Friday, February 28, 1997

To Clone or Not to Clone

To Clone or Not to Clone
February 28, 1997

Shimon Peres reportedly told the King of Sweden, after receiving the ‘Nobel Piece Prize,’ that he, Peres, viewed Sweden as a role-model for Israel.  That philosophy, regarding Israel as ‘just another country,’ ‘like all the other countries of the world,’ led to the political upheaval of the previous administration. Total disregard for Jewish heritage, for Judaism as a way of life, for Jewish past, for Jewish tradition, resulted in willingness to partition Eretz Yisrael. After all, if the land has no meaning, if it has no intrinsic value,  why keep  it? 
This was one of the major reasons why the Israeli electorate voted Peres out and voted Netanyahu in. At least on the surface, Netanyahu seemed to have a commitment to Judaism and to Eretz Yisrael. His campaign promises, as well as the rhetoric he espoused during his tenure as opposition leader, expressed an intense desire to ensure continued Jewish presence throughout the Land of Israel. His utterances  seemed deeply rooted, not only because of political or security rationalizations, but because he really believed in inherent Jewish rights to Israel. Netanyahu is not a practicing religious, Orthodox Jew, but his comprehension of a Jewish legacy in Israel seemed firmly established.
I use the word ‘seemed’ because it appears that we were wrong.
The Netanyahu government is on the verge of abandoning an additional 10% of Eretz Yisrael to Arafat. The land he is reportedly about to abandon includes regions in area C - land still entirely controlled by Israel. It was expected that he would transfer only a small area, at most 2% of Yesha, and only land presently in area B, areas presently partially controlled by Arafat. This is the first ‘pi’ima’ the first of three ‘further redeployments’ Israel obligated itself to with the signing of the Hebron accords a month ago. In Hebrew the word ‘pi’ima’ means heartbeat. Why these ‘further redeployments’ are termed ‘heartbeats’ are beyond anybody’s understanding. Perhaps they are concurrent with Arafat’s intentions to see Israel dead by the time they are completed, in September, 1998.
According to ministers in the Israeli cabinet, Netanyahu has yet to fully reveal his intentions concerning these ‘further redeployments.’ They do not yet know what exactly the government is relinquishing in the first ‘further redeployment,’ even though it is to be implemented next week. They do not yet have any idea what Netanyahu plans to desert by the end of the third, and expectedly, largest ‘further redeployment.’  Yisrael b’Aliya ministers Natan Sharansky and Yuli Edelstein have promised not to support next week’s redeployment if Netanyahu does not divulge his future map of Israel, following the third redeployment.  In an interview with Arutz 7 yesterday, Edelstein said that the position and direction of the government is still unclear. After eight months in power, Netanyahu has yet to disclose his true intentions, even to his own cabinet ministers.
In another interview with Arutz 7, Netanyahu’s brother-in-law Hagi ben Artzi, who walked out of a top government post in protest of the Prime Minister’s policies, said that since the September attacks by Arafat’s soldiers on Israeli soldiers following the opening of the Jerusalem tunnel, Netanyahu has totally capitulated to Arab demands. He said that he doesn’t believe that Israel will actually implement the decision to build the ‘Har Choma’ neighborhood outside Beit Lechem. In his words, “Netanyahu is only clouding the issues, and pulling the wool over the eyes of the citizens of Israel.”
In Hebron, Netanyahu made specific pledges, both before the election, and with the signing of the Hebron accords over a month ago. The government decision to confirm the accords included a statement affirming the Jewish presence in Hebron, and promising to expand and develop the Jewish community of Hebron. Since then, we were told by Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai that ‘timing is of the essence, and the time is not now.’ He expressed confidence, during the meeting with Hebron leaders, that ‘the time would be right, not in a matter of months, but in a matter of weeks.’ Well, those weeks have passed, and the order issued forbidding preparation for construction in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, at the site of the new Beit Nahum b’Yehuda building, is still being enforced.  We have no doubt that eventually we will build the building, but why do we have to struggle so much for what is such a basic and elementary living condition?
We were guaranteed that the Arab market would not be opened until implementation of security measures, assuring our safety.  However, the market is being prepared for opening in the very near future, and the security measures are still quite invisible.  The same promises were made concerning the opening of King David Street, called by the Arabs Shuhada Street (Martyrs Street) to Arab traffic. Unfortunately, this vow has also been ignored.
In essence, Netanyahu is following very closely in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors. His actions are, perhaps, totally inexplicable.   Unless we take the following into account.
This week a sheep named Dolly made big news. Dolly, an adult sheep, was cloned from another adult sheep. Two sheep, of the same exact genetic characteristics, one created by G-d, the other, duplicated by man. Immediately after revelation of the scientific success, U.S. President Clinton announced formation of a special committee to examine the moral and ethical implications of genetic cloning. The consequences of such scientific accomplishments are mind boggling, both positively and negatively.
So we too, must query, is Israel to be a cloned version of Sweden, as Peres formulated? Or, are we to be what G-d created us to be - a distinct people, living in our land? It seems that Netanyahu is confused - his basic principles of life are not those expounded by Peres, but he is having a difficult time translating his beliefs into actions. It is much easier to escape the dilemmas created by standing up for what you really believe in and what is actually right, than to face them head on. That is what Netanyahu is doing. It may seem to be easier to be a cloned version of someone else. But this is a very superficial way of looking at life. Even President Clinton acknowledged, the moral, ethical predicament cloning entails. If that is so with sheep, how much more so when dealing with a 3,700 year old nation.
If Netanyahu really thinks that cloning is the answer,  he will fail. He cannot succeed. Israel has, in the past, tried to escape its true self. Attempted assimilation - i.e. self-cloning, boomerangs.  We witnessed the results of our partial denial of our self identity fifty years ago. The reason for this is because we cannot be cloned versions of another people - we cannot be something that we are not. We have no choice but to be ourselves - our real selves, including living in Eretz Yisrael, - in Hebron, Shechem, Jerusalem - because Eretz Yisrael is as much a part of our being as is the air be breath. Our attempts to deny this only delay the inevitable, and at a steep price. However, in the end, truth will prevail and we will live as we should - not as cloned Swedes, but as originals, as Am Yisrael.

Wednesday, February 26, 1997


  February 26, 1997

“Have you seen the press services - the news is out.”
“Don’t be so worried - they only did it to a sheep.”
“Yeah, but with the way leaks are here, well, you know”
“Look, as long as we keep our mouths shut, what can possibly happen?”
“But, you know, if we did it, and they did it, maybe someone....”
“Shut your mouth and your mind - don’t even think it - that would statistically be impossible.”
“But even so...”

When the time the news hit the world that Dolly was actually cloned  - an adult sheep reproduced exactly as another, a literal ‘carbon copy,’ just about everyone was amazed - and shocked.  The President of the United States immediately appointed a commission to study the moral and ethical implications of such science on mankind.  Little did they know....

(Back in Israel)
Anchor Man Haim Satum: - following an interview with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu:
The Prime Minister looks tired - worn out.  The affairs are beginning to eat him away.  Let’s look at his history since the election.  First, the Ariel Sharon-David Levi affair. Meeting Arafat . Then the September war. The redeployment in Hebron. And on top of that, the Baron-Hebron affair. 
It looks to me like Bibi has had it.  He is ready to throw in the towel. 
There are rumors that he is in the process of plea barganing  - if any of you remember - Spiro Agnew style.  Some kind of clemency in return for his resignation. 
Sources close to the Prime Minister  report that he is thinking of leaving the country the first chance he has - he may not come back.
We go to our political commentator - Haim Glass:
Haim, how do you explain this change in Netanyahu - from the self -assured, confident man elected less than eight months ago?  Isn’t this quite amazing?
Haim Glass: (Chuckling off stage - ‘if only they knew!’) “No, it is not amazing.  What is amazing is that he managed to fool so many people for so long, and actually managed to win the election.  Now we are seeing the real Benyamin Netanyahu.  Truthfully - this doesn’t surprise me.”
Question: Haim, what do you see for the immediate future?”
Haim: “Bibi is on his way out - within a month he will be gone.”

The Prime Minister’s Office
“Hey, Bibi - did you see that - Haim Glass says you’re out in a month, after Satum’s interview with you.  I didn’t know he interviewed you today - did he?
Bibi: No, of course not - another lie, another scandle.  Did they show excerpts from the interview?
Aid: They sure did - and, sorry to say so, but you looked terrible.
Bibi: It just can’t be - I didn’t speak to Israel TV today.
Aid: Nu, Bibi, come on - what do you have, a twin brother?

Friday, February 7, 1997

The Tragedy and the Pain (2)

The Tragedy and the Pain (2)
February 7, 1997  
People are still numb - the pictures, the names
broadcast over and over again on the radio, the funerals, the stories - it all seems so unnecessary. But that is almost always the way death seems - so unnecessary. Yet the tragedy of 73 young men, all serving on Israel's front line, dying as the result of an accident - it is very difficult to conjure up words of comfort. There are, of course, all sorts of stories that accompany such events. Last Sabbath we read the following words following the Torah reading (to be found in the book of Isaiah - Chapter 7, verse 3-4): And said the L-rd to Yeshayahu, Go out now to meet Ahaz, thou and SHA'AR YISHUV (this is the name of the moshav where one of the helicopters crashed) thy son...take heed and be quiet, fear not, neither be fainthearted on account of the TWO TAILS OF THESE SMOKING FIREBRANDS, FOR THE FIERCE ANGER OF ... HAS TAKEN EVIL COUNSEL AGAINST US... LET US GO UP AGAINST YEHUDA AND HARASS IT, AND LET US MAKE A BREACH IN IT FOR US... Adir Zik, on Arutz 7 this morning spoke of how the day of the crash was the anniversary of the founding of the moshav, which has presently 73 families. I don't believe in trying to read G-d's thoughts and figure out what is actually behind His ways, but, at the same time, I find it difficult to ignore signs which seem so obvious. I couldn't help but feel that if, throughout Israel, a tiny bit the overwhelming pain expressed at this tragedy had been felt, or exhibited when the Israeli government started chopping up Eretz Yisrael, or when 80% of Hebron was abandoned to Arafat, maybe, just maybe, this might not have happened. Of course, I, nor anyone else, can declare that the horrible deaths of 73 soldiers was a punishment for the abovementioned acts of madness, but, nevertheless - the words we read last Shabbat, quoted above, are too much to be pure chance. Yesterday an Israeli automobile was attacked by a mob of parading Arabs in Hebron. Someone in uniform threatened the occupants with a gun. In the end they were helped by a `palestinian police' patrol, who assisted them to reach their destination. Today, Hebron's Anat Cohen, who gave birth to her 9th child (first girl) a month ago, was questioned by police, for have committed two major crimes: she initiated the "pinat chai" (children's zoo) across from her home in Beit Shneerson and prepared the ground for tree planting across from Beit Hadassah on Tu b"Shvat. At the same time, next week over 20 Arab terrorists, among those, convicted murderers, including the killer of Zvi Klein, Kiryat Arba's treasurer, several years ago, are being released. Set free - terrorists, in this case, all female, with Jewish blood on their hands. Jews are continuing to receive administrative orders limiting their movement and Arabs killers are being freed from prison. It has been announced that President Ezer Weitzman will be asked to pardon Jews also convicted of murdering Arabs. Perhaps the exchange is worth it - perhaps not. I ask myself how I would feel if one of my families killers was being released from jail?! There is such a tremendous absurdity in the reality of Israel's current events - it is beyond all comprehension. The pain and the tragedy are compounded, and quadrupled - and it is so unfortunate that so many people seem to be blind to what is happening. However, as the lines in the Biblical quote say, we must not lose faith, "...take heed and be quiet, fear not, neither be fainthearted..." we must be aware, be strong, and try to change the seemingly inevitable. Then, we will surely witness happier days.