26 October 2014

Shapiro on terrorism

In the newspaper (The Australian) yesterday we read this report by Ahron Shapiro about Islamic terrorists.

Moral clarity about Islamic State needs zero tolerance of terrorism 

"In Ottawa on Wednesday, a lone gunman rampaged in and around Canada’s parliament, killing a Canadian soldier before being killed. Authorities said he was a convert to Islam, radicalised to commit his act of terrorism.

That day in Jerusalem, a newborn girl was run down and killed in her pram when a vehicle intentionally rammed a crowded tram stop. The Palestinian driver, killed while fleeing, had an extensive ­arrest record for nationalistic violence and familial connections to Hamas. He was glorified on Hamas-affiliated websites as a martyr and a Hamas spokesman said his attack was only “natural”.

In Australia, we looked in horror at a photo of an Australian child in Syria holding a severed head aloft like a hunting trophy, basking in his father’s pride.

This week, a baby-faced jihadist joined Islamic State, the militia responsible in Syria and Iraq for mass executions and beheadings of aid workers and journalists, filmed to shock the civilised world. The AK-47-toting teen taunted Tony Abbott in a video that might have been grimly funny if people weren’t losing their lives daily to such bloodthirsty zealots.

All these disparate incidents are linked by Islamist terror, but when the violence is perpetrated against Israel, there is a widespread tendency in the media to rationalise it, suggesting Israeli policies invited or caused the attacks. This rationalisation is unfair and harmful to Israelis in general and Jews in particular, but lessons learned by Islamist terrorists from this immoral exemption extend far beyond Israel.

Mainstream Islamic groups have rightly distanced themselves from those who they say have misappropriated an Islamic identity while distorting the tenets of the religion, and it is true that extremism, even violent extremism, is not unique to Islam. However, the actions of Hamas and Islamic State are products of the same broad totalitarian ideological movement — Islamism — which draws on elements of Islam and recruits from Muslims around the world. Popular support for militant Islamists often translates into substantive recruitment for Islamist terror groups, targeting civilians to sensationalise their cause.

Recent polls show that Islamic State is more popular overall — not just among Muslims — in some Western states than in most Middle Eastern ones. A poll by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found just 3 per cent of Egyptians expressed a positive opinion about it, as did 5 per cent of Saudis. In Lebanon, it was less than 1 per cent. Yet in a poll in Aug­ust by ICM Research, 7 per cent of British respondents had a favourable view of the group, as did 16 per cent of French polled — rising to 27 per cent in the 18-24 demographic.

These numbers suggest large percentages of Western Muslims — and some non-Muslims as well — are attracted to the group’s ­violent totalitarian message despite, or because of, all its barbarism, beheadings, terrorism, mass executions, ethnic cleansing and selling women into slavery.

This almost certainly also ­applies to some degree in Australia, as evidenced by the numerous Australians who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join up, and the positive view of this behaviour ­expressed by some of their peers.
The allure of groups such as Islamic State should be understood as similar to that which drew people to past murderous totalitarian movements and their atrocities — Nazism, fascism, communism, Maoism. All claimed their violence and genocide were a justified self-defence against race, class or external enemies.

It begins with rationalisations that extreme violence is justifiable under the right circumstances, that terrorists are humans and their behaviour is understandable and motivated by injustice.

Once that red line has been crossed, the distance from justification to embracing the violence, and then glorifying it, is short.
There is a way back. We can begin by unblurring the lines, by defining terrorism consistently and ending the corrosive tendency to justifications for it and excuses. Only through a zero-tolerance approach can Western society restore to this growing quagmire the moral clarity it desperately needs."

Ahron Shapiro is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.”
              ―Thomas Mann,  The Magic Mountain

23 October 2014

Terrorism: How shall we respond?


We awoke this morning to the news of another apparently terrorist attack in Ottawa, Canada, near the Parliament House and War Memorial. That follows the news from this week of the 17-year-old Bankstown native (pictured) who joined ISIS and is their new poster boy in a unison mob of hostility against all things Western. Forget grease--terrorism is the word.

And it’s a new word in terms of the dictionary, but not in terms of history. Throughout the ages, people have tried to traumatize their enemies and make them cringe at their sight or even the possibility of encounter.

Last night at our OneNewMan gathering in Sydney, we discussed terrorism and how we should respond and how we should live without fear. Or is that possible?

Here were some highlights:
1)   Behind this terrorist attack lurks the one described in the Bible as "the Evil One"—Hasatan, (Satan), the one whose ministry is to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10.10) The devil and the hosts of hell are ultimately behind all terrorist attacks. Paul wrote, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6.12) and "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God for the tearing down of strongholds...raised up against the knowledge of God." (2 Corinthians 10.4) Therefore we ought to be people of prayer.
2)   Paul the apostle said this:  “in no way alarmed (terrorized) by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.” (Philippians 1.28) In other words, our not being terrified is a sign of our enemies' destruction or non-salvation.  God's calm in our lives is evidence of our salvation and evidence of their perdition.
3)   King David said in the psalms: “From the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For Thou hast been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Thy tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings." (Psalm 61:2-4) So for the believer, when terror comes, our first port-of-call needs to be the shelter of the Almighty and run to Him. Solomon said the same with “The name of the Lord is like a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 19.10) We pray, we hide, we eavesdrop on the plans and words of God. We turn to the Scripture for assurance and life abundant.
4)   “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” (Psalm 46.1-3). Thus, no matter what troubles there are, in natural circumstances like tsunamis or earthquakes, or whatever the terrorists throw at us, we draw close to God, who is very present and the help in time of all trouble.
5)   Faith is the real and foremost response of a believer. We trust God. That doesn’t mean we will not experience pain or beheading or ebola or other assaults. (‘in time of trouble.’) What it does mean is that no matter what we experience, that God Himself is the One whom we approach and from whom we draw great comfort, no matter what. Mark 11.22 says, “Have faith in God.” Yeshua said, “You believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14.1) The writer of Hebrews said, “without faith it’s impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11.6)

22 October 2014

Enjoying the moment

I suppose it's a carpe diem thought. It's about living the moment, not capturing it on a video on my phone. I watched this video video and hope you spend 3+ minutes to watch, to listen, to consider, and to be impacted by the movie by Prince Ea, whoever he is.

Then you have to process it, and process how much time, literally you consume or are consumed by what he call (anti-)social networks. I applaud the reality of Facebook and the chance to reconnect in person with real people since I joined back years ago. I found Marva, the lady who prayed with me to receive Yeshua as Lord. I found many members of my high school graduation class and as a result have attended in person the 40th and 45th reunions. I am able to see my kids and grandson and what they (want me to know they)  are doing. And I'm ok with that. It's like a letter but with pictures and comments. And speed.

Did you watch the video yet? Click video

But I understand what the rapper is saying in the video. I am often distracted from real life by having a virtual one. I often say, "If you have a real life, you don't need a virtual one." Apparently I forget that too often and am very grateful for this reminder. And thanks to Laura Barron, my Canadian friend, who posted this on FB so I could be reminded. And so I could write this. And so I could get back to the office or the book I'm reading (too slowly) and make a couple phone calls and ready for the meeting tonight. Real life awaits.

I'm sure my thoughts will continue to swirl on this matter.

Hopefully yours are as well.

Did you watch the video yet? Click video

06 October 2014

Bible Quiz ANSWERS Quiz 2


Bible Quiz #2
By Bob Mendelsohn
October 2014

1)   What is the name of the Egyptian leader in the Bible?  Pharaoh
2)   In the NT, God told Paul that he was to “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at ___Jerusalem_____, so you must witness at __Rome_____ also.”
3)   What was Moses’ mother’s name? Yocheved
4)   Name four of the 7 churches in Revelation.  Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea
5)   Which Gospel includes women in the genealogy of Yeshua?  Matthew
6)   What was Amos’ profession before he was a prophet?  Shepherd
7)   What is ‘good medicine’ (Proverbs 17)? Merry (cheerful) heart
8)   Rather than Nineveh as he was told, where did Jonah (try to)go? Tarshish
9)   Who was the father of Gershon, Kohath and Merari?  Levi
10)                  How many priests went into the Holy of Holies each year on Yom Kippur? 1 (Leviticus 16)
11)                  During the seven-year cycle, which is the ‘year of the tithe?’  3rd  (Deut. 26.12)
12)                  In what city was Saul confirmed as king?  Gilgal
13)                  How many kings ruled over undivided Israel?   3 (Saul, David, Solomon)
14)                  Name Saul’s most famous grandson.   Mephibosheth
15)                  Which prophet was Jesus quoting when he spoke of a ‘mother in law being against daughter-in-law’ and a ‘man’s enemies being of his own household?’ For son treats father contemptuously, Daughter rises up against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household. (Mic. 7.6)
16)                  What casts out fear? Perfect love  (1 John 4.18)
17)                  How old was Aaron was he began as Israel’s first high priest? 83
18)                  The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but three things in the Holy Spirit…what are they? Righteousness, peace, joy (Romans 14.17)
19)                  Name the two sons of Lot with his daughters.  Ammon, Moab
20)                  What body part is ‘lovely’ of those who bring good news to others?  Feet (Isaiah 52.7)
21)                  Which leader said, “What is truth?” Pontius Pilate (John 18.38)
22)                  How many ‘nations’ were in the land of Canaan when the Jewish people exited Egypt and were told to go in and possess it? 7 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations--the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you.” (Deut. 7.1)
23)                  Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember what? The name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20.7)
24)                  Who is known as the Counselor in the NT?  Either God ( Romans 11.34  ) or the Holy Spirit “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Counselor), that He may be with you forever.” (John 14.16-17)
25)                   Which king of the Philistines saw Isaac with his wife Rebekah? Abimelech (Genesis 26.8)

04 October 2014

Bible Quiz 2 (October 2014)

Such good response to my last quiz, I thought I'd write a new one, so here you go. See how you do. Remember 4 points each.


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Bible Quiz #2
By Bob Mendelsohn
October 2014

1)   What is the name of the Egyptian leader in the Bible?
2)   In the NT, God told Paul that he was to “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at ________, so you must witness at _______ also.”
3)   What was Moses’ mother’s name?
4)   Name four of the 7 churches in Revelation.
5)   Which Gospel includes women in the genealogy of Yeshua?
6)   What was Amos’ profession before he was a prophet?
7)   What is ‘good medicine’ (Proverbs 17)?
8)   Rather than Nineveh as he was told, where did Jonah (try to)go?
9)   Who was the father of Gershon, Kohath and Merari?
10)                  How many priests went into the Holy of Holies each year on Yom Kippur?
11)                  During the seven-year cycle, which is the ‘year of the tithe?’
12)                  In what city was Saul confirmed as king?
13)                  How many kings ruled over undivided Israel?
14)                  Name Saul’s most famous grandson.
15)                  Which prophet was Jesus quoting when he spoke of a ‘mother in law being against daughter-in-law’ and a ‘man’s enemies being of his own household?’
16)                  What casts out fear?
17)                  How old was Aaron was he began as Israel’s first high priest?
18)                  The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but three things in the Holy Spirit…what are they?
19)                  Name the two sons of Lot with his daughters.
20)                  What body part is ‘lovely’ of those who bring good news to others?
21)                  Which leader said, “What is truth?”
22)                  How many ‘nations’ were in the land of Canaan when the Jewish people exited Egypt and were told to go in and possess it?
23)                  Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember what?
24)                  Who is known as the Counselor in the NT?
25)                  Which king of the Philistines saw Isaac with his wife Rebekah?

27 September 2014

KC Royals, 1985, and history


In the US, there are four major leagues in sport: baseball, football (sorry, that's gridiron), basketball and (ice) hockey. The longest streak of losing has just terminated. The team which had not made its way into the finals' (playoffs) series in 29 years just became a contender today. By beating the Chicago White Sox 3-1, the Kansas City Royals earned a playoff spot for the first time since 1985.

To put that in perspective, this is what happened in 1986..
 1) Duran Duran begin their career as a three piece with the release of "Notorious"
 2) John Farnham released the album "Whispering Jack", which becomes the highest selling album in Australia’s history, featuring the single from the previous year, "You're the Voice".
3) The Beastie Boys release their first studio album 'Licensed To Ill', which goes onto become the first Hip Hop album to reach number one in the U.S.A. It eventually goes onto become one of the most influential and important Hip Hop albums of all time.
4) The Goo Goo Dolls formed.
 5) NYC transit fare rose from 90 cents to $1.00
6) Last day in Test cricket for Bob Holland
7) Spain recognized Israel
8) 25th Space Shuttle (51L)-Challenger 10 exploded 73 seconds after liftoff
9) Chunnel announced (railroad tunnel under Canal)
10) Martina Navratilova is 1st tennis player to earn $10 million
11) Geffen records signs Guns & Roses
12) World oil prices dip below $10 a barrel
13) 4 US passengers killed by bomb at TWA counter Athens Airport Greece
14) South African Pres P W Botha sent Coetsee to visit Mandela
15) Barry Bonds made his MLB debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates
16) Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia release from hospital after 3 week coma
17) Madonna's "True Blue" album went #1 for 5 weeks
18) John Tesh's 1st appearance on Entertainment Tonight
19) A's Mark McGwire hit his 1st major league home run and
20) The 'Oprah Winfrey Show' was first broadcast nationally.

That's a lot of history of people who have been long settled into our minds for at least 3 decades. So when the Royals won today and lodged their place in baseball's post-season, a lot of things had to change, most specifically in Kansas City. Tickets will have to be printed for games played there. Sports and newscasters will be working up story after story to lodge about this player or that season or this event. They will have increased work. And the town will be celebrating, not only tonight, but long into October.

Then the team will meet up with other contenders and eventually either win it all in the World Series, or be sent home without final triumph. Only one team will win; it might be the Royals. They certainly have the talent and the drive to win. But so do many other teams. We'll see.

I make no other point other than to say 'congratulations' to my team. I've had Royals gear in my closet and worn the clothes since they began in 1969 with Joe Foy and Lou Piniella, Dick Howser and company. I rode their train in the mid-80s when they beat the St Louis Cardinals in the I-70 series. I was sad for them in the loss in Philly in 1980 with Tug McGraw et. al. and I'm still on their side today. Regional loyalty, you know? Go Royals!

26 September 2014

Reunions and Rosh Hashanah: Appointments


I had never attended a reunion of my high school until the 40th which took place in 2009. Many people seemed to know each other; I'd been gone so long. Would anyone remember me? Of course, I'm a fairly social creature, evidenced in continual internet blogs and photo journal on Flickr and Facebook, twitter and such. But those are merely evidence of who I am in person as well. I rather enjoy being with people and meeting new folks and keeping up with former friends.


So it seemed natural to want to gather with the people from 40 years ago. I was not disappointed. And the great thing about being so many decades away from high school was that most of the memories from then were foggy at best. That means that people didn't remember what they wrote about me in my yearbook, or that they didn't even remember if we took a class together at all. Excellent! As a result of attending, I found some 'new' friendships or renewed ones, and have kept those going for the last five years.

Then when our 45th was announced a year or so ago, I was happy to go along, even though it's 9,000 miles away. Many said, "You win the prize for coming the furthest.' That's always a nice feature of living in Australia. But when I queried, "What is the prize?" no one seemed to have anything in mind. Maybe on the 50th, I'll ask for one to be made. Watch, that year, someone will come from further.

So what is it about reunions that either make people want to attend or to have no interest? What is it about remembering or reuning or ... that makes us withdraw or convene? This is a sociological question to be sure. And that's the point of this blog. I really would like some answers. And maybe you have been pondering that one as well.

Of course, personality types pop up immediately into the conversation. ESFP (The performer)or ESTP (The dynamo) ENFP (the champion) INFJ (the counselor) come to mind. And there are others, too.

One of my favorite personality descriptions is not from Myers-Briggs (as above), but by Gary Smalley and John Trent, both psychologists in the US. They wrote about this back in the early 1990s in their book The Blessing. Here's a quick overview Blessing   I can see each person at the reunions.The otter (backslapper) and the golden retriever (who sits with one or two people all night) carry on differently, but they carry on and attend. What is it that prevents some people from attending?

I spoke with two of my mates in KC, both of whom are very personable and affable. Neither has any interest in joining in. One said, "I've lived in KC the whole time since we left school, and I have no relationship with any of those people. Maybe if X came or Y came, I would go, but really no one there would know me." I told him that's a great advantage. They won't remember what they don't or didn't like about you, but he didn't hear that. The other man said he would try to attend, but didn't make it. It certainly was not on his priority list. Both of these men are single. Both have had relationships in the past, but are alone now.

 I'm hoping to get a big response from people on this one. 

What causes you to want to attend? What causes you to want to stay away? What do you think about those who do?

I'm writing this blog on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Surprisingly, it's never called that in the Bible. In Torah, the 5th of 7 Jewish appointments with the Almighty is entitled, "Day of Blowing of shofars." In Hebrew Yom Teruah. By custom and convention it has taken on different meanings than what was defined in the book of Leviticus. The new year is actually supposed to be in Northern springtime, just before Passover. Most people call these Jewish 'festivals' or 'feasts.' And many of the holidays certainly fit that category. But Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) doesn't seem festive at all. The biblical term is 'mo'ed' and really means 'appointment.' It's a time of reunion with the Lord and with His people. It's an expectation from the mandate in Scripture for us to convene. Not that we are to convene with each other, but to gather to Him.

Most imagine that to mean 'attend synagogue' but it doesn't always imply that. The issue though for me is that whatever it is that draws some people to attend reunions probably also draws some people to synagogue (or church for that matter).

Someone should write a survey, and maybe I'll do that, but I'm hoping that many of my old classmates will weigh in on this and their answers will help us write a survey which might actually help us draw even more people to our 50th. We only have 5 years to plan that one. What do you think? Why did you go? Why would you never go? What is it about reunions which are compelling or offputting? Can you sort it out just now for us? Will you? Thanks!