Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus; Sort of


I kind of took Christmas off from blogging. The result being I missed this awesome essay by Norma Zager about an American Jewish gal having positive memories of Christmas. She shows Christmas has shown in the past that a spirit of giving, sharing and caring for the needs of others is unselfishly important.

Since Norma is Jewish it is not surprising her memories are not so much about the risen Messiah Jesus Christ. Her found memories are about that spirit being projected to children of all beliefs from jolly St. Nicholas or as he is more popularly known today –Santa Claus.

JRH 12/26/15

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Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus; Sort of

By Norma Zager

Sent: 12/24/2015 11:21 PM

Intro by Ari Bussel

On Christmas Eve, 2015, Norma Zager and I ask ourselves “Where has the Christmas spirit gone?”

We salute businesses like In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A that still celebrate Christmas, Home Depot where choosing a Christmas tree is an excursion to wonderland and Costco that for years has led by example and closed its stores when many others remained open.

Zager reminds us of our role in the world, lighting it up with goodness:

Santa is a symbol of giving, sharing and caring for others. Christmas is a time of year when Rockefeller Center boasts a giant tree, lighting up the world; when lights and stars fill the streets and melodic music plays.

On this Christmas Eve we crave the magical feeling of the holiday; family and friends surrounding us with warmth, love and protection. We remember the less fortunate. We appreciate everything this great country of ours has afforded us, first and foremost its Christian roots and tolerance and acceptance of all.

We must, as one, stand up and protect all that we hold dear. May Christmas this year be a time of reflection. Cherish the moment, encapsulate the special energy so that it lasts, stand up and be counted!

Here is Norma’s special Postcard for Christmas: Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus; Sort of

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Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus; Sort of

A few years ago Faith Hill sang, Where are you Christmas? That has become my new mantra.

Christmas feels so generic you might as well be hunting for Easter eggs.

I heard on the news that mall shopping is down and online way up.

No duh? Why should anyone shop at the mall? It’s no fun when there are no decorations, no Christmas music and Santa is missing-inaction.

In case no one has noticed, the world is a very rude and thoughtless place these days. The crazies are multiplying faster than an alcoholic’s bar bill.

Even at what should be the most festive and happy time of the year, the news is incredibly scary and unsettling. I suppose some would think me crazy if I pointed out this seems to be directly related to the lack of Christmas decorations.

There are daily reports of bans on Christmas décor, nativity scenes and Menorahs. Yep, those Jews gotta get in on everything! As a Jew, I am horrified by the lack of holiday spirit! Happily, some businesses have not succumbed to the political correctness that has infested this country, and Santa is alive and well in certain venues.

However, their number is growing smaller every year.

As a Jewish child I looked forward to the wonders of Christmas. Not for the religious implications of the holiday, but for the fun. I remember fondly sitting on Santa’s knee when one of the teachers in our school impersonated him every year.

It was always fun to try and discern who was beneath the beard. Mr. Foder, our social studies teacher, wore his glasses, so he was always an easy giveaway. Then he would hand us a candy cane, and we would get a glass of Vernor’s ginger ale, since he was the namesake of our elementary school.

How odd you may think that a Jewish person should have fond memories of another religion’s holiday.

Not really. It was always kind of easy since Hanukah usually fell around Christmas, and I always felt the two together made the season extra special. I also believe many of my friends felt the same way.

Although I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, I had non-Jewish friends and neighbors and some in my own family that celebrated the holiday.

As I grew older I loved Christmas for other reasons as well. It was the most fun time of the year to shop. Now what Jewish girl doesn’t love anything that makes shopping even more fun? Why? Because the stores were always filled with festive colors and decorations and people were in a wonderful, happy mood. It was the one time of year when everyone had someone else’s welfare on his or her mind.

Stores filled with people rushing about buying gifts to make others happy. The energy was contagious and uplifting.

The other day shopping at Macy’s, I couldn’t find hide or hair of a Santa or a Christmas tree. Snowflakes? Seriously. Wrapped gift boxes? Sorry, it won’t cut it.

I imagine people spend far more money with Christmas music blaring from the loud speakers, which there wasn’t by the way.

So why do you care, you might ask again. You are Jewish.

Yes I am, and that’s the point. Growing up as a child around Christmas in America taught me something valuable that I still carry with me today: respect for others’ beliefs and a great admiration and gratitude for being an American.

Understanding that I share the world with people of all religions, colors and ethnicities is a valuable lesson best learned through doing.

Most importantly I learned that we can and should all share and embrace the joys of our differences together.

That respect for others isn’t something one can be simply told, it must be felt and absorbed by living it for oneself.

Santa Claus played a vital part in teaching children that there is something beautiful and rewarding in believing. That positive actions produce desired results and sharing happiness with others, despite our many differences, is an integral part of life.

Christmas (and Christianity), after all, is what the United States of America was founded on. Celebrating Christmas is celebrating our very being, and everything we hold dear to our hearts.

Even those who are non-believers still benefitted from the good energy the season brought to everyone.

To say anyone should be offended because someone else is celebrating his or her own special holiday is ridiculous.

If there is a special event in schools or community venues during the holidays, it should be inclusive of course. But to ignore and play down the Season has taken a toll.

Phasing Santa out of our lives is removing the sparkle from a child’s eyes when they write a letter asking for a new bike, a doll or Apple watch.

Santa is a symbol of giving, sharing and caring for others. Christmas is a time of year when Rockefeller Center boasts a giant tree, lighting up the world; when lights and stars fill the streets and melodic music plays.

Those beautiful Christmas songs have spread the holiday cheer for decades. Many, incidentally, were written by Jewish composers.

Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas. Silver Bells was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans after hearing the bells of the Salvation Army Santas. Johnny Marks wrote Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

The Jewish State of Israel makes Christmas trees available for twenty dollars for anyone who wants or needs one. Religious institutions receive the trees, Arizona cypresses, every year at no charge. Yet here in America people are desperate to play down the holiday décor as not to offend others.

Why would pretty trees filled with lights and sparkles offend anyone?

And if they do, we must stand for them, protect our heritage and traditions, lest we find ourselves oust of everything we hold dear, all that we value in life stripped away from us in an instant.

Christmas is not simply a religious holiday, although of course that is its main significance after all. It is also a reason to be kind and thoughtful to others. To believe in peace and good will toward our fellow man. Why on earth would anyone want to play down that message, and who in their right mind could believe that is politically incorrect? It’s about as correct as one could ever be.

I hope this tide to play down and nullify Christmas ends soon.

Perhaps more holiday cheer is exactly what we need to bring us all closer together. The message of Christmas does not divide but unites all people and all religions, even those who aren’t religious at all, and brings home the clear and necessary message we all need to hear, but don’t often enough.

Peace on earth and good will toward our fellow man. I think I’ll write a letter to Santa and ask him for more Christmas spirit next year.

Until then we should all try to keep the Christmas energy alive in our hearts all year long.

So, yes Virginia, there is still a Santa Claus, but he’s hanging on by the skin of his teeth and the last remnants of his long white beard.

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This is the latest in the series “Postcards from America – Postcards from Israel,” a collaboration between Zager and Bussel, a foreign correspondent reporting from Israel.

Ari Bussel and Norma Zager collaborate both in writing and on the air in a point counter-point discussion of all things Israel-related. Together, they have dedicated the past decade to promoting Israel.

© Israel Monitor, December, 2015

First Published December 24, 2015

Contact: bussel@me.com

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks to the Saban Forum


Ari Bussel sent the transcript of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address about Islamic terrorism using the San Bernardino Massacre as a starting point then proceeding to the growth of Islamic terrorism that has plagued Israel from its modern inception in 1948 to the present. PM Netanyahu takes note that the Arabs that call themselves Palestinians have had plenty opportunities to (steal) appropriate Jewish land to create an independent Arab state but have failed to accept the existence of a Jewish State on their ancestral homeland.

The Bussel email included a link to the 14 minute Youtube version of the Prime Minister’s address to the Saban Forum.

VIDEO: PM Netanyahu’s Address to the Saban Forum 2015

 

Posted by IsraeliPM

Published on Dec 6, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the Saban Forum 2015
דברי ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו בפני פורום סבן 2015

JRH 12/7/15

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks to the Saban Forum

By Benjamin Netanyahu

December 6, 2015

Israel Government Press Office

The Prime Minister’s Office

Greetings from Jerusalem.

I want to thank my friend Haim for giving me the opportunity to address you. This comes at a time when the United States has experienced a terrible and savage attack in San Bernardino, and I wish to offer the condolences of the people of Israel to the families, the aggrieved families, and of course send our wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded.

The terrorists are attacking in California or in Israel, or for that matter in Paris. They are attacking the very values that we hold dear – freedom, tolerance, diversity. All the things that define the value of life and society in our eyes, they find anathema and that’s why they attack us. I think too that this is what makes us strong. They think that we are hedonistic and weak; we’re actually very strong societies, very resilient, because of the very values that they despise so much.

And these values are what makes the bond between Israel and the United States, the American people and the people of Israel, so strong. It’s that identity of values, those very values that are under such fierce attack today. I think nobody should underestimate the resilience and power of our societies. Nobody should underestimate the United States. It was, it remains and will be the leader of the world precisely because it is so rooted in the values that make societies great.

And these are the same values by which we live, and that’s why nobody should underestimate Israel, and nobody should underestimate the strength of our alliance. It’s strong and it will be even stronger in years to come. And I appreciate the President’s willingness to forge a new agreement between Israel and the United States, a ten-year MoU to strengthen Israeli-American cooperation and strengthen Israel’s security with American support. I think everybody in Israel appreciates that, beginning with me.

We face today two challenges that I’d like to briefly discuss with you. One is a global challenge of the battle of militant Islamic terrorism that plagues not only the Middle East, but increasingly Europe and the United States and Asia, everywhere – Africa. And the second is the specific problem of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which I’d like to address.

On the global front, I have to say that many used to say that the core of the conflicts in the Middle East, and from there the rest of the world, were rooted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That was never true, but it’s now demonstrably false. And what we see is the old order established after the Ottoman Empire collapsing and militant Islam, either of the Shiites, Shiite hue led by Iran, or the Sunni hue, led by ISIS, rushing in to fill the void. Now those two forces are clashing with each other because each wants to be the king of the Islamist hill. They hope to first establish in the Middle East and after that in their mad designs throughout the rest of the world, but it nonetheless is a battle of militant Islam against other Muslims and against everyone else.

That is clearly demonstrated in the case of ISIS, that doesn’t mince its words, and is disguised by Iran, that has equal ambitions. The danger that we face is augmented when militant Islam gets a sovereign state, because a state gives them money, in oil revenues in particular for either one, and it gives them the power to develop weapons or acquire weapons – chemical weapons in the case of ISIS and other sophisticated weapons – and of course the quest for nuclear weapons or submarines or satellites and sundry other rockets and precision-guided missiles in the case of Iran.

These battles, these forces are battling each other now over the soil of Syria, and our position has been – my position has been not to intervene because an ISIS-dominated Syria is bad and a Iran-dominated Syria is bad. I think that our policy has been therefore not to try to strengthen one at the expense of the other, but weaken both. But in any case, my policy has been non-intervention with two exceptions. The first is humanitarian. We were among the first countries to offer humanitarian aid to Syria. We established a field hospital right next to the border of, our border in the Golan and have taken in thousands of Syrians who’ve come in, astounded. They were always taught that Israel and Israelis were devils and now they were healing angels. And the second thing that I’ve decided to do is to make it clear that Israel will not tolerate the use of Syrian territory for passing lethal weapons to Hezbollah, to open up a warfront against us in Lebanon, or to use Syrian territory for attacks against us or to enable Iran to build a second terror or military front against us from the Golan or anywhere else in Syria.

These are clear principles which we uphold. I’ve expressed also to President Putin of Russia that these are principles that we’ll continue to uphold and that it makes sense that Russia and Israel have deconfliction. We’ve done that, just as the United States has done that, but it’s very important for me to stress that Israeli policy will continue along the lines that I’ve just outlined.

If I look at the world overall, the core of the conflicts in the Middle East, that is the battle between early medievalism and modernity, is the battle that is being waged now around the world. And the advanced countries in the world, the civilized countries of the world, have to make common cause to contain and ultimately defeat militant Islam. Deep down, human beings want to have freedom and I think that desire and the technology of freedom, the spread of information, will ultimately defeat militant Islam, just as it defeated another murderous ideology bent on world domination: Nazism.

In the case of Nazism, it took down about 60 million people and a third of our own people before it went down, and this cannot allow to happen again. I think it won’t happen again: one, because we have the historical antecedents; and two, because we have the State of Israel, as far as the Jewish people are concerned. We will not allow any one of these violent medievalist forces to threaten our country and threaten our people.

Insofar as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is concerned, I think there is another misunderstanding. People have long said that the core of this conflict is the acquisition of territories by Israel in the 1967 War. That’s an issue that needs to be addressed in any peace process, as is the question of settlements, but it’s not the core of the conflict. In Gaza, nothing changed. In fact, instead of getting peace, we gave territory and got 15,000 rockets on our heads. We took out all the settlements; we disinterred people from their graves; and did we get peace? No. We got the worst terror possible.

I think that happened earlier too, when we left Lebanon and people said, “Well, if you leave Lebanon, then Hezbollah will make peace with you.” And in fact, we got 15,000 rockets from there too. And so people are naturally saying, look, if we want a solution vis-à-vis the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, in the West Bank, how can we ensure that this doesn’t happen again? Well, in order for us to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, we have to address the root cause of the problem. Why has this conflict not been resolved for a hundred years? Why has it not been resolved after successive Israeli prime ministers, six in fact after the Oslo Agreement, have offered to make peace, have offered the Palestinians the possibility of building a state next to Israel – it’s because the Palestinians have not yet been willing to cross that conceptual bridge, that emotional bridge, of giving up the dream not of a state next to Israel, but a state instead of Israel.

And that’s why they persistently refuse – not only Hamas in Gaza, but the PA – they consistently refuse to accept that in a final peace settlement, they will recognize the Jewish state, they will recognize a nation-state for the Jewish people. They ask that we recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, but refuse to accord that same right to us. I have said and I continue to say it, that ultimately the only workable solution is not a unitary state, but a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. That’s the solution. But the Palestinians have to recognize the Jewish state and they persistently refuse to do so. They refuse to recognize a nation-state for the Jewish people in any boundary. That was and remains the core of the conflict. Not this or that gesture or the absence of this or that gesture, but the inability or unwillingness of the Palestinian leadership to make the leap.

You got a hint of that the other day when Abu Mazen spoke about the “occupation of Palestinian lands for the last 67 years”. Did you hear that? Occupation of Palestinian lands? For the last 67 years? Sixty-seven years ago was 1948. That’s when the State of Israel was established. Does Abu Mazen mean that Tel Aviv is occupied Palestinian territory? Of Haifa? Or Beer Sheba? He refuses to fess up to his people and say it’s over, from their point of view what they say are the borders they wish, the final borders they wish. They refuse to recognize that they will have no more claim on the territory of the Jewish state, that they will not try in any way to flood it with the descendants of refugees. After all, we in Israel took in an equal and even larger number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

I mention this point about mutual national recognition because it is so fundamental, and like the mantra that was raised time and time and time again, that the core of the conflict, always in the singular, the conflict in the Middle East was the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, that has turned out to be even childish and irrelevant. The same thing I am saying will happen with the argument about the core of the conflict being the settlements or the territories. They’re an issue to be resolved, but they are not the core of the conflict.

And I think it’s important if we’re ever going to resolve this issue is to demand from the Palestinian leadership to recognize the Jewish state. We’ll still have many, many issues to resolve, but it begins with the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own. This is the fundament of peace and the absence of this recognition is the real obstacle.

I don’t lose hope. You can’t be a leader of the Jewish people and not have hope because we’ve overcome so many travails in the last thousands of years and in the last hundred years. We have clawed our way back to a sovereign existence. We built a remarkable state. It’s a world leader in technology, in agriculture, in irrigation, in cyber, in medicine – in so many areas. And we’ve made peace with two countries: Jordan and Egypt. And as the picture that I described about the threat of militant Islam to Arab and Muslim society emerges, we are making inroads and a lot of contacts with Arab countries – a lot of contacts that are not Arab countries as well: the leading countries of Asia, China, India, Japan; dozens of African countries; countries in Latin America. And it’s heartening. It’s heartening to see how Israel is being received and how people are changing their view of Israel as they change their view of the essential conflict between medievalism and modernity that is now spreading throughout the entire world.

But I know, with all the openness that we have with dozens and dozens of countries, including in our own region, I still know that we have no better friend than the United States. This is a partnership of solid values. It’s the deepest partnership there is. I value it across the partisan divide – Democrats, Republicans, Independents – we cherish your support. We value it and we believe that this partnership between Israel and the United States of America is the axis around which many other partnerships can be built in our region and beyond for the betterment of all humanity.

Thank you.

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Edited by John R. Houk

 

Sent by Ari Bussel

 

Israel Government Press Office