Yes, when it comes to politics and religion, my thinking could best be described as liberal or progressive. But believe or not, liberal Democrat and Conservative Jew is not pro-abortion. But I am most definitely pro-choice. My religious values and ethics suggest that the creation of life is one of the most sacred endeavors we humans engage in. I have no idea when life begins but I do disapprove of people using abortion as birth control. If you don’t want to have a baby, it’s up to If you are a mature enough man or woman engaging in heterosexual sex and don’t want to make a baby, be responsible enough to use birth control.
In keeping with Jewish tradition, I believe that the life of a mothers always takes precedent over the survival of a fetus and for that reason alone, I think the government needs to stay out of the business of dictating when and if a woman can have abortion. For the record, I also respect that mental health issues are equal in importance to physical health challenges. A woman with mental illness who will be unable to properly care for a child has a legitimate an argument to make for ending unwanted pregnancy as the woman whose physical health will be compromised by delivering a baby.
So in the world of politics, I’m pro-choice; on a very personal level, this man who has never and never will be confronted with the decision of whether or not to continue an unplanned pregnancy has his doubts about the propriety of using abortion to address the inconvenience of an unplanned pregnancy.
Kudos to my brothers and sister in the State of Israel where those people who share my skepticism about abortion being used as birth control are about as anti-abortion as anyone gets in that country. No one is advocating to make abortion illegal. In fact, those who oppose abortion as a form of birth control are doing exactly what I wish the anti-abortion loonies in this country would do: Instead of trying to make it illegal, they are simply trying to discourage the perception that abortion is as innocent and benign an act as using a condom or taking a birth control pill.
(reprinted from JTA, 2/25/2014)
JERUSALEM (JTA) — A billboard in central Tel Aviv features a black-and-white photo of a distressed woman above a caption in bold red letters that reads, “The pain and remorse from my abortion accompany me every day.”
The billboard is an advertisement for Efrat, an anti-abortion outfit that dubs itself “The Committee to Rescue Israel’s Babies” and offers financial support to pregnant women in an effort to persuade them not to terminate their pregnancies.
Efrat has never protested outside a gynecological clinic, nor has it sought to restrict Israel’s fairly liberal abortion laws. Last month, the organization supported a proposal to allow women to undergo abortions without first appearing before a state committee, as the law currently requires.
Efrat’s president, Eli Schussheim, describes himself as pro-choice, a position he adopts more from pragmatism rather than principle.
“If I tell a woman she has no right to abort, she’ll tell me to get out of here,” Schussheim told JTA. “I said I’ll be pro-choice. It’s important to give counseling to women. I think laws don’t educate.”
From the Western Wall to the West Bank, religious issues dominate Israel’s political discourse. Orthodox parties make up a quarter of the Knesset and have sat in nearly every governing coalition since the state’s founding, using their political might to push for widely despised privileges that benefit Israel’s religious minority.
But while religion looms large in Israel, its abortion laws are, in practice, among the world’s most liberal. Though any woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy must demonstrate to a three-person committee that having the baby will cause her emotional or physical harm, or that the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, more than 99 percent of requests are approved.
Since Israel legalized abortions in 1977 — just four years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision galvanized conservative Christian opposition to abortion in the United States — there has been no significant movement to outlaw abortion. In January, the Knesset passed a law allowing government funding for nearly all abortions, some 40,000 of which are performed each year in the Jewish state.
Experts say Israel’s secular foundations, along with Jewish law’s relative ambiguity on abortion, have kept religious political parties mostly silent on the issue and led groups like Efrat to focus on preventing abortions rather than outlawing them. Aliza Lavie, a lawmaker who proposed abolishing abortion committees at a recent Knesset conference, said Israelis are pro-choice because they understand women don’t approach abortion flippantly.
“I think there’s an understanding here that we love children in Israel,” Lavie told JTA. “When a woman already gets to that point [of wanting an abortion], she has just reasons. Israeli culture is very pro-kids.”
Traditional Jewish law doesn’t regard life as beginning at conception, and even mandates abortion if a mother’s life is in danger, so opposing abortion isn’t as high a priority for Israeli religious activists as it is for some of their American counterparts. Haredi Orthodox parties in the past have tried to outlaw late-term abortions, but the bills failed early and no religious party has made abortion a signature issue.
“In the world of the Catholic Church, an abortion is thought of as murder even in the early stages of pregnancy, but in Judaism it’s not so clear,” said Orthodox Rabbi Benny Lau, who attended the Knesset conference.
Absent a powerful anti-abortion movement, Israel’s abortion debate centers on technical policy questions such as who should say what to women seeking abortion or which abortions should be funded by the state.
Skeptical that it could ever get abortion outlawed, Efrat has focused instead on removing incentives for women to abort. According to Schussheim, 60 percent of Israeli abortions stem from financial concerns. So Efrat has mobilized a national network of 3,000 women volunteers who provide counseling during the pregnancy and, for those who need it, material support for the baby’s first two years — anything from a crib and stroller to monthly packages of diapers and wipes.
Efrat’s chief social worker, Ruth Tidhar, says the organization supports eliminating abortion committees for similarly practical reasons. Tidhar believes they don’t adequately inform women of the risks of abortion. Instead, she would like doctors to provide information about the medical risks and a required 72-hour waiting period to enable women to consider the information.
“It’s supposed to be a stopgap [to say] ‘Think about this, it’s a serious decision, it’s going to influence the rest of your life,’ ” Tidhar said. “I don’t believe that any woman goes to have an abortion without some degree of ambivalence and bad feelings.”
In supporting the abolition of the committees, Efrat has made common cause with the Israeli feminist organization Isha L’Isha, which opposes the panels on principle as an impediment to a woman’s right to choose. Isha L’Isha also would like to see women receive more information about the procedure, as well as medical advice.
According to New Family, an Israeli organization that fights religious coercion in marriage, divorce and child care, half of Israel’s 40,000 annual abortions take place illegally, as women prefer to bypass the committees. Abolishing the committees, Lavie said, would remove the incentive to undergo an illegal abortion.
“Only the woman can say what’s best for her,” said Ronit Piso, Isha L’Isha’s women and medical technology coordinator. “Only she can make the judgement if it’s economic or anything else. We do think it’s important that women get advice and counseling on the medical implications and counseling on the process itself.”
One of the countless inconvenient truths meat eaters would rather not think about is the fact that animals have thoughts and feelings too. This amazing brief video show’s u beyond any doubt that even a cow can experience joy and has the capacity to celebrate life.
If like me, you are a person of faith, never forget the teaching of Breshit (Genesis) 2:16: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying: ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.’ HaShem (God) never intended for us to be carnivores who kill Her creatures for food let alone to hunt for sport.
If you are an atheist or agnostic, remember that our humanity is measured by how much we respect and value life, all life.
Just yesterday I suggested to a group of senior Jewish adults that I meet with bi-weekly that we were coming to a historical moment in the history of the State of Israel. Secretary of State Kerry will shortly be presenting Israel and the Palestinians with a framework for a final settlement, both sides will have to choose between a peace that can be forged by both sides making major concessions or choosing instead a status quo that is going to lead to more hate, violence and probably war.
Two thousand years of being treated like second class citizens the world over, the Holocaust and more than a century of violent Arab rejection of the Zionist dream has created an Israeli nationalist movement that is ironically proving to be Achilles heel of the State of Israel. Will Jewish values apropos peace, humanity and social justice prevail or will Jewish tribal nationalism prove to be a cancer to modern Zionism?
Of course, Tom Friedman outlines the issues and challenges with more insight and eloquence than I can.
(reprinted from the New York Times)
I’ve written a series of columns from Israel in the past two weeks because I believe that if Secretary of State John Kerry brings his peace mission to a head and presents the parties with a clear framework for an agreement, Israel and the Jewish people will face one of the most critical choices in their history. And when they do, all hell could break loose in Israel. It is important to understand why.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not without reason, is asking the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people,” confirming that if Israel cedes them a state in the West Bank, there will be two-states-for-two-peoples. But, for Netanyahu to get an answer to that question, he will have to give an answer to a question Israelis have been wrestling with, and avoiding, ever since the 1967 war reconnected them with the heartland of ancient Israel, in the West Bank, known to Jews as Judea and Samaria. And that is:
“What is the nation state of the Jewish people?”
Kerry, by steadily making the answer to that question unavoidable, has set the whole Israeli political system into a roiling debate, with some ministers shrilly attacking Kerry and slamming Netanyahu for even putting the question on the table — as if the status quo were sustainable and just hunky-dory.
For instance, Kerry recently observed at a conference in Munich that if the current peace talks failed “there’s an increasing delegitimization campaign that’s been building up [against Israel]. People are very sensitive to it. There are talks of boycotts and other kinds of things.”
Some Israeli ministers and American Jewish leaders blasted Kerry for what they said was his trying to use the B.D.S. movement — “boycotts, divestment and sanctions” — as a club to pressure Israel into making more concessions. I strongly disagree. Kerry and President Obama are trying to build Israelis a secure off-ramp from the highway they’re hurtling down in the West Bank that only ends in some really bad places for Israel and the Jewish people.
I like the way Gidi Grinstein, the founder of the Reut Institute, a nonprofit that works on the thorniest problems of Israeli society, puts it: “We are in a critical moment in our history — far more significant than many realize.” Ever since 1936, “the Zionist movement has sought to establish a sovereign Jewish and democratic majority in Zion, and, therefore, eventually accepted the principle of two-states-for-two-peoples: a Jewish state and an Arab state.” Although there is a powerful settler movement in Israel that would like to absorb the West Bank today, the State of Israel has continued to tell the world and the Jewish people that, under the right security conditions, it would cede control of that occupied territory and its 2.5 million Palestinians and forge a two-state deal.
If Kerry’s mission fails — because either Israelis or Palestinians or both balk — he will either be tacitly or explicitly declaring that this two-state solution is no longer a viable option and “that would plunge Israel into a totally different paradigm,” said Grinstein, who recently authored the book“Flexigidity: The Secret of Jewish Adaptability.”
It would force Israel onto one of three bad paths: either a unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank or annexation and granting the Palestinians there citizenship, making Israel a binational state. Or failing to do either, Israel by default could become some kind of apartheid-like state in permanent control over the 2.5 million Palestinians. There are no other options.
But what these three options have in common, noted Grinstein, is that they would lead to a “massive eruption of the B.D.S. movement” and “the B.D.S. movement at heart is not about Israel’s policies but Israel’s existence: they want to see Israel disappear. What is keeping the B.D.S. movement contained is that we’re still in the paradigm of the two-state solution.” If that paradigm goes, he added, not only will the B.D.S. movement launch with new momentum, but the line between it and those around the world who are truly just critical of Israel’s West Bank occupation will get blurred.
Furthermore, being the “nation state of the Jewish people,” means that the values of Israel cannot be sharply divergent from the values of the Jewish diaspora (the vast majority of American Jews vote liberal) or from the values of America — Israel’s only true ally. Added Grinstein: “If that happens, the relationship between Israel and America and American Jewry will inevitably become polarized.”
To avoid that, no one expects Israel to concede to whatever Palestinians demand or to accept insecure borders or to give Palestinians a free pass on their excesses. And Kerry is not asking that. Israel should bargain hard and protect its interests. “But Israel has to be seen as credibly committed to ending its control over the Palestinians in the West Bank,” concluded Grinstein, otherwise it won’t just have a problem with B.D.S., but eventually with America and a growing segment of American Jews — “turning Israel from a force of unity for Jews to a force of disunity.”
So responding to the Kerry plan, when it comes, is about something very deep: What is the nation state of the Jewish people — and how will Jews abroad and Israel’s closest ally, America, relate to it in the future?
(reprinted from the 2/10/2014 edition of the New York Times)
By Frank Bruni
A news flash for every straight man out there: You’ve been naked in front of a gay man.
In fact you’ve been naked, over the course of your life, in front of many gay men, at least if you have more than a few years on you. And here you are — uninjured, uncorrupted, intact. The earth still spins. The sun rises and sets.
Maybe it was in gym class, long ago. Maybe at the health club more recently. Or maybe when you played sports at the high school level, the college level, later on. Whether we gay guys are one in 10 or one in 25, it’s a matter of chance: At some point, one of us was within eyeshot when you stripped down.
As a senior, Michael Sam was a first-team all-American at defensive end.N.F.L. Prospect Michael Sam Proudly Says What Teammates Knew: He’s GayFEB. 9, 2014
And you know what? He probably wasn’t checking you out. He certainly wasn’t beaming special gay-conversion gamma rays at you. That’s why you weren’t aware of his presence and didn’t immediately go out and buy a more expensive moisturizer and a disc of Judy Garland’s greatest hits. His purpose mirrored yours. He was changing clothes and showering. It’s a locker room, for heaven’s sake. Not last call at the Rawhide.
On Sunday evening, in a story in The Times by John Branch and elsewhere, a college football star named Michael Sam came out. Because Sam is almost certain to be drafted, he could soon be the first openly gay active player in the National Football League — in any of the four major professional sports in the United States.
Most reactions from the sports world were hugely positive, even inspirational.
Some were not.
“It’d chemically imbalance an N.F.L. locker room,” an N.F.L. personnel assistant, speaking anonymously, said to Sports Illustrated. I think steroids, Adderall and painkillers have already done a pretty thorough job of that, and on the evidence of his comment, they’ve addled minds in the process.
Sports Illustrated quoted an unnamed assistant coach who also brought up the fabled sanctum of Tinactin and testosterone. “There’s nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room,” he said. “If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it?”
To his question, a few of my own: When did the locker room become such a delicate ecosystem? Is it inhabited by athletes or orchids? And how is it that gladiators who don’t flinch when a 300-pound mountain of flesh in shoulder pads comes roaring toward them start to quiver at the thought of a homosexual under a nearby nozzle? They may be physical giants, but at least a few of them are psychological pipsqueaks.
And they’re surprisingly blunt and Paleolithic. When NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer recently brought up the possibility of an openly gay player with Jonathan Vilma, a New Orleans Saints linebacker, he said: “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me.”
“How am I supposed to respond?” Vilma added.
Well, a squeal would be unmanly, Mace might not be enough and N.F.L. players tend to use their firearms away from the stadium, so I’d advise him to do what countless females of our species have done with leering males through history. Step away. Move on. Dare I say woman up?
Or Vilma could use a line suggested by the sports journalist Cyd Zeigler on the website Outsports.com: “I’m so telling your boyfriend you stole a peek.”
The anxiety about the locker room makes no sense in terms of the kind of chaotic setting it often is, with all sorts of people rushing through, including reporters of both sexes. It’s a workplace, really, and more bedlam than boudoir.
The anxiety depends on stereotypes of gay men as creatures of preternatural libido. (Thanks, but I lunge faster for pasta than for porn.)
And it’s illogical. “Every player knows that they are playing or have played with gay guys,” John Amaechi, a former pro basketball player who came out after his retirement, told me. It’s just that those gay guys didn’t or haven’t identified themselves. Why would doing so make them a greater threat? Wouldn’t an openly gay athlete have a special investment in proving that there’s zero to worry about?
Michael Sam proved as much at the University of Missouri, where teammates learned of his sexual orientation before their most recent season. They finished 12-2, and are publicly praising him so far. Nothing about trembling or cowering in the showers.
The person who raises that fear, Amaechi said, “is a bigot finally falling over the cliff and grasping for any straw that might keep their purchase. When every rational argument is gone, you go with that.”