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Hartman Institute scholars, ideas, and programs in the news recently

Hartman Institute ideas, scholars, and programs - Be’eri - have been in the news a great deal recently


Hartman Institute ideas, scholars (including David Hartman), and programs (Be’eri) have been in the news a great deal recently.
An excerpt:
As for the new “front” in asymmetrical warfare, we read in another passage, which is typical of the report’s overall biased tone, that, “On the basis of the information it gathered, the Mission finds that there are indications that Palestinian armed groups launched rockets from urban areas. The Mission has not been able to obtain any direct evidence that this was done with the specific intent of shielding the rocket launchers from counterstrikes by the Israeli armed forces.” What reason could there possibly be for launching rockets from urban centers, if not shielding those rockets from counterattack? And what is the moral distinction that is purportedly being established here?
…The aim of the IDF ethics code is to strike a coherent and morally plausible position that provides Israel with the effective tools to protect its citizens and win the war while also setting the proper moral limits that have to be met while legitimately securing its citizens. In debating the code, I heard many times that it imposes constraints upon Israeli action that would limit the capacity of the army to win the battle and to provide security. In fact, the moral constraints and the strategic goals are mutually reinforcing. Radical groups such as Hamas start their struggle with little support from their population, which tends to be more moderate. They increase their base of support cynically, by murdering Israeli civilians and thereby goading Israel into an overreaction (this is not to deny, of course, that Israel can choose not to overreact) in a way that ends up causing suffering to the Palestinian civilians among whom the militants take shelter. The death and the suffering of the civilian Palestinian population, in the short run, is a part of the Hamas strategy, since it increases the sympathy of the population with the movement’s aims. An Israeli overreaction also leads to the shattering of Israel’s moral legitimacy in its own struggle. In a democratic society with a citizen’s army, any erosion of the ethical foundation of its soldiers and its citizens is of immense political and strategic consequence….
"And so, Israel’s goal in its struggle with Hamas and Hezbollah is to reverse their attempt to strengthen themselves politically by means of their morally bankrupt strategy."
And here are links to some of the many , many , many   blog and media   commentaries on it in English, Spanish , and, of course, Hebrew .
Hobbes and religion
" Hobbes in Hebrew: The Religion Question ," was published in the "Room for Debate" blog in the New York Times about the first full Hebrew translation of Thomas’s Hobbes’s "Leviathan" published last month. While the first two parts have long been available in translation, the third and fourth parts — in which Hobbes addresses religion and the state — had not appeared in Hebrew. The translation was edited by Hartman Institute’s Menachem Lorberbaum. Here is an excerpt of Lorberbaum’s commentary in the Times:
Modern Hebrew has inherited an extremely rich religious texture but its civic language is relatively impoverished. Thomas Hobbes’ attempt to create a new language of politics is a natural point of departure for the attempt to enrich the political discourse of the Hebrew-speaking civil society of the state of Israel.


Hobbes’ profound sensitivity to the theological-political character of the Bible and his grasp of its ongoing relevance to political consciousness make him a perfect counterpart in this dialogue of translation.
"Fluent Israeli," an article about the Institute’s Be’eri program, ran in Yediot Ahoronot, Israel’s largest newspaper, November 8, 2009. Here’s the introduction in translation from the original Hebrew (no online link available):
A unique program for Jewish studies has been adopted in about 50 junior highs and high schools across the country. This is not an attempt to make students more religious or to return them to the ancient Oral Law. As part of the Be’eri program, created by the Shalom Hartman Institute (a center for Jewish study and research), students are exposed to Jewish and Israeli texts – from the Bible to Amos Oz, from the Sages to Ehud Banai. On the way, they are exposed to Jewish-Israeli identity, they internalize universal values, such as respect for parents, helping the needy and the importance of tolerance, and on Jewish festivals they hear about the concept of forgiveness, the meaning of the day of rest from a social welfare point of view, etc.
Dani Elazar, the director of the program at the Hartman Institute, stresses that the program is not teaching faith or Jewish law. Elazar: “Our institute has been involved for the last 30 years in finding innovative channels of thought in Judaism based on a pluralistic approach. Hundreds of teachers and principals have received training in Israeli culture at the Institute and they are the ones implementing the curriculum in the classrooms.
"Our idea is to restore control of Jewish studies to the school, following years during which the schools had to invite religious figures and other lecturers from the outside to teach this subject. The training enables the teachers to create a meaningful discourse on the subject of Israeli culture, to suggest to each individual that they can also voice criticism, but from a position of knowledge, not one of ignorance, and with empathy rather than cynicism. From our point of view, familiarity with Israeli culture is part of the connection to the State of Israel.
"Therefore, the program includes, for example, the subject of “Values of the Festivals” and presents a combined Jewish and Israeli calendar. In this way, events which are not among the traditional Jewish festivals are brought up for discussion in the classrooms. On the topic of blessings, we present quotes from Bialik and raise questions such as “what is a blessing?” and “why is it worth making a blessing?” and not “for whom are we making the blessing?” Judaism is thus made relevant for the students; it becomes something that can affect one’s day-to-day life.
"Various types of volunteer activities are part of the program and it is clear to all that religion is only part of the culture and each individual can take whatever path he wishes with regard to faith. On faith, the program takes the approach of “A man lives by his faith“. Most of the teachers are secular themselves and the goal is to show that Judaism is much more than commandments. There is no attempt to encourage a particular lifestyle and therefore one can say that the program is likely to awaken interest but absolutely not to create confusion.”

The Media Line quoted the Institute’s Founding President Rabbi Prof. David Hartman in an in-depth article on a new book in Hebrew from an Israeli rabbis whose new book, according to Media Line, outlines "a series of Jewish theological arguments for killing those who threaten Israel or demand Israeli land." An excerpt from "Israeli Rabbi’s Guide On The Killing Of Gentiles Causes Firestorm":

Rabbi David Hartman, founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and a philosopher of contemporary Judaism, said that the rabbis of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva were not taking into account the consequences of their teachings.

“Has the Jewish tradition ever created a distinction based on race, gender, etc? Of course, there is no doubt that there are serious Jewish sources that do not look at the non-Jew with full equality,” he told The Media Line. “But they have lots of sources they could use, and which sources you choose to read and don’t read is important.”

“One of the interesting things about Jewish law is that perception is a part of the criteria,” Rabbi Hartman said. “Jewish theologians aren’t pure academics nor are they spokesmen, so they are not writing in a vacuum. The most serious Jewish theological figures are very careful about the implications or consequences of their writings.”

Rabbi Hartman argued that while such books touched a cultural chord, they were mostly ignored in the mainstream Jewish theological community.

“I make a distinction between a cultural fringe and what is fringe in terms of Jewish theological thought,” he told The Media Line. “On the one hand, this is not fringe, and you have mainstream kids talking this talk. But in terms of Jewish law, there is no significant Jewish theological movement to permit the blood of non-Jews. If you’re looking at the major thinkers, nobody is talking with that language, whether they are ultra-orthodox, Sephardic or Ashkenazi, and these kinds of things are ignored.”

“The problem is that if you ignore something it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any influence over students,” Rabbi Hartman said. “Beware of that which you ignore, what is a cultural phenomenon today may become acceptable to major Jewish thinkers tomorrow.”

“For example, when it comes to Israel, our return to power and the desire to strengthen the claim to the land has created a push for a new Jewish theological creativity and a cultural phenomenon in which certain Jewish theological positions are given more significance than what the major Jewish theological authorities would allow.”

“Forty years ago there were no major Jewish theological figures who said the land of Israel was more significant than Pikuach Nefesh, the concept of the saving of a life,” he said, in reference to Jewish theological debates over exchanging land captured by Israel for peace. “Today in the religious Zionist community there are major theological figures for whom this is now a self evident truth.”

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