28 June 2011

Middle East - Child Trafficking

Child trafficking is a serious problem in many Middle Eastern countries. While there are few official statistics on the child trafficking, there is enough information about the victims of trafficking to know that child victims of sexual exploitation have been reported throughout the region.

One of the largest contributors to the child trafficking problem is the domestic service industry. The Middle East hosts more than 13 million migrant workers, many of whom are very unskilled and low-paid Asian workers, often children and usually female, who are very vulnerable to abuse and find themselves trapped in abusive situations after arriving in the Middle East. It is all too common for child domestic servants to be exploited by their employers who take advantage of children’s unprotected legal status as well as naivety of age and force them to provide sexual services.

Young girls are also trafficked into the Middle East for arranged marriages and commercial exploitation. Often times these arranged marriages will involve the marriage of an underage girl in exchange for financial compensation to her family. Child marriage is extremely common in the Middle East, with about half of all girls younger than 18 in Yemen and Palestine being married.

Disaster and emergency situations, including wars, put children at an increased risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The Middle East has been a country with many issues of political and social unrest through the decades which is another major contributing factor to the child trafficking that originates there.

Some of the countries which have been recorded as being destination countries for victims of child trafficking include Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Iraq. The trafficking victims entering these countries often times come from Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, North Africa and other African countries.

In addition to being destination countries, a few Middle Eastern countries are also transit countries, which means that the victims of trafficking move through these countries while en route to another country , either in the Middle East or often somewhere in Western Europe or the UK. A few of these transit countries are Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Syria.

Children are exceptionally vulnerable to being trafficked because they are all too often very poorly educated and very easy to convince that they must do what an adult tells them to do.

Children who are living in extreme poverty or who are abandoned or homeless are especially vulnerable to child trafficking as they have nobody looking out for them and are often times desperate for stability and care.

All child trafficking or abuse must be reported to the law enforcement authorities.

08 June 2011

Shavuot - The holiday honoring the giving of the Torah.

Judaica Art "Shavuot" - Artist Rochelle Blumenfeld -  Limited Edition Lithograph on archival acid-free paper, hand-signed and numbered. It is boxed for special gift giving, gift card included upon request. Unframed. To order email us , call (412) 441-1282

Shavuot is a holiday with a double celebration.
Shavuot - Hag Matan Torateinu or Festival of the Giving of Our Torah
Hag ha'Bikkurim or Festival of the First Fruits

More profoundly, Shavuot commemorates the gift of the Torah, the crystallization of the ancient relationship of the peoples of Israel with their Gd. Falling in spring, Shavuot celebrates the bounty of the harvest and the first fruits of the season.

Along with Passover and Sukkot, Shavuot is a pilgrimage holiday, one of three festivals when the ancient Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to offer thanks to Gd for bountiful crops.

Biblical Significance of Shavuot:
Shavuot celebrates Moses descent from Mount Sinai and his presentation to the peoples of Israel of the Torah (the books of the Pentateuch) and the two tablets on which were recorded the "Ten Commandments". The emphasis on Shavuot is on receiving the Torah and accepting the revelations contained within it. That acceptance is a commitment to obey the laws given by Moses.

Moses ascended Mount Sinai, and Gd told him these words: "Say to the house of Jacob, and say to the Children of Israel: 'You saw what they did to the Egyptians, and how I have brought on the wings of eagles and brought them up to Me Now, therefore, if you hear my voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then are My treasure among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine, and shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation '. "

Moses climbed the mountain and stayed there for forty days and forty nights, without eating or sleeping, because he had become like an angel. During this time, Gd revealed to Moses the whole Torah, with all its laws and its interpretations.

Finally, Gd gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, made of stone containing the Ten Commandments, written by Gd Himself.

The Book of Ruth, written long after the books of the Pentateuch, is a narrative book in the Old Testament that relates the story of Ruth, a Moabite, who joined the Jewish people and who is the ancestor of King David. Though the story is told in narrative form, it stands as a metaphor for the acceptance of the Torah and is generally read on Shavuot. The story takes place at harvest time which brings a focus to the harvest, but, because Ruth was a convert who embraced Judaism fully and sincerely, she also represents the Jewish acceptance of the Torah.

The "Pessach" (Passover) marks the beginning of the barley season which ends with Shavuot when the barley is is harvested and the wheat crop is planted. In the days of the temple, some grain would be offered ritualistically. This, too, is commanded biblically: “When you enter the land that the Lord your Gd is giving you as a heritage.... you shall take some of the first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your Gd is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your Gd will choose to establish His name...” (Deuteronomy 26:1-3:)

Traditionally the offerings made to Gd were taken from what has come to be known as the seven foods species: Wheat - "Chitah", Barley - "Se'orah", Grapes - "Anavim", Figs - "Te'enah", Pomegranate (Romã) - "Rimon", Olive - "Zayit", Date - "Tamar", and "Tamar-d'vash" - The "Tamar-honey" was made by placing "Date" (tamar, tâmara) in a pot of boiling water and scooping the fruit sugar off what bubbled to the surface.