Jerusalem Moves a Bit Closer to Beijing

Yoram Evron notes in Y.Net:

“A renewed affair has been developing for the past three years between Israel and China. About 10 years after their relationship experienced a crisis following an American demand that Israel cut its security ties with China, Beijing has begun working to renew the close relations between the two countries.”

This should come as no surprise to anyone. When your natural ally appears to turn his back on you, you begin to search for less likely friends.

Consider this, though: Israel develops innovations but lacks the capability to industrialize and then commercialize them at scale. China is challenged in innovation but can bring someone else’s innovation to market and tweak it for special customer needs faster than anyone in the world. It will go from the Technion to a Tel Aviv startup to a Shanghai factory to your shelf – or to a Chinese airbase.

This is expedience rather than preference. The Chinese are historically the most fickle allies in the world with the possible exception of the Italians. The Israelis know that. But China is buying irrigation systems, water purification technology, commercial encryption technology, fruit, avionics, and tons of services from Israel, and paying cash, all for stuff the US doesn’t buy anyway. Plus, the more hooked Israel can get China on Israeli tech, the more it hopes to influence China on Iran and Mideast policy. It is Machiavellian, a tad desperate, and made absolutely necessary by the White House.

Israel has military technology the Chinese desperately need to upgrade the People’s Liberation Army. The only throttle on that flow has been the close ties between Israel and the US. Now? Hmm.

It is possible that Mr. Obama understands that in this regard his policies toward Israel – and Iran – constitute a significant own-goal. One can only hope that he understood this risk when he reached his hands out to the Mullahs in Iran.

Shoah and Understanding

The more you study the Holocaust, the less you understand. I spent a lifetime studying it, and I still cannot understand. There were string quartets playing in Auschwitz-Birkenau while a million and a quarter human beings were gassed, burned, and turned to ash. What happened in Auschwitz in the Holocaust was a terrible demonstration of the limits of civilization to civilize if we do not fear God and see His image in every human person.

via Rabbi Jonathan Sacks | February 13, 2015 | Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly | PBS.

Talmud and the Death Penalty

A recent study cited in Forbes documented problems in the application of the death penalty in the United States. The provocative study suggests that one out of every twenty-five defendants sentenced to death in the U.S. is actually innocent.

The study, while not necessarily conclusive, strengthens my growing conviction that if we are going to be a nation that continues to sentence people to death, we must consider using a more Talmudic level of criterion in our sentencing. I am a longtime advocate of the death penalty, but it is difficult to continue such support when the possibility of a mistake is so high.

Much of my support of the death penalty lies in its source in Torah rather than my belief in the punishment as a deterrent to criminals. Yet it is becoming clear that our standards for evidence and sentencing fall short of the intent of Jewish law. That should trouble every Jew in America who supports capital punishment.

I’m Jewish, and I want to convert to Judaism

My feelings about conversions are complex. As far as I am concerned, all conversions are valid. I figure R. Hillel would have stood with me on that, and I believe my relationship with Hashem is what makes me Jewish, not a beit din.

Nonetheless, for a range of reasons, mostly personal, I want to reach a stage where I am considered Jewish under Halachah. I consider that a journey of discovery rather than a quest for some kind of spiritual legitimacy.

The ACLU Does Defend Freedom of Religion

Apparently few of my friends, liberal or conservative, realize that the American Civil Liberties Union is not a political force bent on the secularization of society. In fact, while the ACLU has taken on a number of cases to ensure that religion is not forced on anyone who does not want it so, they have been staunch defenders of the individual’s right to religious expression, especially in public schools.

Proof positive is here.

It is heartening to note that the nation’s most famous Constitutional Law crusaders stand in defense of the Free Exercise Clause, whether they personally believe in it or not.

Yeah, My Religion is Bronze-Age. So What?

Atheists love to deride Abrahamic faiths as “Bronze-age religious,” a if the very oldness  of a faith ipso facto discredits it.
Would you discredit reason because of its roots in ancient Greece? Or writing because cuneiform is SO not cool? Are our bodies disgusting and outmoded because their general shapes are over 70,000 years old? Was your father wrong about drinking and driving because he was older than you?
The attack is a logical fallacy, an ad homonym at best.
If you want to fence with me about my religion, en garde. But please show up with something better than “ooh, you’re old.” That’s drunken frat boy logic.