Author Archives: David Margolis

David Margolis

About David Margolis

David Margolis (1943-2005) was a Jerusalem-based writer. Examples of his fiction and journalism can be seen at http://www.davidmargolis.com/.

Recognizing God’s Presence

Provided by CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a multi-denominational think tank and resource center.

The beginning of Parashat Tazria describes the law regarding a woman after childbirth. She first goes through a period of ritual impurity, then through a period called "blood purification." Both of these time spans are twice as long after bearing a daughter as after bearing a son. This discrepancy is profoundly disturbing. Even more troubling is the requirement that, after her purification period, the woman bring a burnt offering and a sin offering to the Temple.

Why a sin offering? Isn’t childbirth a mitzvah (commandment)? How has the woman sinned?

Perhaps the Torah anticipates that when a woman gives birth she may well be overwhelmed by her accomplishment. She feels so proud of what she has done that she takes full credit for the glory of new life! In so doing, she ignores the major role played in the miracle of reproduction by God, whose hand is seen in all such "natural" wonders. Her lack of humility and failure to acknowledge God’s role are her sin.

Then why doubled periods of impurity and purification for a daughter? One possibility is that giving birth to a virtual copy of herself, a girl who will someday also be able to create life, increases a mother’s pride and so requires a longer punitive period.

Another is that the period of impurity after bearing a son is interrupted by the brit milah, circumcision (Leviticus 12:3). This powerful ritual reminds the proud mother of God’s role in the birth and in the continued life of her son. Since ancient Judaism had no covenant ceremony for daughters, a longer impurity/purification period was required.

Modernity has taught us to recognize the absolute covenantal value of Jewish women, and the resultant development of covenant rituals for newborn daughters enables them, like their brothers, to remind us of God’s presence in the world.

The Palestine Liberation Organization

Hundreds of thousands of Arab residents of the former state of Palestine fled during Israel’s War of Independence during 1948-9 (called in Arabic, al-Nakba, “the catastrophe”). Historians debate their reasons for flight. Were they expelled by Israel? Did they choose to leave of their own accord, encouraged by neighboring Arab nations, hoping to return to a state under Arab control? Whatever the reasons, the result was a refugee problem. The question of establishing a homeland for these Palestinian refugees has been and continues to be a major issue in world politics.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has been a major player in this conflict since 1964. The following article discusses the organization and activities of the PLO from 1964-1987. In the years since then, the PLO engaged in the peace process leading to the Oslo Accords, which broke down with the second Intifada and a wave of suicide bombings in Israel. Since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, Mahmoud Abbas has led the PLO.Yasser Arafat

Founded in 1964 as an umbrella organization of Palestinian military groups, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) stated as its founding goal the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a “secular, democratic state.” It pursued this aim first by launching guerrilla attacks against Israel from bases in Jordan. These attacks intensified after the 1967 Six-Day War brought the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under Israeli control. Yasser Arafat, co-founder and head of Al-Fatah, the PLO’s largest and best-funded constituent group, became Chairman of the PLO in 1968.

Israeli military responses to PLO attacks and the gradual development of a PLO-run “state within a state” in Jordan, whose population included many Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967, brought the organization into direct confrontation with the Jordanian government. In a civil war that erupted in what the Palestinians called “black September” of 1970, forces loyal to Jordan’s King Hussein expelled armed PLO elements into Lebanon.

Who Are The Palestinians?

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s famous 1969 remark that the Palestinians “did not exist” as a nationality represents an opinion still heard today, especially on the right of Israel’s political spectrum, often buttressed with specific arguments, including:

•  that the Arabs of Palestine have no language, religion or general culture that distinguishes them significantly from the Arabs of Jordan, Syria (where some factions still claim Palestine as part of “Greater Syria”) or other neighboring Arab states;

who are the palestinians?•  that especially before the 20th century, traditional Palestinian society was semi‑feudal in its structure and organized around loyalties to locality and tribe, not nation;

•  that the Arabs of Palestine never exercised national sovereignty in the country in which they lived;

•  that a pattern of Arab emigration from Palestine, a land often described by Western travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries as “desolate” and “empty,” was reversed, especially after World War I, not by nationalist feeling but by the employment opportunities and improved quality of life that accompanied Zionist immigration and land development;

•  that the word Filastin, as the country is called in Arabic, is not Palestinian‑Arab in origin (the Arabs of the region rarely used it before 1948) but refers to the biblical “Philistines,” whose name the ancient Romans gave to the country in an attempt to obliterate the Jews’ connection to it;

•  that even UN Security Council Resolution 242, which in 1967 called upon Israel to return “territories” it had conquered in the Six‑Day War, referred only to “refugees” without mentioning the Palestinians as a separate national entity.

In other words, it can be argued that “Palestinian” identity is a shallow political veneer that developed in response to Zionism, that it serves today as a hostile tool kept sharpened for use against Israel, and that Palestinian Arab culture is, at most, a “dialect” of a larger Arab culture.

Even fervent Palestinian nationalists might not deny many of the items on the above list.  But they would argue that the absence of a totally unique identity does not disqualify Palestinians from claiming national independence, any more than the lack of a separate language, culture and religion disqualifies Guatemala, Canada or Tunisia.