I heard a wonderful news story that appeared recently on some Jewish websites and blogs. The CEO of a a company that produces children’s sports outerwear received a phone call from the current South Korean UN Ambassador asking to meet. When they met, the Ambassador told the CEO the following, “I have always heard negative stereotypes about Jews and Israel and I took it at face value. Then, my daughter took an internship working on design in your company. Throughout the year, she has been telling me how wonderful it is to work at your company.” The Ambassador talked about the daily minchah minyan [the firm has Orthodox management], the early closing on Friday afternoon to prepare for the Sabbath, the respect each charity seeker received, and that his daughter was treated with the utmost respect. Because of the amazing experience and lessons the company taught his daughter, the Ambassador took out his checkbook and was ready to write a check returning all his daughter’s earnings! The CEO wouldn’t hear of it.
Then the Ambassador relayed the most amazing thing. “As you know, I have voting privileges at the UN. Because of my renewed appreciation of the Jewish people, I abstained from voting on resolutions against Israel on three occasions. 0n one resolution I was the ninth vote needed to pass the motion and because I abstained it failed.”
Feel good story, right? Except that since its first publication it has been deleted from the websites and it’s looking like it never happened! So, any harm done? Is it a big deal? Only if it’s part of a pattern, and it seems to be. We locals all read about James Alefantis, who owns the D.C. pizza restaurant called The Comet Ping Pong. Two weeks before the presidential election, Mr. Alefantis, who offered to help the Clinton campaign, started receiving hundreds of death threats. All of his employees were getting similar abusive messages. He searched online to try and find out what was happening. He found that there were dozens of made-up articles about Hillary Clinton, claiming that she was kidnapping, molesting and trafficking children in the restaurant’s back rooms. None of it was true of course! But Mr. Alefantis, and all of his employees, were bombarded with abusive social media comments and had to start hiding pictures of their children and home addresses. And this past week, as we well know, a gunman entered the premises seemingly prepared to shoot up the place!
There are too many such stories these days. In fact, there’s even a name for this -“post- truth.” It happened so often during the presidential election that the Oxford Dictionary designated it “the word of the year.” The word itself dates back to at least 1992, but Oxford saw its usage explode by 2000% this year. What does “post- truth” mean? The dictionary defines it as follows: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Yes, people go around making up stories, or believing stories, that are not based on facts but are based on what you want to believe. And this can be very dangerous! It is said that Hitler’s favorite Latin proverb was: “Mundus vult decipi ergo decapiatur – the world wants to be deceived, therefore, let it be deceived.” And that is just what the world is attempting to do or have done to it today, here and certainly at the United Nations. If a U.N. body can pass a resolution that denies that there was ever a Temple in Jerusalem, then we know that “post truth” affects us too. Just one more thing to worry about in these worrisome times.
So, this blog isn’t intended to make you miserable. A late 90’s Beth El mission to Israel included a stop at the Conservative shul Moriah in Haifa that launched a relationship that lasted some time. I just saw that the building suffered major damage in the recent devastating brush fires that hit Haifa especially hard. The second floor of the shul, where we davvened, was destroyed and there was much other damage. Then I read that two Israeli Arab timber suppliers have offered to donate wood paneling to the synagogue. Walid Abu-Ahmed and Ziad Yunis decided to supply the wood free of charge and cover the labor costs after the congregation’s rabbi, Dov Hiyon, sought estimates from them for synagogue repair work. “I had tears in my eyes when I heard what was happening,” Hiyon said. “Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa, and there is no discrimination,” said Abu-Ahmed. “We must continue with this co-existence and promote peace.” “We are all people,” he said. “I call on all citizens — Arabs and Jews everywhere — to continue to live in co-existence. We all want to live happy lives.” So, there are also some real truths, encouraging ones, out there. May they quickly displace the other kind.
Ponder that and have a good Shabbat. Bill Rudolph