinians said the building contained six apartments, with Shaludi’s family occupying only the fourth floor.

Although the blast left the structure’s columns standing, lower-floor apartments belonging to other families were largely wrecked as well — walls were cracked, windows blown out and ceilings damaged — as were cars parked nearby, Palestinian witnesses said.

Spurred in part by the demolition, stone-throwing Palestinians clashed with police in Silwan and several other neighborhoods in the city’s eastern sector. Demonstrators, some of them masked and many of them teens or younger, hurled stones and set tires ablaze, fleeing when police gave chase.

Amid widespread condemnation of the synagogue attack, the neighborhood of Har Nof was wrapped in mourning. All four of the slain worshipers were respected as rabbis, or learned men, in their ultra-Orthodox tradition; they lived on the same street, and they left 24 children among them. Three of the four men held U.S. citizenship.

On Wednesday, as a gesture of remembrance and resilience, morning prayers, which had been interrupted by the assault the day before, were held as usual in the synagogue. Shattered glass had been swept up and bloodstains scrubbed, though bullet holes remained and a notice read, “Death has come to our window.”

Even a circumcision, a key rite of passage in this pious community, went ahead as planned.

“I’m not afraid,” one congregant told Israel radio. “Prayer always helps.”

The police officer who died overnight of his wounds, a member of Israel’s Druze minority, was buried Wednesday, drawing mourners from the disparate communities of the Druze faith, an offshoot of Islam, and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Har Nof religious leaders urged a show of gratitude to one who was killed while trying to halt the synagogue carnage.

The 30-year-old officer, Zidan Sif, left a wife and 4-month-old daughter.

Special correspondents Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem and Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.


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