News2Use: Bibi, Eurovision, Rabbis, Kings Reply

by Adrian A. Durlester

When Will Israel Have A New Government? Just ten days after the elections which gave Tzipi Livni and the Kadima party 28 Knesset seats and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party 27 Knesset seats, Israeli President Shimon Peres broke with tradition and asked Netanyahu to form a government. Historically, the leader of the party with the most seats was asked to form the new government. However, after Prime Mister Olmert announced his intention to resign, Livni was unable to form a new government coalition, thus leading to the elections this February. Now, Netanyahu’s attempts to forge a broad coalition including the centrist Kadima and left-wing Labor parties have failed. Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said that coalition talks are continuing and that discussing negotiations in public weaken the party’s standing. However, there is now widespread speculation that Netanyahu will announce the formation of a very narrow right-wing government next week. Some in Israel are very concerned about a right-wing government. The parents of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit are hoping that the outgoing Olmert government can secure his release before their time in office is up, and are fearful that a right-wing government will have a more difficult time negotiating for Gilad’s release. Lots of resources on this story on the web, most notably at www.jta.org, www.ynetnews.com, www.haaretz.com, www.jpost.com.

Controversial Arab-Jewish Duo to Sing for Peace at Eurovision – The Israeli public, at least those that were tuned in on Monday, March 2, picked the peace song “Your Eyes” to be sung by the Jewish-Arab duo selected to represent Israel in the Eurovision 2009 song contest in Moscow. Announced just one day after the Israeli incursion into Gaza started last December, the selection of the duo of Israeli artist Noa (Achinoam Nini) and Arab-Israeli artist Mira Awad (the first Arab-Israeli to be selected to represent Israel at the prestigious Eurovision contest) has stirred controversy and criticism from both Arab and Israeli quarters. That criticism has only increased with the selection of the peace song chosen on Monday by fellow Israelis. A group of Arab artists, some Israeli, some Palestinian, sent Awad an open letter calling on her to withdraw from the performance. Israelis have criticized Noa for her openly leftist views. Others claim the duo is watering down the realities and inappropriately trying to present a warm and fuzzy, feel good picture. However, the two artists, friends on and off stage, are determined. Awad says she wants people to realize that Jews and Arabs must find a way to live together. Nini said it was a chance to send a message of peace to the millions who would be watching the duo on stage. The chance to get viewers thinking is enhanced by the fact that, to many, Awad looks Jewish and Noa looks Arab. Israel has an interesting history, especially recently, of sending a very mixed variety of performers and songs to Eurovision. One might even examine Israeli politics through the lens of their Eurovision selections.
Official Israeli Eurovision Site: http://www.iba.org.il/eurovil/
Official History of Israeli Entries: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/by-country/country?country=18
An interesting Jewcy blog commentary: http://tinyurl.com/cat3tv

Conservative Rabbis and Leaders to USCJ: Don’t Leave Us Out! – The Conservative movement, once the largest in the U.S., but now eclipsed by Reform Judaism, has been grappling with its future for a number of years. A confluence of changes in leadership has sparked new hope among the movements adherents for future possibilities. JTS has a new chancellor in Arnold Eisen, who is already bringing change and a fresh breeze to the Conservative seminary. Rabbi Julie Schonfeld will become the head of the Rabbinical Assembly this summer. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) will be selecting a replacement for long-time Executive Vice-President Jerome Epstein. About 50 rabbis, cantors, and synagogue leaders are concerned that USCJ has kept their selection process entirely internal, without consulting with rabbis and other leaders. They formed a group Hayom: Coalition for the Transformation of Conservative Judaism, and wrote a joint letter to USCJ expressing their concerns. While JTS invited representatives of the movement’s other organizations to sit on the search committee that tapped Eisen, the United Synagogue kept the process closed-the search committee did not even include a pulpit rabbi. Ray Goldtsein, President of USCJ has now agreed to meet with the representatives of Hayom which includes clergy from some very large and successful congregations. He has conceded that keeping the process closed may have been an error, but said he had sought informal input from the movement’s other arms, including from Eisen. Complete article: http://tinyurl.com/dyayqv

The Tanakh Goes Sci-Fi?: A new tv show premieres this Sunday on NBC. Called “Kings,” the show is the brainchild of Michael Green, one of the writer/producers for “Heroes,” who models the new show’s characters on the biblical David, Saul, Goliath, et al. The show has some very overt religious and political symbolism. The show has had a lot of hype and expectation. Just try Googling it. Will it live up to the hype? Can the biblical stories survive such an updating? Watch a few episodes and send us your opinions. http://www.nbc.com/Kings/

Other Articles of Interest for Use in Your Classes:

Some thought-provoking comments about Purim and Anti-Semitism from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: http://tinyurl.com/d7reto

Jews and Food – Nothing New, Right? Wrong – Try “The Jew and the Carrot” site for a refreshing look at “Jews, food, and contemporary issues.” http://jcarrot.org

Secular Israelis forge new ways to connect with Judaism: http://tinyurl.com/bhgkw2

News2Use is a new feature written by Adrian A. Durlester. To comment or respond, send an email to Adrian at tapbb@yoeitzdrian.com or to the TAPBB at tapbb@torahaura.com.

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