Friday, September 28, 2007

The following is written by a Jew, about Judaism. I can only write about that with which I am intimately familiar and can only bear witness for my personal experiences.

It was written primarily for those Jews who have lost the ability to discern between the wheat and the chaff, a phenomenon so very common today. But as it relates to some of the things that have been written on this list, I thought I'd post it here too.

What is written here may or may not hold true for the laws and customs of other religions. It is not my place to say. That is for the practitioners of those religions to decide.

The God of Israel as Engineer and Architect of Morality

My studies of Anarchy have recently brought me to consider mechanical and civil engineering and architecture insofar as they impact on societal structure. Those are subjects I never thought I'd really concern myself with (what I won't do for The Cause :0). It transpires that I have learned a very valuable lesson from those forays into formerly wholly foreign territory.

Over the years, an on-line epistolary pal has chided my tendency to see meta-messages everywhere and make the simplest, most straightforward matters into metaphors, moral metaphors at that. "Sometimes a fish is just a fish, Doreen", he has told me any number of times. Well, yeah, but sometimes a fish introduces us to an ocean of understanding.

For many years I have been concerned with how it is that Jews are able to learn very profound and subtle moral messages from commandments and narratives from Torah which, on the surface, are anything but moral or subtle. There is no logical bridge between what is said and what many of us are able to understand from the lessons. Often, they seem diametrically opposed.

Outsiders have an even harder time understanding this phenomenon and assume that we live according to what appears to them to be barbarous rules. We don't. We see something beyond the words, intuit something, something that it not immediately apparent. To be more precise, some of us do. Many, too many, of us never get beyond the surface.

In considering engineering and architecture as social phenomena and shapers of social structures, I saw plans on drawing boards in my mind.

I realized that Jewish Law can be likened to a grand plan on a drawing board. It is the outline. It is NOT the structure itself.

Just as the plans of the engineer or the architect must be made actual, must be fleshed out with actual material and are not fulfilled until they serve human needs, so Halakhah (Jewish Law) must be made actual in the form of livable and humanistic societies, livable dwellings, humanistic workplaces, safe day care centers, methods of supplying food to all, education to all, healthcare to all…justice for all.

Jewish Law is only the plan, it is NOT the actualization. The mere performance of the ceremony is not the fulfillment of the plan.

Those who live according to Halakhah and do not flesh it out with real social structures are people who confuse the plan with the structure. Can we live in the drawing of a building? NO! We must build the building itself.

It was no less a figure than Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi (the initiator of the redaction of the Talmud), who said: "It is good [to combine] the study of Torah with an occupation, for the effort required by them both keeps sin out of mind, while all Torah study not combined with work will in the end cease and leads to sin. All who occupy themselves with the affairs of the community shall be engaged with them for the sake of Heaven, for the merit of their fathers assists them and their righteousness endures forever. And upon you [says God] I will bestow great reward as though you had accomplished it all by yourselves." (my italics) PIRKEI AVOT (ETHICS OF THE FATHERS), Chapter II, 2.

Those who do not build society based on their Torah learning feel that something is somehow missing. They fill the void they feel inside themselves with excrescent minhagim (assumed customs) and chumrot (assumed stringencies), which, because they serve no purpose and actually impede social change, are nothing but emunot t'faylot (superstitions).

What then is the Halakhah if not the actual behaviors we are intended to perform? Is it mere symbol? NO!

Halakhah is that which arouses, activates, educates and hones the moral sense within us.

Morality is something beyond logic, beyond reason. As David Hume aptly observed, reason cannot tell us why we should prefer the destruction of the entire world to our own finger being scratched. Morality exists on a level that is not rational. That is not to say that it is irrational. It is to say that it is non-rational. It is super-rational. That is the reason that the narratives and mitzvoth are often so very strange to the mind. They are communicating messages to us that go past the level of the conscious mind. They speak another language.

The Torah with its strange-sounding commandments and narratives speaks to us on a level that is beyond reason. It activates the ability to be able to perceive that which is moral, to yearn for that which is moral to recognize that which is moral. It inoculates us against the confusion of moral relativism and prevents us from becoming entangled in that endless morass.

Learning Torah correctly, we become imbued with morality. It becomes an indelible and inherent part of our psyche, our very bodies. We are thoroughly infused with morality until we react to it reflexively. We cannot but react to it. We desire it above all other desire. When we are moved to tears of love and joy at the sight of loving-kindness and moved to tears of outrage and repulsion at the sight of cruelty, when the desire for the Good is above our every other desire, we can be sure that we have been fully inculcated with the Halakhah, and not before that. No matter how "observant" we may be, if we can conscience injustice if we can rest when another suffers, we are not imbued with Torah.

Once we have reached this level we need not be concerned with the minutiae of the religion on an everyday basis. We are living embodiments of Torah. "Those who are busy with a mitzvah (commandment, good deed) need not be disturbed to do a mitzvah."

But neither can we jettison the religion entirely. This is true for two reasons:

1) We do not evolve morally on all of our levels uniformly. Some aspects of our characters are extremely developed, while others lag behind.

2) We must be aware of the Law and not forget it so that we may teach it to the next generation, who will need to learn it before they will be fit to set off on a life devoted to human welfare and justice.

Just as it is true that we cannot live the plan alone, we must flesh it out, make it actual in the form of social systems and structures, so it is true that without the plan we do not know what to build.

If we attempt to build a bridge or a highway without a plan and without knowing the materials we set out to build with, disaster will occur. So it is if we set about attempting to be moral without having our moral sense aroused and developed by Halakhah.

We must learn and do Halakhah for the sake of what is called in German and in Yiddish das Menschenleben, never are we to sacrifice human living, human welfare, justice for actual human beings for the sake of customs, practices or Laws. The latter serve the former, prepare us to undertake the former, bolster our strength and resolve and give us courage to endeavor to better the world. They are means to that purpose, not ends in and of themselves.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


"The so-called "division of labour" has grown under a system which condemned the masses to toil all the day long, and all the life long, at the same wearisome kind of labour. But if we take into account how few are the real producers of wealth in our present society, and how squandered is their labour we must recognise that Franklin*
was right in saying that to work five hours a day would generally do for supplying each member of a civilised nation with the comfort now accessible for the few only.
But we have made some progress since Franklin's time, and some of that progress in the hitherto most backward branch of production--agriculture --has been indicated in the preceding pages. Even in that branch the productivity of labour can be immensely increased, and work itself rendered easy and pleasant. If everyone took his share of production, and if production were socialised--as political economy, if it aimed at the satisfaction of the ever-growing needs of all, would advise us to do--then more than one half of the working day would remain to everyone for the pursuit of art, science, or any hobby he or she might prefer; and his work in those fields would be the more profitable if he spent the other half of the day in productive work--if art and science were followed from mere inclination, not for mercantile purposes. Moreover, a community organised on the principles of all being workers would be rich enough to conclude that every man and woman, after having; reached a certain age--say of forty or more--ought to be relieved from the moral obligation of taking a direct part in the performance of the necessary manual work, so as to be able entirely to devote himself or herself to whatever he or she chooses in the domain of art, or science, or any kind of work. Free pursuit in new branches of art and knowledge, free creation, and free development thus might be fully guaranteed.. And such a community would not know misery amidst wealth. It would not know the duality of conscience which permeates out life and stifles every noble effort. It would freely take its flight towards the highest regions of progress compatible with human nature."
Chapter VIII, F F & W, Kropotkin

"In the domain of agriculture it may be taken as proved that if a small part only of the time that is now- given in each nation or region to field culture was given to well thought out and socially carried out permanent improvements of the soil, the duration of work which would be required afterwards to grow the yearly bread-food for an average family of five would be less than a fortnight every year; and that the work required for that purpose would not be the hard toil of the ancient slave, but work which would be agreeable to the physical forces of every healthy man and woman in the country.
It has been proved that by following the methods of intensive market- gardening-partly under glass-vegetables and fruit can be grown in such quantities that men could be provided with a, rich vegetable food and a profusion of fruit, if they simply devoted to the task of growing them the hours which everyone willingly devotes to work in the open air, after having spent most of his day in the factory, the mine, or the study. Provided, of course, that the production of food-stuffs should not be the work of the isolated individual, but the planned-out and combined action of human groups.
It has also been proved-and those who care to verify it by themselves may easily do so by calculating the real expenditure for labour which was lately made in the building of workmen's houses by both private persons and municipalities
1 -that under a proper combination of labour, twenty to twenty-four months of one man's work would be sufficient to secure for ever, for a family of five, an apartment or a house provided with all the comforts which modern hygiene and taste could require.
And now, in the presence of all these conquests -what is the reality of things?
In industrially developed countries, a couple of months' work, or even much less than that, would be sufficient to produce for a family a rich and varied vegetable and animal food.
One month of work every year would be quite sufficient to provide the worker with a healthy dwelling." –
Chapter IX, F F & W

"For centuries science and so-called practical wisdom have said to man: "It is good to be rich, to be able to satisfy, at least, your material needs; but the only means to be rich is to so train your mind and capacities as to be able to compel other men-slaves, serfs or wage-earners -to make these riches for you. You have no choice. Either you must stand in the ranks of the peasants and the artisans who, whatsoever economists and moralists may promise them in the future, are now periodically doomed to starve after each bad crop or during their strikes and to be shot down by their own sons the moment they lose patience. Or you must: train your faculties so as to be a military commander of the masses, or to be accepted as one of the wheels of the governing machinery of the State or to become a manager of men in commerce or industry." For many centuries there was no other choice, and men followed that advice, without finding in it happiness, either for themselves and their own children, or for those whom they pretended to preserve from worse misfortunes.
But modern knowledge has another issue to offer to thinking men. It tells them that in order to be rich they need not take the bread from the mouths of others; but that the more rational outcome would be a society in which men, with the work of their own hands and intelligence, and by the aid of the machinery already invented and to be invented, should themselves create all imaginable riches. Technics and science will not be lagging behind if production takes such a direction. Guided by observation, analysis and experiment, they will answer all possible demands. They will reduce the time which is necessary for producing wealth to any desired amount, so as to leave to everyone as much leisure as he or she may ask for. They surely cannot guarantee happiness, because happiness depends as much, or even more, upon the individual himself as upon his surroundings. But they guarantee, at least, the happiness that can be found in the full and varied exercise of the different capacities of the human being, in work that need not be overwork, and in the consciousness that one is not endeavouring to base his own happiness upon the misery of others.
These are the horizons which the above inquiry opens to the unprejudiced mind."
End of Chapter IX, F F & W

"Overwork is repulsive to human nature--not work. Overwork for supplying the few with luxury--not work for the well-being of all. Work is a physiological necessity, a necessity of spending accumulated bodily energy, a necessity which is health and life itself. If so many branches of useful work are so reluctantly done now, it is merely because they mean overwork, or they are improperly organised. But we know--old Franklin knew it--that four hours of useful work every day would be more than sufficient for supplying everybody with the comfort of a moderately well-to-do middle-class house, if we all gave ourselves to productive work, and if we did not waste our productive powers as we do waste them now." - Peter Kropotkin, ANARCHIST COMMUNISM: Its Basis and Principles, 1887

*Benjamin Franklin (
January 17 [O.S. January 6] 1706April 17, 1790). That's right, sometime in the 18th C. Franklin uttered these words concerning the really necessary work hours per day (4-5), decades before the Anarchist economic researchers and Marx arrived at the same conclusion.

Kropotkin treats the matter of how many hours of work are required of whom and under what conditions in depth in

CAPITAL by Karl Marx, Volume One, Part III, The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value, CHAPTER SEVEN, SECTION 2, THE PRODUCTION OF SURPLUS-VALUE, (See:

Albert Parsons: "With regard to the feasibility of this (eight-hour) law, Congress has the power, under the Constitution, to pass it. We ask it; we demand it, and we intend to have it. If the present Congress will not give it to us we will send men to Congress who will give it to us.... The eight-hour league, and the trades unions, and the other organizations of the country that are making this demand do not propose thereby to paralyze industry. They do not propose to bring an industrial collision or a state of anarchy, or to precipitate revolution or a state of anarchy, or to precipitate revolution in this country. We are peaceable citizens, husbands, fathers. We are citizens of the State and law-abiding men.... The working classes simply seek to improve their condition. This is a natural feeling, and I cannot say that there is anything unnecessarily seditious or criminal in such a desire. We simply want less work and more pay, knowing that only through short hours and high wages can our condition be improved. We know this, and hence we struggle for it. We wish to get at it by degrees.. . . The first thing that we demand is a measure that will diminish the immediate power of wealth, and will remove the worst forms of poverty. The immediate power of wealth consists in this power to enforce men to submit to the terms dictated by wealth, out of which men will perform a day's labor. That is the immediate power of wealth. This is an evil which should be removed, and we want to remove the worst disability of poverty by reducing the hours of labor; by the distributing of work that is to be done more equally among the workingmen... By making labor scarce we will increase its value. Under our system of labor there is no such thing as freedom of contract."

Parsons wrote that if the eight-hour day were won then the employing class will have to pay us as much for eight hours' work as they do now for ten. Employers will put labor-saving machinery to work instead of the high-priced laborers. The laborers will then for the same reason that they reduced the hours to eight, have to reduce them to six hours per day. A voluntary reduction of the work hours is a peaceful solution to the labor problem.... Wages in this way will increase until they represent the earnings, instead of, as now, the necessities, of the wage-laborer. This would result in a system of universal cooperation and distribution.

See: Johann Most's speech: " THE BEAST OF PROPERTY", c. 1884, which can be found on the following URL:

"Under socialism…With the idle rich and the idle poor working and the work day four hours long their bodies will grow strong again and their minds sane.""Brutal Treatment of the Unemployed in Sacramento Star" – Helen Keller, March 16, 1914

"It can be statistically proven that three hours' work a day, at most, is sufficient to feed, shelter, and clothe the world and supply it not only with necessities but also with all modern comforts of life." – Alexander Berkman, Now and After: THE ABC OF COMMUNIST ANARCHISM, Chapter 22, New York: Vanguard Press, 1929.


"The living man can, in truth, not only work to live but he wants to feel his life in work, and during work to rejoice I his work. He needs not only recreation, rest and joy in the evening, he needs, above all, pleasure in his activity itself, strong presence of his soul in the functions of his body. Our age has made sort, the unproductive, playful activity of muscles and nerves into a sort of work or profession. In real culture work itself again becomes a playful unwinding of all our energies." -
FOR SOCIALISM, Gustav Landauer, pg. 95

"No one wants to spend their whole life in the factory or workshop, but everyone needs nails, transportation, or rope at some time, It would only be fair that all people spend a few hours every week helping to provide these useful products in co-operation with their fellows. Machines do help us make these things more easily; people only become slaves to their machines because they are slaves to their bosses and to a wasteful, growth-oriented economy. If there were no useless bosses who collect the profits but do no work at the machines they own or oversee, and if production did not always have to be increased to fuel an ever-expanding, growth-oriented consumerism, then it is doubtful that any of us would have to work more than a few hours per week. Those who are by temperament "workaholics" could spend their time improving upon, and experimenting with, products or projects of their choice."
- "ANARCHO-SYNDICALSIM, TECHNOLOGY and ECOLOGY" by Graham Purchase, writing in 1995.

The Catholic Worker Movement: Societal structures need to be built so that it will be "easy to be good." Advocates the four-hour work day in order that workers become scholars and Scholars workers. (See: ).

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Isn't she just loverly?
Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


There are those who would "comfort" us with "teachings" such as these:

"The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness." - William Saroyan

and worse still:

"And this is the noble truth of the arising of sorrow. It arises from craving...
And this is the noble truth of the stopping of sorrow. It is the complete stopping of that craving...being emancipated from it." - The Pali Canon

While there is certainly much wisdom in being emancipated from the craving for incidentals and luxuries, one can hardly be expected to be "emancipated" for the craving for bread or love.

The resignation with which we have been taught to regard our being damned to living lives and then going silently to our graves without ever knowing the love we need is beyond perversion, beyond cruelty, on the part of those in whose diseased minds and twisted hearts the concept of resignation arose and those who perpetuate the lie.

Never can the need for love be surrendered and there can be no emancipation from it any more than we can be emancipated from out need for physical sustenance.

And it is you men who must be the first to demand and reclaim those most basic rights. Women of their nature never can become very alienated from the need for love. We transvalue it into depression, we sublimate it into saint-like dutifulness, but the feeling is never very far from conscious awareness and we can, and do, access it.

It is primarily the men who have been emasculated of their love. The fight, then, must be primarily yours.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Monday, September 10, 2007


Foxy Anya is a (very) beautiful (very) L-O-N-G-haired woman.

I just L-O-V-E very L-O-N-G hair.

Yup. Ah sho' 'nuff does.

I've always liked extremes of all sorts and this has always been one of the extremes I've loved best ever since I was a child when I saw a photo of the daughter of a friend of my Mother's wearing nothing but her knee-length, straight, silky
light auburn hair.

I bet I'm not alone out there. So, if you, like me, have a "thing" for long hair; you, like me, will love these sites.

If any of you are under the age of 18, you may *not* view these sites.

The slightly chubby chick with the l-o-n-g red curls and alabaster skin on the first site is about my idea of physically perfect:

Long Hair Babes:

Long Hair Divas:

Foxy Anya:

While we're in the swing of things, I haven't forgotten you guys who have posted about the loveliness of younger women.

You're right about that.

I always had a kink for older men.

So, guys, for you this site is about the old guys getting the young chicks. For me, it's about the young chicks getting the old guys:

He's ~3X. She's only ~X:

So, now you know where I hang out on line when I'm not either carrying the message of Anarchy to the world or with ya'll.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." Abraham Lincoln's First Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861.

My, my how things have changed in the US. Can you so much as imagine a President saying any such thing today? In an *address to Congress*?

Here are some more quotes from Lincoln. Bush would not know how to spell, or probably the definition, of many of those noble words:

Now add this quote, from earlier the same year, to the quote below about Labor vis-à-vis Capital:

"I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence."
Abraham LincolnSource: February 22, 1861 - Address in Independence Hall

and while you're at it, consider this one:

"That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any denomination of Christians in particular."
Abraham LincolnSource: July 31, 1846 - Handbill Replying to Charges of Infidelity


The thinking of the greatest Presidents and statesmen of the United States, those people whose humanistic and enlightened vision it was that served as the wellspring and foundation of the desire for freedom from Britain, the Declaration of Independence and creation of the Nation and those who followed in their Spirit, before she was derailed, was far more in line with that of the Left Socialists than with the Capitalist and Rightists.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mom, do you think any of our relatives could have been Nazis?"

The other day my son turned to me and said: "Mom, do you think any of our relatives could have been Nazis?"

I looked at him amazed and said: You know that your Great-Grandfather fought alongside his Jewish wife, your Great-Grandmother, and with two of their sons in the underground against the Nazis. You know that they were all captured and died terrible deaths. How can you ask a question like that?!

He calmly answered: "Ema (Mother), I also know that we don't know very little about the Aba's (Daddy's) family. We know he was an author of some renown who wrote under a pseudonym, but we don't know the pseudonym. We don't know about the rest of his family or what they might have been or done."

Stunned, I was amazed that so simple a thought had never crossed my mind and realized that it did not because in my mind there was a permanent separation between us and them. I simply could not think that thought.

I recalled a man I've argued with any number of times on line whose parents were government clerks in Germany during the war and whose uncles were in the SS and still have business dealings with the Mengele family. I recalled how that always made my skin crawl. He, in my mind, was one of them, but I am smugly comfortable being one of us.

I admit that I always wondered if the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Nazis have some sort of taint, some dark shadow in them that they keep at bay. I wondered if that might be aroused and brought to the fore and, if so, if some terrible gene specific to them would induce them to repeat the unthinkable deeds of their recent forebears.

And there was my son who when serving in the army said to me: "Mom, I really don't think I could kill anyone" asking me if one of his relatives, and closer still one of my gentle husband's relatives, might have been a Nazi.

I thought about my daughter and about my grandson that perfect baby whose absolute pristine purity and innocence brought me to tears the first time I saw him.

When Dan came home I related the conversation to him. He didn't bat an eyelash. I said to him: "Don't you understand? You might have the blood of Nazis in you. What do you think of that?"

"So what?", he answered levelly. That is not who I am. There is no such thing as Nazi blood. There is no Nazi gene. I am who I am, not whatever my forebears were."

Somehow, his words did not convince me. Yet, he is the gentlest and most Human being I have ever known and would remain so if it transpired that he does share blood and genes with some unimaginable monster. He would still remain the father of my children and my best friend and revered Teacher of Torah and Hebrew.

What a rearrangement of thought one must undergo when them might be us.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." Abraham Lincoln's First Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861.

My, my how things have changed in the US. Can you so much as imagine a President saying any such thing today? In an *address to Congress*?

Here are some more quotes from Lincoln. Bush would not know how to spell, or probably the definition, of many of those noble words:

Now add this quote, from earlier the same year, to the quote below about Labor vis-a-vis Capital:

"I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence." Abraham LincolnSource: February 22, 1861 - Address in Independence Hall

and while you're at it, consider this one:

"That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any denomination of Christians in particular."
Abraham LincolnSource: July 31, 1846 - Handbill Replying to Charges of Infidelity


The thinking of the greatest Presidents and statesmen of the United States, those people whose humanistic and enlightened vision it was that served as the wellspring and foundation of the desire for freedom from Britain, the Declaration of Independence and creation of the Nation and those who followed in their Spirit, before she was derailed, was far more in line with that of the Left Socialists than with the Capitalist and Rightists.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Photos of Kibbutzim (and of Towns) – Israeli Ministry of Tourism Site

I found a new site administered (amateurishly as per usual for an Israeli gov't ministry) by the Ministry of Tourism.

There are some pretty good pictures of kibbutzim on the site that show various aspects of life there. The kibbutzim shown are found from the north to the south (starting with the south) of the country and represent kibbutzim of various sizes, ages and types of agriculture, horticulture and industry.

Just go to Kibbutz on the first drop down menu (Location) and do not specify anything for the groupings. Thus, you will get all of the photos of kibbutz. Unfortunately, some of them should have been rotated.

The pictures of the celebration of "Pentecost" (Shavu'ot) are particularly interesting. Shavu'ot is the holiday of the bringing of the first fruits of harvest to the Temple. On kibbutz the members celebrate the holiday in their own special way. Except on the very few religious kibbutzim it is celebrated as a secular holiday, emphasizing the agricultural aspects. The kibbutz members throw in their own experience. Tractors, as pictured, have nothing whatsoever to do with the holiday. They are brought into the celebrations on secular kibbutzim because they are so much part and parcel of kibbutz everyday life.

The housing shown in the photo picturing the guest houses on kibbutz were once very typical. Today, much richer, the kibbutz tends to build detached villa-like houses. The types of houses seen in the photos are reserved for guest houses; young, single members; soldiers who call the kibbutz home base during their service for one reason or another; people learning Hebrew in the kibbutz ulpan program and volunteers.

The typical kibbutz is verdant, as you will see and very well kept. Kibbutz members are most meticulous about keeping the kibbutz aesthetically pleasing and very well gardened.

Of course, there are photos from the towns and cities and many walks of life on the site as well that are interesting viewing, but my heart will always remain with what I consider to be the crowning Israeli social achievement - Kibbutz and so I take this opportunity to share a very brief glimpse of a way of life so little understood or appreciated.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Israeli Gov't Officials: Islamic Jihad to Bear Brunt of IDF Response to Kassams

"Islamic Jihad will likely bear the brunt of Israel's military response to the Kassam rockets that hit the western Negev on the second day of the school year, including one that slammed into a day care center's courtyard, government officials said Monday night. Islamic Jihad was responsible for all nine of the Kassam attacks, the officials said. The rockets were timed to hit when parents were taking their children to school, defense officials said...."


Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that both the Jews and the Palestinians are being set up to for "culling" a few at a time here, a few at a time there, and are not being allowed to engage in any serious kind of deliberations or implement real plans for the benefit of all that will stop this madness, so that someone can make A LOT of money in the arms business?

Unfortunately, both sides are so filled with hate, hubris and absolute certainty in their own absolute righteousness and superiority that they can't see. They can't see that both Peoples are being set up and that this is the "legacy" that the British left before they folded up the Mandate.

Instead of being stupid and letting those who are setting our teeth against one another to play us for fools at the expense of our lives, we should be joining forces to get the Western dirty business interests out of this area.

Ego always makes for easy victimization.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Sunday, September 02, 2007


It is common nowadays to speak of religion and rationality as though they are mutually exclusive, as though never the twain will, or can, meet.

This premise should not be accepted as a foregone conclusion. It needs to be carefully examined. Upon doing so, we will see that it is in gross error.

The basic premises of religionists and atheists, the latter of whom claim that they are rationalists and hold sole claim to rationality, are equally non-rational. To say that we can reasonably posit the existence of a Being that is Ineffable, wholly non-corporeal, without qualities of any kind and so vastly beyond our comprehension that we cannot begin to fathom It, is a wholly irrational position. Such a position may be taken on an experiential claim, on the basis of hope that such a Being exists or on blind faith, but it is not a rational statement.

The position of the atheists is equally irrational. To say that we can, with any degree of certainty whatsoever, posit that there does not exist a Being that is Ineffable, wholly-incorporeal, without any qualities of any kind and so vastly beyond our comprehension that we cannot begin to fathom It, is a wholly irrational position as well. The only difference between this position and the former is that this position is one that smacks of hubris.

Having demonstrated that the starting points of both the religionists and the atheists are equally without rational basis, we can proceed to examining whether or not rationality can play any part in a religious take on the world.

The afflatus of this treatment of the subject is a new restaurant, the owner and founder of which, Ya'akov Avni (brother of the actor Aki Avni) insists that it not be called a soup kitchen, which opened in the most disadvantaged area of the city of Tzfat, the notorious South (where the author of this essay chooses to make her home).

The restaurant provides full-course meals to come whoever may, no questions asked, for the price of two NIS (about 47 cents American). Great pains have been, and are, taken to provide not only nutritious meals, but to having created a pleasant ambiance in the restaurant, having the meals served by a staff of dedicated volunteers with respect and a smile and giving those who patronize the restaurant the feeling that they are coming to dine (thus the nominal charge) and not having favors dished out to them by a charity.

One can find equally rational and pseudo-scientific reasons for feeding the poor, making them feel wanted and cared for and not. So, it is not therein that the rationality resides.

Having made the leap of faith and deciding to feed the poor and give them a feeling of honor and dignity, the rationality comes in in the planning and implementation of the programme.

It takes a great deal of rational, systematic and methodical thinking to plan such a project, implement it and keep it going.

One has, first and foremost, to rationally and correctly assess the socio-economic situation in which people are found. One must then determine correctly and rationally the needs of real people in real situations. Next, one has to rationally and correctly assess one's own abilities to help them. One has to be able to formulate a plan or programme of assistance in one's mind. Having done so, one has then to arrange for subsidization of the food costs and costs of operation. One has to systematically go about finding an umbrella organization that will assist the program if need be and find donors. One has to go about finding suppliers of the food, buying the necessary equipment, furnishings, arranging the permits from the city, paying the bills, finding the fitting staff for the operation and do on.

Rationality comes into religion in the application of its principles.

Rationality can not be said to be the basis either for a religious position or lack of it, as we demonstrated at the outset of the essay. It must reside in how we carry out the articles of our faith and what we believe to be right.

To date, because many Human societies are so very cruel and do not provide for Human needs rationally or with compassion, people have turned to religion for all the wrong reasons. People turn to God in desperation: for the love they do not get from others, for the security that society does not provide them with, for the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams that society does not allow or has dashed and so on. They come in desperation and, as an inevitable result, their religious practice is pathological.

A society that will foster healthy religion must be created. We cannot dismiss the possibilities of what religion can be and can offer in healthy societies based on the reasons that people turn to religion in sick societies.

I have witnessed in the secular Kibbutz Movement, on wealthy kibbutzim the residents of which have all of their socio-economic needs provided for, that a feeling of superficiality and meaningless begins to creep into the hearts and minds of a good percentage of the members. They begin to feel that, though they have everything they need and want materially, something profound is yet missing. Some of those who feel that way, and they are a goodly number, turn to religion.

They turn to religion not in desperation, not in fear, not in loneliness and not in insecurity or need. They turn to religion for a final fulfillment.

The religion that they consider is based on their traditional religion, but they are not afraid to experiment with new forms of ceremony or discard those which do not seem meaningful to them. They feel free to innovate, to question and to improvise. This to my mind is all very healthy and I believe that were we all living in a communalistic society, as are the members of the Kibbutz Movement, this seminal spiritual/moral enterprising would arise spontaneously and would prove to be fecund, producing new expressions of ancient religions and new religions that would provide the deepest fulfillment of the Human experience.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Someone wrote a disparaging description of the character of a well-known scientist.

In response to that I wrote:

I've read a very little bit about (the named scientist) and his intelligence, but that is all I know of him. I cannot, therefore, comment about his character in particular.

I will speak in generalities.

In my experience there is no such thing as a person of degraded character, no matter how bright, who can see more than the superficies of that which they study.

They may have vast vocabularies; they may have waded through massive amounts of data; they may be able to rattle off, parrot like always parrot-like, the work of others; they may have eidetic memories. But they understand the profundities of *nothing*. They have no appreciation for the depth or the significance of *anything* for they respect nothing. They collect factoids for the own vainglory and display them as though they were baubles. Profundities, then, are degraded to mere trifles in their hands.

They are essentially worthless to the intellectual endeavor, especially nowadays. Whereas once their eidetic memories were useful, the computer has obviated their usefulness entirely. They have been supplanted by machines that do what they do better. How worthwhile could they really ever have been as anything other than tools? They are, as the pithy modern, if overused, expression has it, a waste of protoplasm.

They are what the inspired and true polymath Avraham ibn Ezra called: "Nothing but a basket of books." See: for a brief overview of who Avraham ibn Ezra was and what his accomplishments were and to gain an appreciation of what a genius worthy of the name is.

Deep-abiding philanthropy is the wellspring of all great intellectual endeavor. No one who loved himself or herself, or was in love with their own mind, ever produced work that advanced and benefitted Humankind.

When scientists will begin to understand, really understand, that knowledge cannot be abstracted from moral application, that there are no morally neutral data, that learning is not a process separable from the purification of motives and impulses; it will begin to make the progress it should.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel