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Mayim Bialik’s guide to embracing the new Jewish year

This article originally appeared in Kveller.

(JTA) — The Hebrew month of Elul — which leads up to Rosh Hashanah — is when I like to take stock of my previous year, and a part of me feels like I say the same thing every single time: Heck of a year. Another part of me wonders if this is the year I’m actually really right, though. Because this year seems like it was exceptionally challenging.

And I don’t just mean for me. I’m no climate scientist, but it seems like this year has had more catastrophic fires, storms and earthquakes than feels normal, but I could be wrong. I’m no political analyst, but it seems the right and the left, the Democrats and Republicans and everyone in between, is going crazy, with corruption rampant everywhere we look. And I’m no therapist, but the mental health of this nation and the world at large is approaching staggering statistics as diseases of despair and loneliness strike younger and younger and with more and more fatal consequences. It seems there is not a community that cultural turmoil regarding race, class and gender has not threatened this year.

But also, for me, it’s been a heck of a year. The details of my personal life will remain for the most part personal, but my decision to not cross the Writers Guild of America picket line, which continues to guide my career, has been subject to public scrutiny and it’s been a trying year emotionally.

Of course, there have been many bright spots this year, for our nation, our world, and for each of us individually. Here’s a highlight: My older son finally got his driver’s license (at almost 18 — slow and steady wins the race!), which means I can send him to the market for yeast when my first attempt at challah fails. Also big news from this summer: Both of my sons had a beautiful Jewish summer camp experience — and are now taller than me!

But I know I am not alone in hoping for a less challenging year to come. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, I’m taking a closer look at what I want to shift as we enter 5784. Here’s what’s in store for me as the New Year is upon us, given the year we’ve all had and the year that stands waiting to be tackled. Maybe you’ll want to try out some of these changes, too.

Unplug. This is partly what led me to a two-week complete digital/phone/social media/social interaction detox just before Elul began. I detailed my main revelations on my YouTube channel, but the lessons I learned from that voluntary isolation have stayed with me and feel like my guiding principles not only for a detox, but for an entire perspective shift I think many of us are in need of.

I gained an understanding of myself that includes the fact that not everyone can manage the amount of information that comes at us from the current media world at the pace that we have been told is “normal.” I regained the gift of unstructured time, which led to a lot of creativity and the rediscovery of literature, poetry and intellectual stimulation that is not attached to a screen.

Unplugging is a Jewish notion in that Shabbat gives us that opportunity weekly, and I more and more seek to embrace the spirit of Shabbat: to focus at least one day a week to being a human being, and not a human doing. Unplugging is more critical than ever as we (and our children) increasingly spend hours of their lives plugged in. It’s a boundary I plan to hold them and myself to in 5784.

Slow down. I operate really well in black and white. I don’t really do grey. So in the past, when I worked — when I was plugged in — I would run hard and fast from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. Constant appointments, phone calls while driving to “personal” lunches or yoga class — every minute filled. I started using a wearable device that measures things like heart rate variability, recovery index and sleep patterns and I had a health scare this past year. It’s because I did not know what it meant to slow down. Now I know. It’s as simple as saying “no” to things I can’t do without rushing to or from them. It’s as complicated as tolerating the down time that results when you make space to think and wonder.

Dream. This is something children innately know how to do. Most of us adults forget how to do it, but it’s a critically thrilling and significant aspect of our human experience that we have been taught has no place in adult life. For those of us who spend time as artists and creatives, we have more “right” to dream, but I am a firm believer that even people who are “settled down” in life and are told that they have no time or reason to dream are precisely the people who need to do it most.

I’m not advocating for abdicating responsibility for your duties at home or at work, and I’m not suggesting you leave all that is secure and familiar. But I am suggesting you tap into the wonder of your childhood, no matter what that looks like. It might look like taking an art class. It might look like getting back to reading fiction or writing poetry or spending time in nature among flowers and trees. Whatever it looks like to step outside of your current reality is what dreaming is. We need more of it.

Find God — or something like it. I’ve held for a long time that everyone finds their own path and for many, that path doesn’t include religious belief. I know the pitfalls of organized religion, especially the monotheistic patriarchal variety. And I’ve known many “Godless” people with wonderful morals, a true sense of a path and a satisfying life. But as I continued to do the deepest therapeutic work of my life this past year, I found that for me, true healing — no matter what we have overcome or think we don’t need to deal with — comes from an exploration of one sort or another into the Divine.

For some, this might mean traditional ritual in a religious tradition. For others, it might mean learning about breathwork or meditation practices that seek to specifically get you in touch with something greater than yourself. I took up Kundalini yoga in the past few months and this practice, which I once considered “out there” and irrelevant to my life, has put me in touch with a sense of Oneness that has been a wonderful addition to my understanding of my place in the universe as a spiritual being.

Every year we get the opportunity to start again, to try again and to reinvent ourselves. It’s not a time to look back at the ways we have failed in self-criticism; rather, it is a time to look forward with a lens of hope, self-compassion and joy. Perhaps as we individually look with this lens, our ability to center ourselves, to slow down, to dream and to find inspiration from a power greater than ourselves, we can share hope, compassion and peace with our families, our communities, our nation and even the world. I believe it’s possible. If you will it, it is no dream.


The post Mayim Bialik’s guide to embracing the new Jewish year appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Gaza Terrorist Spokesperson Reveals How Media Falls for Terror Group’s Lies

People inspect the area of Al-Ahli hospital where Palestinians were killed in a blast from an errant Islamic Palestinian Jihad rocket meant for Israel, in Gaza City, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot

When Pinocchio lied, his nose grew longer. His falsehoods were too obvious to be ignored.

But media outlets barely raised an eyebrow after a Big Lie was exposed last week, perhaps because it also exposed them as wooden marionettes.

On Monday, April 8, it was revealed that Gaza terror organizations have been deliberately spreading false narratives on the Israel-Hamas war, and that international media outlets have been playing an unwitting, or even willing, role in enabling this mass manipulation.

Unsurprisingly, the foreign press ignored the exposure, even though everyone received the announcement distributed by the IDF.

Israel released a video that showed the interrogation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesperson, Tariq Salami Otha Abu Shlouf, who had been captured during the IDF’s recent raid on Gaza’s Shifa hospital.

During his conversation with the interrogator, which amounts to an incriminating account concerning news coverage of Gaza, Abu Shlouf reveals how the well-oiled media manipulation machine of Islamic Jihad and Hamas operates:

Top figures in the group decide on a beneficial narrative, such as focusing on the humanitarian angle rather than the military one.
The message is circulated to news outlets.
Reporters uncritically echo what the terror group says, to avoid harming ties with sources.

The chilling testimony of an Islamic Jihad spox revealed how terrorist orgs manipulated the media to blame Israel for acts it did not do in this war.

It’s a day after the IDF released the testimony & neither @AP nor @Reuters have mentioned him at all. pic.twitter.com/eKT3IXeR5b

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) April 9, 2024

Abu Shlouf references the Al-Ahli hospital incident as an example: he admits his group decided to falsely blame Israel for the deadly strike, in order to erase the fact it had been caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket — a fact known to local reporters.

He also tells the interrogator how the “humanitarian angle” is being pushed to pliant reporters, with specific messages fed to international news outlets:

Abu Shlouf: The international media differs from the Arab ones, they focus on humanitarian issues, we don’t speak to them in the language of violence, destruction, and revenge. They come and say “let’s talk for a minute or two, but only talk to me about the humanitarian side, meaning, for instance, you’d say “it’s our right to live,” “we want the situation to return to normal, and our children to live like other children in the world,” “we have the right to receive capabilities and institutions.” This is the humanitarian side. And the other side, some of the international media organizations automatically address events like al-Ahli, when an event happens, they turn to us.

He adds that terrorist officials even vet news stories before publication. And he describes how “interviews” are conducted with international media reporters:

Abu Shlouf: They like to do interviews with figures from the political bureau, senior figures, like Khaled al-Batsh. There were a few international media outlets that conducted interviews with him. He sits with someone, then the journalist starts asking him questions, because it’s under the table, the humanitarian situation doesn’t interest the journalist. Only three things interest him: was the fallen rocket yours? Khaled al-Batsh, of course, answers him “No, it’s from the occupation.” Of course, the journalist knows that the rocket is indeed ours and not yours.

Interrogator: Even though the journalist knows, does he still echo what is said by the organization [Islamic Jihad]?

Abu Shlouf: Yes, because they ask him to review the article before publication, telling him to send it to us before he can publish it so we can review it.

Interrogator: And if it’s not to your liking, it doesn’t get published?

Abu Shlouf: No, of course not, because he [the journalist] needs us for more interviews.

Media outlets might argue that Abu Shlouf’s account as an IDF prisoner had been given under duress. But it seems — even with the video cuts — that rather than giving short answers, he willingly provided elaborate details and names. And that also suggests it’s true.

The foreign press can also argue that what he said about al-Ahli and terrorists’ use of hospitals and ambulances isn’t new. But that’s why it may be even more incriminating, as further proof that Gaza reporters have most likely known about it all along and kept silent.

The unavoidable conclusion from Abu Shlouf’s account is this: People in his position are constantly contacted by foreign press reporters to quote data, request interviews, and get reactions. So the editorial line on Gaza news is not being decided by the local reporter or his/her editors in Jerusalem or London. It first passes through the terrorists’ filter.

Is this not worth reporting? Don’t news consumers deserve to know the truth?

These questions are important because media outlets have published many stories focused on their Gaza reporters throughout the war — from their personal safety concerns to their electricity challenges. But when it now comes to focusing on the actual work they do, the media silence is deafening.

This is also defining the foreign press’ inability to carry out any self-reflection. If they care so much about the truth they purport to pursue, these media outlets ought to be the first to acknowledge that a huge shadow of doubt has just been cast on the professionalism of every reporter in the Hamas-run Strip. And it also hovers over their vetting procedures of new hires in Gaza.

HonestReporting has questioned the journalistic ethics of Gazan reporters since the beginning of the war. We exposed how some of them infiltrated into Israel with Hamas on October 7, as hundreds of Israelis were slaughtered.

Now, when it’s become even clearer that everything we see and read from Gaza is being manipulated by terrorist propagandists, it’s time for a media reckoning.

Pinocchio managed to transform into a responsible human being.

Why can’t journalists covering Gaza see who is pulling their strings, and do the same?

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The post Gaza Terrorist Spokesperson Reveals How Media Falls for Terror Group’s Lies first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Understanding the Meaning of Elijah This Passover

Then-Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan hosted a mock Passover seder at the United Nations on April 6, 2022. Photo: Shahar Azran.

“Behold I will send you Elijah (Eliyahu) the prophet before the great awesome Day of God, and he will reconcile fathers to children and children to fathers” (Malachi 3:24).

This is part of the Haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol — the Shabbat before Pesach. But why is it associated with Elijah? It is true that in terms of stature and his place in our tradition, Elijah was the greatest of the prophets, even if no book is attributed to him. His public victory over the Prophets of Baal during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel was his most famous triumph — but just as significant was the Chariot of Fire that took him up to Heaven when he died. This became the symbol of mysticism that he was always associated with. And mystics love messianism and days of judgment.

In the Talmud, Elijah figures prominently in the debates about messianism and whether he was to be the messiah or the pathfinder and precursor. But the tradition developed that he would pave the way for a messianic era, and would instruct us what to do and what parts of our tradition would be revived or survive when it came about.

In the Talmud, there are many episodes in which Elijah is said to appear to rabbis and guide them, and he is associated with solving unresolved halachic issues.

Elijah has a special affinity with children in tradition. He figures prominently in the circumcision ceremony where the Sandek, the equivalent of a godfather, sits on a special Chair of Eliyahu (Kisey Shel Eliyahu) at a Bris. He is metaphorically the Sandek and protector of us all. Stories in the Bible have Elijah helping barren women conceive and reviving children who are mortally sick. And yet one could also point out the negative side. When he chooses Elisha to join and succeed him. Elisha asks permission to bid goodbye to his parents, but Elijah refuses and insists he leave them without ever saying goodbye.

Elijah has multiple associations with Pesach. The most obvious is when towards the end of the Seder, we have the Fifth Cup of wine dedicated to him, and we invoke his presence in asking God to remove our enemies.

Why is this fifth cup specifically Elijah’s? On the one hand, it makes sense because he is our concept of a messiah. But it’s also Elijah’s cup because there is a debate as to whether we drink four or five cups of wine at the Seder to commemorate the four terms used in the Torah to describe the process that gave us our freedom from slavery  — “I freed you, I saved you, I redeemed you, I took you out.” But some say  “I brought you” counts as a fifth. So are there four cups or five cups? The debate is left unanswered. Although we are only obliged to have four cups of wine, we add an extra one just in case. Elijah has helped us solve the debate.

This year, we have much to be sad about. So many beautiful young and not-so-young lives have been killed in defense of our land. So many more lives have been injured or ruined. And yet there have been so many examples of deliverance, self-sacrifice, and heroism.

Is this the year the messiah will come? We can hope. But in the meantime, we have to do our best to reconcile, and to heal the chasms amongst us. We must come together to go forward united with pride and joy. Thank you, Eliyahu.

The author is a writer and rabbi, currently living in New York.

The post Understanding the Meaning of Elijah This Passover first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘Washington Post’ Platforms Superficial ‘As a Jew’ Op-Ed on Israel & Gaza

The former Washington Post building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Peter Maass, a journalist and former senior editor at left-wing publication The Intercept, admits that his “Jewish identity was always a bit vague.” He is also not an expert on international law, military tactics, or even the Middle East in general.

However, none of this has stopped Maass from using his Jewish heritage and past experience covering the war in Bosnia in the 1990s as a platform to not only falsely accuse Israel of war crimes in the present day, but also to re-invent history in a recent op-ed for The Washington Post.

Titled “I’m Jewish, and I’ve covered wars. I know war crimes when I see them,” Maass’s op-ed is rife with inappropriate analogies, context-free claims, and a heavy reliance on his “vague” Jewish identity — all in an effort to harm the image of Israel and to besmirch the Zionist movement in general.

Neither his Jewish identity nor experiences covering the Balkans & other conflicts qualify @maassp to pass judgment on Israel & accuse it of war crimes.

But that won’t stop @washingtonpost from blending “As a Jew” tokenism & superficial military analysis.

Full analysis https://t.co/Udc6oHeu1A pic.twitter.com/z52FdtJeI8

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) April 10, 2024

Peter Maass’ Crooked Line Between Bosnia & Gaza

In 1992 and 1993, Peter Maass served as an on-the-ground journalist during the war in Bosnia, reporting on the war crimes and ethnic cleansing that had become central features of that conflict.

Over 30 years later, and 1,000 miles away, Maass appears certain that his experiences in Bosnia are relevant to an analysis of the current war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

However, while his reporting from Bosnia might have been laudable, his understanding of Gaza is superficial and amateurish.

Take, for example, his claim that Israel’s “grind through Gaza” — when it “bombs and shoots civilians, blocks food aid, attacks hospitals and cuts off water supplies” — reminds him of the war crimes that he witnessed in Bosnia.

Despite what Maass might have observed in Bosnia, this is not at all what is occurring in Gaza.

Israel is currently trying to uproot a terrorist infrastructure that has spent years embedding itself within the civilian areas of Gaza, turning schools, hospitals, mosques, and even private homes into rocket launching pads and other military installations.

Civilian deaths in Gaza are due to Hamas’ cynical manipulation of civilian areas for their terrorist purposes, not because Israel is indiscriminately targeting civilians on a whim.

Similarly, when Israeli forces enter hospitals, it is due to the use of those facilities by Hamas gunmen and leaders, not out of abject cruelty or spite. The recent extensive IDF operation at Al-Shifa Hospital, in which hundreds of Hamas gunmen were killed, and hundreds more were arrested, attests to this reality.

As for his claim that Israel is blocking food aid or cutting off water supplies, this is simply an inversion of reality.

Further in the piece, Maass alleges that, based on his understanding of international law, Israel is committing war crimes and that its conduct is tantamount to genocide.

How does he come to such conclusions?

For the war crimes allegations, Maass asserts that Israel is undertaking a revenge operation in Gaza, where it is purposefully targeting civilians and is violating the rule of proportionality by harming a large number of civilians “for a minor battlefield gain.”

Despite his lack of access to Israeli military intelligence, his unfamiliarity with modern urban warfare, and his observing the war from thousands of miles away, Maass seems perfectly confident in his understanding of Israel’s war conduct that he is able to make such a bold assertion.

With regards to his claim of genocide, Maass alleges that “sufficient evidence for indictments” against Israel “appears to exist” as, according to its legal definition, the crime of genocide includes the intent to destroy a group “in whole or in part.”

For Maass, Israel can be credibly accused of genocide as it is seeking to destroy the Palestinian population of Gaza “in part.”

However, the “part” of the Palestinian population in Gaza that Israel is seeking to destroy is the Hamas terror group. According to Maass’s twisted logic, every army bent on destroying a terror group or enemy military force could, in theory, be accused of committing genocide.

No, the key words are “intent to destroy…a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”

Israel is not trying to eradicate the Palestinians. It’s addressing the rampant culture of terrorism that led to 10/7.

Targeting terrorists does not a genocide make. https://t.co/9lst462LfP pic.twitter.com/G22aahMjIT

— Jacki Alexander (@JackiAlexander_) April 10, 2024

Perhaps the most perfect example of how Maass’ experiences in Bosnia cannot correlate to the current war in Gaza cannot be found in this op-ed, but in a tweet he posted on October 18, 2023, the day after the Al-Ahli Hospital explosion.

Although Israel was initially blamed for the damage wrought outside the hospital, by the time Maass tweeted, it was becoming clear that the explosion had actually been caused by an errant Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket directed at Israel.

Nevertheless, Maass felt it appropriate to tweet about how, during the conflict in the Balkans, the Bosnians were falsely accused of bombing themselves. For Maass, since it was inaccurate in Bosnia, it must also be inaccurate in Gaza.

Ironically, in the same week that a video was released where an Islamic Jihad leader admitted that it was a rocket that caused the explosion, Maass is still peddling his “expertise” in war crimes and false analogies between Bosnia and Gaza in order to tarnish Israel’s reputation and to harm its fight against terrorism.

From my book “Love Thy Neighbor,” on claims the Bosnians bombed themselves:

“Thankfully, we have not always been so circumspect, and did not demand, during World War II, that Winston Churchill provide proof that the bombs exploding in London were German rather than British.”

— Peter Maass (@maassp) October 18, 2023

A Simplistic Understanding of Zionist History

Coupled with Peter Maass’ poor understanding of the current war in Gaza is his simplistic view of Zionist history and the idealization of “non-Zionism.”

Maass draws on his own family history, pointing out how, despite financially supporting the immigration of Jews to the British Mandate of Palestine, his ancestors were opposed to a Jewish state in the land, as it would lead to “bloody heads and misfortune.”

For Maass, this non-Zionism appears to be the ideal: Jews living in the land but holding no sovereignty, amicably sharing control with local Arabs.

Peter Maass sees a continuation of this ideal in the likes of Jews protesting the Israeli “occupation” (which he deems to be the “underlying problem” in the conflict) and Jewish groups protesting against Israel’s war against Hamas.

However, the fly in the ointment for Maass’ idealized non-Zionism is the fact that it has already been tried and failed.

Prior to Israeli independence, a group called Brit Shalom was founded, which advocated for the non-Zionism that Maass holds dear. However, by 1948, the group had practically ceased to exist as the British Mandate’s Jewish community was forced to come to terms with three decades of Arab violence and intransigence.

In both his “analysis” of the war in Gaza and his view of Zionist history, Peter Maass seems to place the onus for all the violence and carnage on Israel and Zionism, either ignoring or diminishing the role of Palestinian Arabs, including Hamas.

This view of the war in Gaza, and Israeli history in general, is not only superficial and immature but it also creates a skewed paradigm through which one party to a conflict is absolved of any responsibility while the other must shoulder all the blame.

A skewed paradigm can ultimately lead to a deadly and dangerous reality.

It shouldn’t matter that Peter Maass is Jewish. It shouldn’t matter that he reported on ethnic cleansing 30 years ago.

What should matter is that The Washington Post has platformed an amateurish analysis that is based on false assertions, misleading statements, and a superficial understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The post ‘Washington Post’ Platforms Superficial ‘As a Jew’ Op-Ed on Israel & Gaza first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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