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Ethiopian Israelis Rise Up Against Discrimination and Injustice

May18

by: Rachel Kutcher on May 18th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Ethiopian Israelis gathering protesting outdoors.

Programs like Yahel Social Change are eradicating individual and systemic forms of discrimination experienced by the Ethiopian Israeli community. Above, protestors react to police brutality in Israel earlier this month. Credit: CreativeCommons / Lilach Daniel.

There seems to be a broad consensus that the protests over the last few weeks are not only about police violence, but rather that police violence against an Ethiopian Israeli soldier was simply the catalyst for protests against broader discrimination against and disparities experienced by the Ethiopian community. Indeed, during my time in Israel and the Yahel Social Change program, I have often become angry when learning about these disparities. While volunteering at Tebeka, a legal aid organization serving the Ethiopian community, I’ve been appalled by both individual and systemic forms of discrimination experienced by the community. I’ve been frustrated by the ways in which Israel’s absorption of the Ethiopian community failed to respect a strong Ethiopian Jewish culture, with strong leaders and community social systems. I’ve wanted to shake some sense in to the people who have claimed the primarily Ethiopian neighborhood in which I live and have been warmly embraced is “dangerous.” I believe the anger and frustration that is fueling the protests is well justified. Both the news media and a few of my Yahel peers have written about these social disparities and discrimination, and about the challenges in the Ethiopian aliyah to Israel, so I’d like to offer a complementary perspective.

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Astronomy and Theism Are Not Incompatible

May16

by: Huma Munir on May 16th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A telescope at sunset.

"Astronomy teaches us humility and compassion," writes Huma Munir. "Of all human virtues, humility is probably the most beautiful and important."

In 1990, spacecraft Voyager 1 took one last photo of the Earth from 6 billion kilometers away before drifting further into outer space. The Earth stood out no more than a tiny dot against the vast expanse of darkness in the space.

Inspired by the photo, famous astrophysicist and atheist, Carl Sagan, wrote a book titled Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. In it, he said studying astronomy can be a humbling and a character-building experience. Though Sagan did not believe in a higher power, his work has greatly inspired me to connect with God, and has led me on a journey of self-reformation.

In many senses, and contrary to popular belief, astronomy is helpful to religious believers.

Firstly, it teaches us that the world is limitless.

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Yom HaBilbul: A Meditation on Conviction and Confusion in the Holy Land

May15

by: Rabbi Michael Rothbaum on May 15th, 2015 | No Comments »

If you’re not in a rush
take a train
Israel’s trains
take their time through
the countryside

but

the country has a
rapid transit
of holidays
in the Spring
rushing by like a bullet


train

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Energy Efficiency for the Climate and the Poor

May15

by: Robyn Purchia on May 15th, 2015 | No Comments »

A group cheerfully posing around a woodworking table outside.

Credit: EdenKeeper.org.

Helping the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized is a central tenet in the Christian gospel. The command to care for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) has inspired organizations like Christian Aid to help the poor, Habitat for Humanity to provide shelter for the vulnerable, and World Vision to support children in need. And, in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains, the gospel has fueled a novel, new energy program that cares for the least of these while caring for Creation.

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Latest Web-Only Articles from Tikkun

May14

by: Tikkun on May 14th, 2015 | No Comments »

Have you been keeping up with the brilliant web-only articles on tikkun.org? Don’t miss Jonathan Rosenblum’s powerful piece on the immorality of an economic system in which Big Oil is willing to risk workers’ lives for profit, Nancy Abrams’s world-transforming treatise on spirituality and science, Paul Krassner’s discussion of Patty Hearst and the Twinkie Murders, and much more.

A God That Could Be Real by Nancy Abrams

Unconscious evolution of God-ideas is inevitable, but conscious evolution of God-ideas has been harshly discouraged. This must change, or else we’ll never be able to bring our best knowledge into the process of rethinking God for our time.Read More »


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Ethnic Solidarity Without Militarized Nationalism: Insights from Jewish Eastern Europe

May14

by: Ri J. Turner on May 14th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Israeli flag flying near the Dead Sea.

The quintessential question of how to reconcile communal identity with a society based on universal equality and individual rights, is still the primary tension underlying Jewish communal politics, indeed is at the heart of much international and intranational conflict today. Credit: CreativeCommons / Micah Walter.

In the context of modern, secular nation-states in which citizenship is based on human equality and individual rights, what happens to collective cultural, religious, and ethnic history and identity?

Contemporary global “answers” to this question are far from satisfying. They include global capitalism (in which consumer identity replaces ethnic identity); militarized state nationalism (in which citizenship is synonymous with association with a certain army; national identity (which theoretically trumps or replaces ethnic identity); and global white supremacy (the development and dominance of a valorized white “ethnic” identity that is ahistorical and defined primarily in terms of control of global power and resources).

These “answers” rest uneasily on the underground rumblings of the very same question: in a world in which privilege, opportunity, and resources are accorded to the few who are able to escape labels of “otherness” (racial, ethnic, gendered, sexual, ability, age, class) to become the “universal human being who is deserving of rights” (as that is defined in terms of Western white supremacy) what, indeed, happens to communal ethnic, religious, and cultural history and identity?

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UK Muslim Climate Action Campaign Gains Big Support

May13

by: Aisha Abdelhamid on May 13th, 2015 | No Comments »

Islam is Green.With the official launch of its “Islam is Green” climate action campaign, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) also inaugurated its official website to help Muslims learn more about climate change. The iERA activities were timed to coincide with London’s “Time to Act Climate Change” march, as well, and resulted in huge support from the general public in London, England.

Events on the day of the climate action march included a lecture at a local community center provided by iERA volunteers on the Islamic perspective of caring for the environment. Afterwards, iERA members joined a group of over 5,000 assembled in central London expressing concern about mitigating global warming and requesting global climate action.

Handing out flyers to the public during the “Time to Act Climate Change” march, iERA members reported “overwhelmingly positive” response. The flyers presented information expressing the seriousness with which Muslims regard caring for the Earth, and preserving natural resources. This supportive stance on climate action surprised many demonstrators, initiating discussions and eliciting interest in learning more.

The “Islam is Green” Climate Action Campaign

The “Islam is Green” climate action campaign is centered around the Muslim understanding that humans have been given the role of caretaker of the Earth. We must protect it and maintain it, just as we would our own garden with blossoming fruit trees and vegetable plants. As Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, taught:

“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.”
[the Prophet Muhammad]

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Remembering and Rebuilding: Sandra, the Righteous Gentile

May12

by: Susan Bloch on May 12th, 2015 | 29 Comments »

When I heard the news that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai massacre, was recently released from a Pakistani prison on bail, I stared at the TV in disbelief.He had been accused of personally planning and directing the three-day rampage at India’s commercial capital that killed hundreds of people. Yet the Lahore High Court had dismissed the detention orders issued by the Punjab government, claiming insufficient evidence for a conviction. Lakhvi’s meticulously executed plan had destroyed the lives of many deliberately targeted Westerners and Jews. Bullets were sprayed at local bystanders, including commuters at the crowded train station, and anyone who just happened to be in the path of Lakhvi’s well-trained gunmen.

His release made no sense. Confessions of two of the terrorists — recently executed, Ajmal Kasab and American jihadist, David Headley –confirmed that the accused had personally directed the gunmen by satellite phone from a safe house in Karachi. What was the judge thinking?

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Acceptance Weighs More Than Denouncement

May11

by: Lubna Qureshi on May 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

On Sunday, May 3rd two gunmen were shot dead as they opened fire at the security guard, outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland Texas where, “Draw Muhammad” art contest was in progress. The gunmen planned to commit a heinous act of terrorism and in its pursuit shot the security guard on duty. The intended act of terrorism is as despicable as it can be so is the caricature drawing contest organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Though Pamela Geller, the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, exercised her legal right of freedom of expression yet her expression was not free from malice and spite towards Muslims.Of course, no one can stop anyone from practicing the First Amendment and the right to free speech. We Americans cherish the freedom to say what’s on our mind. However, freedom of expression becomes questionable when it focuses on maligning the faith or religious beliefs of any one, and in this case, 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.

Many argue that the cartoon contest was an innocent art event, with a glitzy prize of $10,000, where artists from around the nation gathered to exhibit their artistic talents. Some state that mere caricatures of the Prophet of Islam should not offend anyone since it’s just ink on the paper. Yet many fail to understand why the cartoon depiction of Prophet Muhammad is so upsetting to the practicing Muslims. Therefore it is essential to understand the logic that fosters the high standard of devotion and loyalty.

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Religious Extremists Beyond Compare

May9

by: Jeff Vogel on May 9th, 2015 | 6 Comments »

A flare at ExxonMobil oil refinery.

Oil and finance executives will hide the truth about their products for as long as we let them. These religious extremists worship the false idol of money. Above, a flare at an ExxonMobil oil refinery. Credit: CreativeCommons / Kristian Dela Cour.

We live in an age of terrifying high-definition spectacles, with beheadings and massacres some of the horrors that fill us all with fear and dread.

These gruesome spectacles have profound side effects on our perspective. They obscure the brutality and terror caused by our bombs and drones and they distract our attention from those predators who cause suffering on a far grander scale than any jihadists.

These grander predators wear power suits. They run our largest banks and corporations. They run them recklessly. The financial industry frauds that nearly collapsed the world’s economy left behind, according to the best estimates, at least 5,000 suicides, to say nothing of the millions of people who lost their jobs and homes. We have auto industry execs who value profit over safety, defense contractors who pound the drums for military engagement, private prison company chiefs who lobby to keep their cells full.

I consider all these power suits religious extremists. They worship money.

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