NEW THEME #1… POST 2013 ISRAELI ELECTION ANALYSIS
Polls show that Israel’s voting age population is trending toward relatively nationalist positions. What remains of Israel’s left and left leaning voters are espousing less security related policy and are more focused on economic and social welfare issues. Looking across the spectrum of the entire country, what does the current (and likely future) captain of the Israeli ship, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, think of all this? Talks associated with this theme (depending on surrounding events) will address the following questions and more. Israel is exciting as ever, and Yishai will help you keep abreast of the changes resulting from the 2013 Israeli election both immediate and longer term.
- Who will form the next Israeli goverment
- What will the coalition policy look like?
- How will new Knesset members effect the way Israeli democracy looks?
- Will new ideas trickle in or be kept out by the old keepers of the gates?
NEW THEME #2… TWENTY YEARS AFTER OSLO (1993-2013): EXPLORING NEW DIRECTIONS
- “Three Alternatives to the Two-State Paradigm” – As the two state concept born in Oslo staggers off the field of Middle East options, do Israel’s leaders have a healthy alternative to offer? In this talk, Yishai explores three different approaches to moving into a new era of improved relations between Israel and her neighbors.
- “Voting Rights and Spiritual Maturity” – Implementation of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria faces two primary obstacles: (a) the aftermath of granting full Israeli voting rights to millions of Arabs; and (b) the effect on Jewish identity of the modern state embracing the Biblical heartland. Analysis and discussion of the way forward.
- “Israeli Voting Patterns” – The creators of the 2-State paradigm anticipated a secular and internationalist future in the Middle East. With the growing realization that there is no “partner” in the Arab world for this vision, a new group of Israelis are stepping forward to fill the ideological and identity vacuum that has been created by years of Oslo focus. Will the Israeli majority forge a more ethnic, spiritual, and tribal identity in harmony with the broader Middle Eastern milieu?
- “Tchiyat HaZeitim – Renewed Jewish Presence on the Mount of Olives in Historical and Spiritual Context” – Yishai lives on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem which is an area liberated in 1967. This area was not fully incorporated into the Jewish life of Jerusalem and it remained a dangerous place for Jews. The next stage in that liberation is taking place as Jewish communities are being formed in the Old City Basin region. The 40,000 tombs that were destroyed under Jordanian occupation are now being renovated. Yishai’s son was born on the Mount of Olives – perhaps part of the resurrection of the dead as this place that was lost to the Jewish people is being re-born.
- “Eastern Jerusalem Up Close: What is the Future for Arab & Jewish Neighborhoods?” – What does the term eastern Jerusalem actually refer to? Can Arabs and Jews live together or is the only solution to create physical barriers to segregate ethnicities? Join Yishai Fleisher for on-the- ground perspective and a frank discussion of the competeting dreams and realities, the occupations and the liberations, in the holy and historic city of Jerusalem.
- “The Aliyah Revolution is Gaining Momentum: After 18,000 Olim in 2012, What Is Ahead?” – The age-old vision of the ingathering of the Jewish people continues to shine but is confronted with divergent narratives calling Jews and Israelis to feel comfortable in many places around the globe. Yet, at the same time, problems of Jewish education and assimilation plague many Diaspora communities. The question arises: is Israel merely a safe haven for Jews on the run, or is it the central hub of Jewish life and culture broadcasting to the globe? Perhaps Israel is the homeland of a people who all yearn to have some ownership and sense of responsibilty for it. We explore the progress made in bringing Jews home and ask the question – what is Zionism today?
Yishai is a highly trained IDF soldier (he is active in the reserves and has trained on various high tech weapons) he also carries a weapon on a regular basis as a private citizen and can speak on this topic from the perspective of both Israeli and American law (he is a graduate of an American law school), as well as Israeli culture and day to day norms in regard to guns in society. Yishai’s presentation on this topic can be focused on any or all of the following sub-topics on this theme.
- “The Fight For Jewish Life in Jerusalem & the Role of Privately Held Firearms”
- “Armed in Service and Daily Family Life – An IDF Paratrooper’s Experience”
- “Defending the Holy Land – Israel and Gun Rights”
- “Turning the Other Cheek – What Life in Israel Would Be Like Without Armed Jews
NEW THEME #4… MOUNT OF OLIVES ANCIENT WISDOM: MODERN LESSONS
- “Creating Man in the Image of God” – The challenge of mankind is to rise to the mandate of living life in the image of God. All too often we bend that mandate to suit our whims. This is called making God in the image of man, that is, creating a god, or idol, who will serve to give expression and energy to man’s baser impulses. Join Yishai as he traces the roots of this concept from Creation, to the sin of Golden Calf, the translation of the Torah into Greek (the Septuagint), the advent of Christianity, and to the texts of the Ethics of our Fathers in search of the distinction between I and Thou, between serving the self and the service of God.
- “Life and Leadership: Practical Lessons from Biblical Personalities” – Leadership is learned by example and the Torah, a great leadership document, is replete with stories that shed light on the thinking and actions of Jewish leaders throughout generations. Leaders like Abraham, who knew how to balance kindness and hospitality to strangers with a strict sense of justice that led him to make a battle in the middle of night to rescue his captive nephew. Or Joseph, who had to overcome bitterness and solitude to rise and become the powerful viceroy of Egypt. And leaders like Joshua and Caleb, who struggled to stand up to the will of the people when the people chose the path of fear over the road of faith and courage. Join Yishai in an exploration of Biblical texts which will put you in the drivers seat of history’s greatest leadership challenges. The combination of the great story-line and the relevancy of these leadership examples today will be sure to leave a long-lasting impression.
- “Buy Us” vs. Bias – How To Sell a Different Perspective on Judea and Samaria
- “Fixed Record – Breaking Stereotypes Against Israel”
- “Does “Fighting for Israel” Sound Cool and Make Sense?”
- “Make Love Not War” – Alternative Pathways to Jewish Arab Communications
NEW THEME #6… GUIDED JEWISH MEDITATION (Excellent as part of a Shabbaton schedule but can be done any time) Yishai leads the group in a guided meditation. Suggested options listed below, please feel free to request other subjects.
- “Empowering the Soul” – an exercise in enjoying the effort needed to raise ourselves up to more refined, energized, and dynamic levels of spirituality.
- “Cleansing Corrosion” – emotions of fear, shame, anger, and frustration can be corrosive to spiritual life and health. This meditation is an exercise in cleansing and building alternative pathways to process these important and fundamental emotions.
- “Visualizing Solutions” – opening horizons when faced with impossible choices and a maze of blocked pathways.
- “Building Family and Community” – an exercise in standing in the shoes of another, developing healthy compassion, and pride in family and community while maintaining core identity.
FULL LIST OF ADDITIONAL TITLES
(We will consider additional topics, send your request)
1. The Modern Biblical Jew – Israelites with IPhones.
Is Israel the West or the Middle East? Is Israel religious or secular? Is there an identity crisis between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv? Can we use modernity to materialize our age-old dream? How should Israel promote itself in the age of modern communication? Does G-d use YouTube, will Moshiach use Twitter?
2. Is It Really Important For Israel To Exist?
Is Israel still important and is the Zionist Ideal still alive today? What is post- Zionism and is it a new phenomenon? Are we doomed to stay stuck in the modern media’s cycle of cynicism? Is there a second stage of Zionism which can get this great mission back on track? Can this Neo-Zionism give life to the age- old mission of the Jewish people to establish a state, make flourish a homeland, and shine a light unto the nations?
3. Israel – A Heart of Flesh in a World with a Heart of Stone
Israel is a miracle and is the most exciting project of the Jewish people in 2,000 years. Yet this young country is in ever present danger, from within and from without. How do we help Israel regain her self-confidence in a hostile world which seeks her destruction? How do we balance the modern needs of a democratic state with the vision of a Jewish Homeland powered by Jewish principles? How do we bring about a sense of unity in the Holy Land? What can we do to assure Israel’s success in this trying moment of need?
4. Patriotism or Pragmatism? How to Win Israel’s Next War of Independence
The war is coming, but it is a war from within just as much as a war from without. Self-perception defines Israel’s posture as she stands against a massive array of enemies who seek to destroy her body andher soul. Should Israel appease or stand tough, compromise or stand alone? What is the practical approach? Do realpolitik and pragmatism conflict with idealism, nationalism, and patriotism? Is the United States helping or hindering Israel’s survival? What is the future of Jerusalem, Bethel, Hebron and Tel Aviv?
5. How do we balance the modern needs of a democratic state with the vision of a Jewish Homeland powered by Jewish principles?
The State of Israel as a tool of fulfilling the 2,000 year dream of the Jewish people to come home. The State can do amazing things like provide defense, build roads, create electricity, and promote immigration. However, this does not mean that the State is perfect and merits worship. Though this is a G-dly enterprise, we must keep our feet on the ground, and steer this State to its proper course. State worship is fascism, while arguing with the State is a healthy democratic impulse. Can this thinking can shed light on today’s issues in the news: the settlement enterprise and the proposed formation of a Palestinian state.
6. Biblical Ideology: Is the Biblical dream alive in the era of cynicism?
The enemies of Israel have figured out that poisoning the Israeli spirit is the key to destroying it. How are they managing to do it? How are Helen Thomas and Ahmadinajad alike and what is their philosophy? How do we fight back? Is there a Jewish identity that can combat the forces that are trying to erase Jewish history?
7. Has the Land of Israel become an idolatry to some religious Jews?
Why do some observant Jews make such a big deal out of it, while others do not? How can non-observant Jews relate to this concept? How do the enemies of Israel see this issue? What is the role of Jewish history in regard to the land and its relationship to the Jewish people?
8. Ruach Acheret! Secrets of Tisha B’Av and the Sin of the Spys
How is Calev the role model for breaking out of slave-mentality? What do the forefathers of Judaism expect from their children? Who is Hur and what is his role? Why is Rachel still crying? How do we rectify the Sin of the Spies today?
9. Amalek is Alive and Well! Are the Jews up for the challenge?
What are Amalek’s characteristics? How do they see the Jewish people? How does Amalak use PR? Bilam & Hadrian, Palestine & the BBC – how are they connected?
TOPICS BASED ON SPECIFIC TORAH SECTIONS – CAN BE USED ANY TIME
“Biblical Law Meets A Modern Jewish State”
How should the modern state of Israel deal with its competitors and enemies? How do we follow the law even when it does not seemingly comport with modern sensibilities? What is G-d’s vision for Israel? Is it a halachic state, or is it the State of the Mikdash? Can we make this vision a reality today? Can Israel be more than just a place of refuge for the Jewish people and grow to be the home of national revival and a light of the nations? If you want to throw off the earing of slavery this lecture is for you! (This talk is based on concepts in the Mishpatim Torah section, can be given any time)
“A Menorah of Fire”
Moses could not understand the instructions on how to build the Menorah so G-d had to show him a picture. But instead of showing him a regular picture of the Menorah, He showed him a Menorah of fire. What do we learn from this startling image and how can it help understand Jewish history, destiny, and even pedagogy? Can we harness the power of the fiery Menorah in our battle to make the State of Israel a state of the true Israel? Can we find unity in this time of divisiveness? Can we ignite the imagination of the next generation as they struggle to find a new vision of Israel which makes sense to them. Join Yishai Fleisher for this timely and inspirational talk. (This talk is based on concepts in the Terumah, Tetzaveh and Vayakhel Torah sections, can be given any time)
“Instant Gratification and the Struggle for the Real Israel”
The Jewish people chose instant gratification when they made a Golden Calf at the foot of Mount Sinai. Today too we are at the threshold of a great moment, will Israelis and Jews worldwide fall into the pit of instant gratification when it comes to policy and decision making under pressure? Can Israel free itself from the shackles of outside influence? What is the demonstrated will of the Israeli people in charting the policy course forward? Can Israel’s elected government make the mature decisions needed in the national interest that will help take the fledgling state to a stable and flourishing future? An open-minded discussion from alternative viewpoints about the path of Israel, its challenges, and its hope. (This talk is based on concepts in the Ki Tisa Torah section, can be given any time)
“Bringing it to Fruition”
The tools are assembled, the workers are in position, and the game is on. Just as Moses has the Tabernacle ready for construction, the stage has been set for the national revival of the Jewish people. It has been a hard road but our chance has arrived. Yet, we are in danger of missing this opportunity. Our young people have been demotivated, our good name has been smeared, our motivation and idealogy have wained. Can we fight back our enemies who fill our heart with division? Can we help Israel transition to the next stage of her development? Join Yishai Fleisher to discuss the crisis and the opportunity of our time. Find out who benefits from our weakness, and how we can regain our strength. (This talk is based on concepts in the Pekudei Torah section, can be given any time)
1. Yishai Fleisher will introduce the topic (see choices below – additional topics are possible).
2. Everyone will get the reading for the workshop in advance.
3. At the beginning of the workshop Yishai will introduce the concept, participants will have time to discuss with a small group.
4. Yishai moderates a discussion by the whole group together and summarizes.
5. Reception with refreshments to allow the group to mingle and continue to informally discuss and cement the concepts from the workshop.
The introduction and summary of the workshop will specifically emphasize the importance of having positive experiences together as a Jewish community even when we do not agree with each other about policy in every aspect. The goal is to build trust and respect. So the workshop is an exercise in exploring our differences of opinion in a safe and intellectually stimulating environment, followed by a celebration with food and blessings and expression of love among Jews from all backgrounds and friends from all the nations. Informal discussion provides time and open environment for participants to explore new ideas and share their reactions to the workshop and develop a sense of community surrounding the dialogue.
Workshop Topic Options
(Please note: we can develop a special topic of your choice for your workshop)
Workshop Option #1: How do we bring a lasting peace in the Middle East? Is there only one solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict? Are we locked into thinking that has been cooked up and chewed up by others who have a track record of failure? What is America’s role in the Middle East? What is the role of American Jews? Do Jews belong in the Middle East? Are we Middle East people in the first place? Do we have indigenous rights? Is justice on our side? Is any reconciliation possible? Is there a better future for us or are we doomed to be in a state of war forever?
Workshop Option #2: Bikini Brand or Holy Land?
How do we promote Israel? Is Israel a hot nightlife capital for young tourists or is it a rich cultural and historic destination for people seeking authenticity? Does how we market Israel say something about how we perceive ourselves? What is a winning strategy for Israel’s brand? Are we West or East, modern or ancient?
Workshop Option #3: New Zealand’s Jews Moving to Greener Pastures?
How should New Zealand’s Jews respond to their country banning kosher meat production? Should they fight for their civil rights? What if they lose? Does it matter?