Spring cleaning & nation building

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Friends,’Tis the season to be cleaning.. This whole country seems to be airing out its linens, cleaning the cupboards, giving away old clothing – in the name of Passover cleaning, as we are commanded in the Torah. But wait, that’s not cleaning – there’s no bread, or crumbs, or really anything on the biblical to-do list. So why do we clean with such fervor, as if our religion depended on it? Our rabbi told a story in synagogue this week, of a husband who complained that his wife has him washing windows: Doesn’t she know that’s not bread? the bewildered husband asked. Our wise rabbi turned to the wife, for her version, and got the simple reply: I know, but this is the time he’s there to help so I’m taking the opportunity!Yes, it is both an external and an internal process. We rid our homes of dust, throw out the old, air out the winter and welcome the fresh air and the knowledge that we are clean and renewed. Inside, we work on sweeping out the cobwebs that have festered too long, opening our minds and our hearts to better thoughts, kinder acts and a generally positive attitude towards the future. Passover is a time to celebrate our past, thankful for leaving Egypt. But it’s so much more relevant today, and looking ahead. We take with us the sense of freedom that led to a sense of nationhood. From slavery we were freed. From the desert we became a nation, with laws and restrictions, identity and statehood in the Land of Israel.The true free man is one who steps up and takes responsibility, finds his or her place in the collective and acts. You do your part to make this a better world – in business, politics, home and nation. Make this a Passover of hope and freedom, to clean out the cobwebs and take our renewed energy to higher achievement.
Over 1000 people hiked this week to the Jordan River, at the traditional site of the Jewish people’s crossing into the Land of Israel, on the 10th of Nissan. What a wonderful way to prepare for the Pesach holiday, entering the land as we once did, with our children and our neighbors, to create a new nation. The excitement of reading the relevant Torah passages was palpable, and reminds me that a nation who remembers its past with this fervor is destined to greatness. Hope you can visit this unique, uplifting site soon too, with Bible in hand. #tourwithus 
See the live action (in hebrew).
On all of our minds today: Horror at yesterday’s devastating fire at Notre Dame in the center of Paris. We don’t yet know the full results of the blaze, nor its cause. 
We stand in solidarity with our Christian brethren, extending a prayer at this holy time of year.
Jared Kushner’s interview in the Arabic press turned heads this week, as he echoed our desire to encourage an economic peace between Arabs and Jews of the region. The Washington Post was the first to point out that the yet-to-be-released US Administration’s ‘vision for peace’ seems to omit any call for a palestinian state; it does not base itself on the tired adage of ‘two states’, and gives hope that by thinking outside of that failed box, we may just have a chance to move forward towards a peaceful resolution here. That is, if the Arab palestinian side shows up at the table, willing to want real peace.Two developments this week highlight the impasse within the Arab palestinian world, making it hard to believe that they’d choose the high road for their residents.First – The Palestinian Authority swore in its new ‘government’ on Saturday. The PA was created to provide new opportunities for residents of the areas under its rule, yet hasn’t held democratic elections for its people ever. Abbas chose yet again to appoint loyalist new leadership, rather than going to the polls and allowing palestinians to vote. How far can we get with a leadership that doesn’t give its citizens the rights for which it was created? Also notable is the underlying Hamas-Fatah rivalry, fomenting an inability to offer any sense of citizenship to the people living under their rule.And second, the US finally called upon the PA to report on its wasting of billions of dollars in aid and economic boosts from the EU, US and around the world. Palestinian Arab leaders lined their pockets and built their castles, rather than feed their people and build schools, hospitals, jobs – so we are told as we await a response. Remember above, about responsibility and community? Note: This was reported long ago, following the money – see here for example. Will American influence now force palestinian leadership to quit wasting time and precious aid money, or choose to continue to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, time and again…
With Netanyahu building his coalition to return to the helm, we continue to stand strong and realistic, proudly democratic and somehow always hopeful. 
It is Spring, after all.Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season, with Passover at the end of this week and Easter upon us.Warmest regards from this beautiful season, 
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Credit: Gedaliah Blum
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