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November 26, 2015 / 14 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Ben Gurion’

Protecting Our Children

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

I wait at the airport for the arrival of my youngest son, along with his wife and baby. Upon arrival, they will rent a car and make their way in an unfamiliar city to his oldest brother’s house.

I took two connecting trains to get here. I have no idea how to travel by car from the airport to my son’s house, as I am also a visitor.

But I’d rather pace at the airport than in my son’s living room. I’d rather wait here and greet them, and sit with them in their rental car as their GPS guides (or as often happens misguides) them to our destination. This is better than tossing and turning in bed while fighting the temptation to call every few minutes, asking, “Where are you?” – and annoying and distracting them to no end.

Why the worry and anxiety? After all, my son and daughter-in-law are intelligent, competent young adults. The answer is obvious. Age, ability and brains aren’t guarantees against disasters.

Years of traveling – mostly between Canada and the U.S., with some overseas travel – and of hearing too many stomach-churning stories about accidents to and from the airport, missed or canceled flights, and “interrogations” by overzealous, possibly anti-Semitic border guards and security personnel, have made me very wary and uneasy. So to keep my blood pressure at a safe level, I make it my business to be informed of my traveling kids’ whereabouts.

Summer goes hand in hand with traveling. Young people especially are on the move, and many go backpacking through Europe or Asia, or tour on their way to Israel during their post-high school yeshiva or seminary year. Although the great majority travels safely and with no hassles, mishaps can and do happen. Thus I suggest the following travel rule:

If the traveler is going alone to the airport, he should let someone know that he arrived safely. If he is going on an international flight, he should call after clearing security, perhaps after he has boarded.

The reason: If, chas v’shalom, he does not show up at his destination, those concerned will have an idea of where to start looking – and where not to look.

It is not unheard of for travelers, especially young people, to be subjected to extra questioning while crossing a border. This once happened to my son in Turkey, and to me years ago when I flew from Toronto to the U.S. I was taken to a private room and asked if I was from Jamaica. My guess is that a driver’s license that I had lost a year earlier had somehow surfaced there in the wrong hands.

Here are the facts: identity theft is on the rise, or due to a name similar to someone on a criminal/terrorist watch list, you can be detained. This might be why I was held for over an hour, almost missing my flight.

Several years ago one of my sons flew in from Israel for his older brother’s wedding. He was taking a cab from Yerushalayim to Ben-Gurion airport, and arriving at dawn on Sunday. I urged him to call and leave a message once he was at the boarding gate. It was still Shabbos in North America and I would not be able to call his cell phone.

To my great relief he called from the plane after boarding, saving my mental health because the next morning, while waiting at the airport, he did not exit – at least not with the rest of the flight. I waited and waited, and started worrying when passengers from a later flight began exiting from the restricted area.

But because of his call I knew that he had safely arrived at Ben-Gurion, and that he had made it through security.

So despite being a no-show more than an hour after landing, I knew that he made the flight and I would not have to look for him in an Israeli hospital or detention cell. He was in New York, and possibly being delayed by immigration/customs at JFK. I could deal with that. As it turned out, he had been searching for the missing bag that carried his brother’s wedding present. Apparently, it did not make it onto the plane.

Without the phone call letting me know he was boarding his flight, I would have – for a horrendous long hour – imagined the worst.

The kids might think you are overreacting by asking them to check in. But the world isn’t perfect, and bad things happen to the best and smartest people. It’s in both their best interest to call, and your own peace of mind for them to invest in that 10- second call. It’s a win-win situation.

It’s also a must for anyone leaving their house, even for a short while, to carry ID with an emergency contact number or two. If there are babies or non-verbal toddlers involved, it is crucial that family members be immediately found and notified so that the already traumatized children can be quickly placed with soothing, familiar faces.

A little foresight and thoughtfulness can go a long way in preventing needless emotional distress.

Israel’s Founding Revisited

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

If asked, “Who created the modern state of Israel?” most Jews would offer such names and institutions as David Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, the Jewish Agency, and the United Nations. A newly translated memoir, however, completely upends this popular perception.

In The First Tithe, Israel Eldad, who ran the underground Lehi movement (sometimes known as the Stern Group) together with future Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and Nathan Yellin-Mor, argues that the British would never have left Palestine in 1948 had the Irgun (headed by Menachem Begin) and Lehi not forced them out. He also defends his group’s deadly terrorist tactics and unique Zionist vision, which included the building of the Third Temple.

After Israel’s founding, Eldad – who held a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Vienna – became a high-school teacher, but Ben-Gurion, fearing Eldad’s influence, ordered the Ministry of Education and Culture to fire him. Eldad continued writing ideological books and articles (he also translated most of Friedrich Nietzsche’s works into Hebrew) until his death in 1996. His son, Aryeh Eldad, currently serves in the Knesset.

To mark Yom Ha’atzmaut, The Jewish Press interviewed Zev Golan, who translated The First Tithe into English. Golan has authored three books in his own right and directed the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Jerusalem from 1992-2003.

The Jewish Press: Do you agree with Eldad’s take on Israel’s founding – that the Irgun and Lehi, not the Haganah or the Jewish Agency, are responsible for the British leaving Palestine?

Golan: Of course. It would be absurd to claim the British left Eretz Yisrael because of the Jewish Agency, which was cooperating with the British and asking them to stay and help them hunt the Underground.

They left because they were blown out of the country. When they left, they said that 84,000 British soldiers and policemen in the country couldn’t preserve law and order. And it wasn’t the Haganah and Jewish Agency that were blowing up their buildings. It was the Irgun and Lehi.

Very few history books tell the story in this manner.

Well, he who writes history determines what’s in the history books, and there’s no doubt that the Labor Party took control of Israel, wrote the history books, and wrote the Irgun and Lehi out of them.

People also often credit the UN vote of November 29, 1947 as instrumental in creating Israel. However, while many Jews in Palestine danced in the streets the night of November 29, Eldad walked around depressed. Why?

Eldad compares that night to the time when Israel danced around the Golden Calf and said, “This is the god who took you out of Egypt.” Here they were looking to the United Nations and saying, “This is the god who has given us the state,” and it wasn’t.

The people who created Israel were the people who sat in prison and the people who were shot or hanged by the British. The facts on the ground are that the British would have left even if the United Nations had not voted for a Jewish state.

Eldad also felt depressed that night because they were not celebrating the Jewish state that had been dreamt of for thousands of years and that he and others had been fighting for, but rather a truncated, shrunken Jewish state that would not have survived were it not for a miraculous war that followed.

Eldad writes of some fascinating encounters with Menachem Begin. One of them took place in June 1948, the day after the IDF, on Ben-Gurion’s orders, fired on the ammunition-laden Altalena ship, killing 16 Irgun fighters. Eldad and Begin discussed the possibility of the Irgun and Lehi founding an independent state in Jerusalem’s Old City. Can you speak about that meeting?

First, Eldad was friendly with Begin before they came to Eretz Yisrael – they escaped from Poland together when the Nazis invaded – and he was friendly with him afterward during the Underground years and later. But they did not view matters 100 percent the same way.

So, in ’48 with the Altalena ship, Begin said, “I won’t allow a civil war. If they shoot at us, we’re not going to shoot back.” And Eldad said, “We need to take power; we can’t let power stay in the hands of people who are shooting at us and killing Jews.”

Well, it’s a different way of looking at things. Eldad was a total and complete revolutionary, willing to go to the very end of that revolution, no matter how cruel or hard, in order to realize the complete Jewish redemption. Menachem Begin was not such a revolutionary; he was a soldier.

So if it had been up to Eldad, the Jews on the Altalena would have shot back?

Without a doubt. He would’ve shot back and made a move elsewhere to take power…


…and create a separate Jewish state in Jerusalem.

Right, that’s what he wanted to do. But at that point, not only was Begin not on his side in terms of strategy but neither really was Lehi, which had moved leftward.

Many would consider the thought of shooting back at fellow Jews to be horrific.

The horrific thought is not that Jews would shoot back at people trying to kill Jews and prevent the salvation of Israel. The horrific thought is that Jews would take that first shot at Jews whose only goal was to help Israel.

And if the Jews who are fighting to save the country announce in advance that they will not fight back if the government comes to kill them, why fight at all? If you announce that in advance, the other side really can get away with anything it wants. So Begin had lost as soon as he made that announcement. He was saying essentially, I don’t care if Ben-Gurion runs the country.

Now, if you believe that the argument over who runs the country is not that important and that both sides more or less want the same thing, then that’s an acceptable way of looking at things. But if you believe, as Eldad did then, that the people shooting at the Jews did not intend to save the country, indeed did not even want to set up the country, then you’re obligated to be willing to fight back. The Chashmonaim didn’t fight the Greeks; they fought the Jews, and we celebrate that victory today as the greatest Jewish victory for freedom in our history.

But why start a civil war when both sides really want the same thing?

If that’s your attitude, indeed you’re obligated not to start a civil war.

Were the Irgun and Lehi that different from the Jewish Agency that a civil war might have been necessary?

Lehi was fighting for a Jewish state from the Nile to the Euphrates and the Irgun was fighting for a Jewish state that included Transjordan. Both of those organizations were fighting for a Jewish state with the capital in Jerusalem. In addition, Lehi was fighting for a Beit Hamikdash in the center of Jerusalem and to bring all the world’s Jews to Israel. In other words, complete redemption.

They both were fighting to prevent the British from staying in Eretz Yisrael, and Ben-Gurion according to them was doing the opposite. If you see Ben-Gurion as doing the opposite, what’s the point of turning power over to him?

What do you mean when you say Ben-Gurion was doing the opposite?

Eldad’s and Begin’s view was that the state as set up and accepted by the Labor movement could not survive. Now you can say in hindsight they were wrong, the state did survive. And since they were wrong, then not shooting back was a good thing because it prevented a civil war. But then you could also argue – there’s no way to answer this question – that had the Irgun and Lehi fought back, the masses would have supported them and the country would look not like it looks today, but a lot larger, more powerful, and not negotiating over whether we should give the Palestinians the cities of our fathers but rather whether they will give us more territory closer to the Nile.

All this is pretty critical of Ben-Gurion.

The First Tithe was written in 1949-1950. Eldad’s view of Ben-Gurion changed over the next four decades. I’m not saying he viewed Ben-Gurion as a hero, but he recognized later that Ben-Gurion did things that no one else did. He set up the Jewish state, built a Jewish army, and led the country. Nobody did that except him.

You mentioned Eldad’s vision of a Jewish state from the Nile to the Euphrates with a Temple in Jerusalem and all the world’s Jews living there. Did he really see this as a practical goal?


And if, hypothetically, Eldad had been in charge in 1948 and he received a state with smaller borders?

If he got smaller borders, the borders would have been used to expand.

In terms of aliyah, at least, it seems Eldad’s vision was no different from Ben-Gurion’s.

That’s completely wrong. When Ben-Gurion started negotiating with American Jews and taking their money, he stopped believing that all the Jews had to come to Israel. Eldad did not. The Bible says clearly that exile is a punishment and anywhere we go in the Diaspora we will suffer. Ultimately, according to Eldad, exile and Diaspora lead to one of two things: shmad or hashmada, assimilation or extermination.

You write in the introduction to The First Tithe that Eldad was instrumental in your own aliyah to Israel. Can you elaborate?

I read a booklet of his that said something I had never heard before, which was that the goal of Zionism was not the creation of a Jewish state but that the state was a tool to realize Zionism. As soon as I understood that we were not yet where we have to be and we have a road to travel to redemption, I moved to Israel.

And then when you met Eldad in Israel, you told him you were thinking of moving back to the States because of difficulties in finding a job and a home.

That’s true and that’s the wrong answer. Eldad told me that I’m here because I’m a Jew who’s come home and just like any person in his own country, you look for a job and a place to live and you move around until you find one. You don’t get up and leave the country.

In Eldad’s conception, after world Jewry makes aliyah and the Third Temple is rebuilt, what then?

The Temple is the place where we unite heaven and earth, and that’s almost a metaphysical point. To what exactly it leads I don’t know, but it’s the reunification of heaven and earth, the ladder in Jacob’s dream that unites heaven and earth, the kingdom of God on earth.

Was Eldad’s vision, then, essentially a religious one?

I’m not sure if Eldad would use that term. It wasn’t in fulfillment of commandment number two hundred and fifty something or other. But there’s no doubt that his vision of redemption is the biblical, prophetic and traditional view of redemption. Avraham Stern [Lehi’s founder] put the building of the Temple into the principles of the Stern Group and called it a recognition, a symbol, of redemption.

In The First Tithe Eldad criticizes Palestine’s chief rabbis, Isaac Herzog and Benzion Uziel, but highly praises – almost idolizes – Reb Aryeh Levin (subject of the book A Tzaddik in Our Time). Can you explain why?

I’d rather not make specific references. But I will say that a lot of the underground leaders and fighters were very disappointed at the apathy of religious leaders who left the field of Jewish redemption to others.

And that’s one of the reasons why Israel today has such a non-religious character: because religious Jews spent a lot of time fighting over soccer fields being open on Shabbos and how women should dress – which are both important – but then ignored the questions of how to get Jews out of Europe on the eve of World War II and how to get the British out of Eretz Yisrael who were locking the gates to the country.

There were rabbis of course who did concern themselves with what we could call “ultimacies,” matters of ultimate importance. One was Rabbi Kook and one was Rabbi Aryeh Levin. And there were many others. Eldad, as many of the other freedom fighters, had an incredible regard for these rabbis.

Was Eldad religious?

He was from a traditional home. I cannot testify as to whether he kept all the mitzvot; I was not in a position to see or know that. He didn’t wear a yarmulke, but his son, MK Aryeh Eldad, told a story in Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago of how his father would walk with him every Nissan to kasher all of the pots and pans in the house for Pesach. Well, if you want to say he’s not religious, what’s he doing kashering his pots and pans?

Can you translate Eldad’s philosophy into contemporary Israeli politics?

If the Jewish people are going to deal in small politics, negotiating with the non-Jews for our right to live, then we’re back in the shtetl. In order for us to survive, it’s not only useful but necessary that we have a strong, large Jewish state that does not shrink but rather gets larger, and the place for all the Jews in the world is in that state.

Another application concerns the Iranian threat. Many hope the world will take care of this threat. Eldad would say that the purpose of the Jewish state is that we take our destiny in our own hands. If we cannot resolve the Iranian nuclear threat on our own then perhaps this entire experiment of the Jewish state was pointless.

Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter.

Ike and Israel: The Apogee of Neutrality

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Much has been written in recent weeks of the Obama administration’s possible tilt toward a more evenhanded U.S. Middle East policy. Contrary to popular perception, however, if such a change were indeed implemented, it would constitute not so much a new and revolutionary approach as it would an old and reactionary one.

It would, in fact, be several giant steps backward to the approach pursued by the U.S. for the first decade and a half of Israel’s existence, never more faithfully than during the eight-year tenure of Dwight Eisenhower, who died 40 years ago this week at the age of 78.

Everyone, as the popular slogan went, liked Ike – everyone, that is, but the majority of American Jews, who in the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956 overwhelmingly preferred his Democratic opponent, former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson.

To all outward appearances, Eisenhower was the personification of the typical American at mid-century: a non-ideological moderate uncomfortable with extreme partisans of any ideology; a genial sort whose greatest concerns centered on improving his golf score and reeling in a really big fish.

That might have been the Eisenhower image, but it belied a shrewd political mind and a stubborn streak that vexed friend and foe alike. As would be true of Ronald Reagan three decades later, Eisenhower was often slighted for being nothing more than a jocular pitchman whose aides saw to the serious side of government. Disdain for Ike was a fact of life in academic and literary circles during his presidency and for years after he left office.

Gradually, historians began to develop a new appreciation for Eisenhower. Nostalgia for a more innocent time in America, even among cynical intellectuals, may have contributed to this changed perception. But what really opened eyes in the mid- and late-1970s was the declassification of Eisenhower-era government documents.

Scholars discovered that Ike had been the master of what the historian Fred Greenstein dubbed the “hidden-hand presidency”; that behind the smiling, grandfatherly exterior there lived a highly-competent chief executive who was indeed his administration’s ultimate decision-maker.

It follows, then, that the Eisenhower administration’s attitude toward Israel – one that can only be described as irritable ambivalence straining for proper cordiality – must have come directly from the man at the top.

* * *

Eisenhower remarked on more than one occasion that, had he been president in the late 1940s, he would not have supported the creation of Israel. He added, however, that since the Jewish state was now a reality, he wished it well. And though it is impossible in all fairness to question the sincerity behind the latter sentiment, the record of the Eisenhower administration toward Israel does at least call it into question.

In the summer of 1952, Senator Richard Nixon, whom presidential candidate Eisenhower had just chosen as his running mate, was only too prescient when he remarked to some friends active in Jewish organizational life that in the event of an Eisenhower victory in November, it would be a mistake to expect Ike’s likely secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, to be friendly toward Israel.

Dulles (who would serve as Eisenhower’s secretary of state from 1953 until his death in 1959) and his brother Allen (who headed the CIA during the same period) were pillars of the American foreign policy establishment, a rarefied club of well-born WASPs who moved in the kind of circles where the mere sighting of a Jew was an unusual occurrence.

Reports through the years about the extent of their anti-Semitism have often been unreliable, with some of the more negative stories coming from anonymous or questionable sources. But one can say with a reasonable amount of certitude that the welfare of the Jewish people was not something to which the Dulles brothers devoted a great deal of thought.

As for Eisenhower, no serious allegation of personal anti-Semitism has ever been leveled against him. Though he was not known to have had any close Jewish friends – growing up in Abilene, Kansas, he certainly had no contact with Jews in his formative years – he was not a man given to trafficking in casual ethnic or religious slurs.

Eisenhower was genuinely horrified by what he saw when Allied troops liberated the Nazi concentration camps. “The visual evidence of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering,” he said about one such camp. “I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give firsthand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’ ”

Long after the war he reminisced about his standard procedure in those days for dealing with officers who made anti-Jewish remarks: The offending individual would be sent on a detailed tour of Dachau or Auschwitz – “and that,” said Eisenhower, “would cure him.”

* * *

Relations between the Eisenhower administration and Israel got off on the wrong foot soon after Ike assumed the presidency in January 1953. That summer, Israel undertook an ambitious effort to divert water from the Jordan River to irrigate the arid Negev. The project was loudly denounced by Jordan and Syria as an act of thievery that would cost them their share of the river’s water.

The United Nations, with the U.S. in full agreement, demanded an immediate halt to the project. The Israeli government refused, and the tone in U.S.-Israel relations was set for the next eight years. The Eisenhower administration, from that early skirmish on, viewed Israel as an unpredictable nuisance at best, a threat to the region’s stability at worst.

It was a negative assessment that would be reinforced in the midst of the Jordan River controversy as Israel stumbled into a public relations disaster entirely of its own making.

Incursions into Israel by Arab saboteurs had been going on for several years, and retaliation by the Israeli army was a given. Because these attacks and counterattacks were relatively small-scale operations, carried out not in Israel’s cities but in and around the country’s borders, they hardly drew the attention of the outside world. That would all change with what happened in an Arab village called Qibya.

In October 1953, a unit of Israeli commandos, under the leadership of a young colonel named Ariel Sharon, crossed over the border into Jordan after Arab terrorists killed an Israeli mother and her two young children. In Qibya, which had been a base for terrorists preparing attacks against Israel, Sharon’s men blew up a number of buildings thought to be empty. When it was over and dozens of civilians were found dead in their demolished homes (hundreds of other residents had been allowed to leave the area), international condemnation quickly rained down on Israel. Even the country’s staunchest defenders found it difficult to explain away the tragedy.

Rather than leave bad enough alone, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, according to Israeli journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, “instructed Ambassador [Abba] Eban to tell Washington and the UN that the raiders had not been Israeli soldiers but enraged farmers and settlers.”

The story was too obvious a concoction. “No one,” write Raviv and Melman, “believed that tale, and it only fueled the Eisenhower administration’s anger.”

The deadly violence in Qibya and the clumsy attempt at deflecting blame, following so closely on the heels of the water diversion dispute, led to the first-ever suspension of U.S. financial aid to Israel. Feeling the pinch, Ben-Gurion finally agreed to put a stop to the water project, and the aid was restored.

Relations between the two countries would be distant though not particularly unfriendly for the next few years, with Washington’s attention focused on winning the support of the Arab world in the global fight against Communism.

The Eisenhower administration’s main foreign-policy objective was the containment of Soviet expansionism, which in the Middle East meant keeping the Russians away from the oil resources so critical to the West.

For much of Ike’s first term the U.S. attempted, with mixed results, to create coalitions of like-minded nations in regions deemed geographically and politically strategic. The linchpin of any such regional alliance in the Middle East was Egypt, and the Americans went out of their way to solicit the affections of the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

But Nasser played hard to get, tacking pro-U.S. one day and pro-Soviet the next. Eisenhower, tiring of Nasser’s penchant for playing off East against West, decided in early 1955 to back the formation of the Baghdad Pact – a defensive alliance comprised of Britain, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. Nasser countered by entering into a large arms deal with Czechoslovakia, and the Communists had their first real link with the Arab world.

By flirting with Nasser while naively underestimating his determination to restore Egyptian pride and Arab unity, the U.S. had made a terrible miscalculation.

* * *

On the home front, the Middle East receded from the headlines in the mid-1950s. Americans, when not distracted by the new plaything called television, were focused on the ongoing dramatics of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin Republican who since 1950 had been mesmerizing the country with charges of Communist subversion in high places.

McCarthy wasn’t entirely wrong, but he was a blustery, boozy opportunist prone to exaggeration, and as such was an unfortunate spokesman for the anti-Communist cause.

One thing McCarthy apparently was not, though some of his enemies tried to portray him as one, was an anti-Semite. As historian David Oshinsky notes in A Conspiracy So Immense, “[McCarthy] never engaged in anti-Semitic diatribes or made the loaded connection between Jews and left-wing radicalism. Despite the unrelenting hostility of organized Jewry to his crusade, McCarthy still praised the state of Israel [and] condemned the Soviet persecution of Jews. ”

“[T]he McCarthyites,” concurs Benjamin Ginsberg in The Fatal Embrace, his study of the historical relationship between Jews and government, “had no use for anti-Semitism as a political weapon. Indeed, several of McCarthy’s most important aides … were themselves Jews.”

The fact, however, that Jews were over-represented in radical and Communist circles was an uncomfortable reality in 1950s America. Though no anti-Semitic backlash materialized in reaction to the trial and execution of the convicted Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, or to the preponderance of Jews called to testify at hearings conducted in Washington by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), many Jews still worried that they were considered less than loyal by non-Jewish Americans – a fear that couldn’t help but contribute to a reticence among Jewish groups in confronting the Eisenhower administration over its Mideast policies.

* * *

Eisenhower vowed that his approach to the Middle East would never be dictated by political pressure, which was a polite way of saying he wasn’t about to be influenced by the Jews (or, as he so euphemistically put it in his diary, “our citizens of the Eastern seaboard emotionally involved in the Zionist cause”).

Unlike Truman in 1948, Ike in 1952 had not needed Jewish votes and knew he would not need them in 1956. He was not shy about pointing to that domestic political reality when Republicans would voice concern about his handling of Israel.

Eisenhower’s disregard for domestic politics was more than evident in October 1956, just a month before the presidential election. Egypt’s Nasser, in response to the retraction by the United State of an offer to refinance work on the Aswan Dam, had nationalized the Suez Canal Company, which was under British and French ownership. The prime ministers of Britain and France hatched a complicated plan to retake control of the canal by force and somehow convinced Ben-Gurion to have Israel join in.

The operation was doomed from the start. Each of the countries involved had its own motives; the coordination of the actual attack was bungled every which way; and the Soviets threatened to take military action in defense of Egypt while the Americans, furious at Britain, France and Israel, remained silent in the face of Russia’s threats.

The Israelis, for their part, had managed to capture the entire Sinai, and enormous pressure was now brought to bear on them to withdraw. Ben-Gurion refused at first, but Eisenhower, who felt Israel had launched an unprovoked attack on Egypt simply because Britain and France were providing a convenient cover, wouldn’t stand for it.

The U.S. suspended all financial and technical aid to Israel, and when Ben-Gurion still balked at withdrawing, the administration let it be known it was ready to support a United Nations plan for sweeping sanctions that would cripple Israel’s economy in a matter of weeks. There was also talk of ending the tax-deductible status of charitable contributions to Israel by American Jews.

Ben-Gurion finally buckled, and on March 1, 1957, four months after the ill-conceived and short-lived Franco-British-Israeli alliance, the official announcement was made that Israeli troops would leave the Sinai.

(In 1965 Eisenhower would admit to Jewish organizational leader and Republican fundraiser Max Fisher that he had come to “regret what I did. I should never have pressured Israel to vacate the Sinai.”)

Secretary of State Dulles boasted that most Americans supported the Eisenhower policy, adding: “I am aware how almost impossible it is in this country to have a foreign policy not approved by the Jews. I am going to try to have one.”

It should be noted that those remarks were made at a time when Israel was receiving from Washington a relatively small amount of financial assistance and no military aid at all; a time when Israel existed behind the precarious 1949 armistice lines and Jordan and Egypt controlled, respectively, the West Bank and Gaza; a time when Jewish organizations were keeping a considerably lower profile than would be the case years later (AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations were formed in the mid-1950s, AIPAC to better present Israel’s case to U.S. lawmakers, the Presidents Conference to give the Jewish community a more unified voice).

* * *

The final years of Eisenhower’s second term were relatively quiet with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Relations between the U.S. and Israel, which had come close to unraveling in late 1956 and early 1957, gradually returned to where they were pre-Suez, which is to say not particularly close but relatively free of tension and mutual mistrust.

There would be better times ahead in the U.S.-Israel relationship, but it would be years before the two countries could, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as actual friends rather than, at best, friendly acquaintances.

Next In Line

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Though the prices of airline tickets to Israel had soared with the increase in the cost of fuel this summer, my son Moshe was determined to visit his ailing grandfather in Jerusalem. His goal was to travel after Tisha B’Av, and to return to the U.S. in time to see his grandmother who would be visiting from Los Angeles. It was only with Hashem’s help that Moshe was able to be home to greet his beloved grandmother when she arrived.

After working long hours to build up his own savings, it was not easy for him to spend hundreds of dollars on just one flight. Though they did not have much advanced planning, our son kindly invited his sister along for the trip, knowing that she would love the opportunity to see her best friend who lived there. It was when we were packing that we noticed that our daughter’s Israeli passport had expired, and we asked our son if he would kindly assist in applying for a new one during their ten-day trip in Eretz Yisrael.

Moshe and Basya traveled to the Ministry of the Interior in Jerusalem to order a new passport on a Thursday. There were eight clerks working in the office, and my son and daughter were fortunate to be summoned to the counter of one of the nicer employees. They were told to come back the following Sunday to pick up the passport. Their flight was for Monday evening. That Sunday, both were relieved to receive the new passport.

On Monday afternoon, as the two were preparing to go to the airport, Moshe realized that his passport was missing. They were short on time. His options were to try to go to the airport and attempt to leave the country using only his American passport or not to try at all. Since our son had to help his sister get from Yerushalayim to the airport, he decided to try to get on the plane as well.

Moshe did not even have a chance. Security comes first and foremost at Ben Gurion airport. Moshe was sent back to Yerushalayim as his sister got on the plane to New Jersey. Basya arrived alone on Tuesday morning at Newark.

After returning to Yerushalayim, Moshe had a big job to tackle. His grandmother from Los Angeles was scheduled to arrive on Thursday afternoon in New Jersey. He had to work fast. He would have to find a way to circumvent the three-day hold on passport processing in order to get back to New Jersey on time. The only way he believed he would be successful was if he could be assisted by the very same lady who had serviced him the week before.

In order for this plan to succeed, not only would the same clerk have to be in the office, he would need to be called to her window. Then she would need to remember my son from the hundreds of clients she helped weekly. Finally, she would have to have the ability to issue a new passport on the spot.

It was a tall order. My son waited his turn in line, carefully watching customer after customer being called up to one of the eight windows. Would he be called to the right window? To our son’s great joy, the clerk that he was hoping to meet motioned him to her window! Moshe hoped that the mitzvos he performed in visiting his sick grandfather and going out of his way to help his sister had earned him enough help from Heaven to be able to catch the Tuesday night flight with a new Israeli passport in hand.

And with Hashem’s help, he was successful.

When we saw Moshe leaping to greet my mother as she arrived from California, our sense of gratitude deepened for the help we had received from the One Above.

The Generation That Transformed Jewish History

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

The establishment of the State of Israel sixty years ago, on 5 Iyar 5708 (May 14, 1948), was by no means inevitable.

From the moment the United Nations passed the partition resolution the previous November 29, the Arabs, desperate to thwart its implementation, ruthlessly intensified their attacks on the Jewish population of Israel.

Nearly 1,200 Jews, half of them civilians, were murdered by Arab marauders in the six months before statehood, and that instability – and fears for the survival of this remnant of Jewry that had survived the Holocaust – engendered a desire in many quarters to postpone statehood indefinitely.

General George Marshall, President Truman’s secretary of state, warned of an impending massacre of Jews that American soldiers would not – and could not – prevent.

The Brisker Rav, Rav Velvel Soloveitchik, strenuously opposed a declaration on the grounds that it would precipitate a war, and lead to the “destruction, God forbid, of the entire yishuv.”

These sentiments were fomented by voices in the Arab world predicting just that, most prominently the infamous boast of Azzam Pasha (secretary-general of the Arab League) on the radio that “this will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”

The political pressures on the Jewish leadership were enormous – augmented by the painful loss of life, the ongoing siege of Jerusalem, and the sense that the approximately 25,000 ill-equipped Jewish soldiers – almost completely devoid of any heavy artillery or aircraft – could not adequately defend the nascent Jewish state against the Muslim hordes, vastly superior in numbers and weaponry.

At least seven Arab nations – some only independent states for less than a decade – were poised to strangle the Jewish state in its infancy. Conversely, for the first time in 19 centuries, the opportunity existed for Jews to be sovereign in their own land.

But at what price?

The Jewish Agency, under the direction of David Ben-Gurion, was itself bitterly divided. Should a state be declared, even with the knowledge that it would provoke immediate hostilities? If yes, then pursuant to what boundaries?

The partition boundaries – a truncated Israel consisting of three barely linked triangles in parts of the Galilee, the coastal plain, and the Negev – were not only unworkable on paper but had already been bypassed by facts on the ground. And what would this new state be called?

The United States government was fragmented in a remarkable and public way. President Truman wavered, though he was reasonably inclined to push for statehood and immediate recognition. Secretary Marshall was vehemently opposed, even telling Truman that if the Jewish state were recognized, he (Marshall) would publicly declare his intention to vote against Truman in that fall’s presidential election.

In one stunning episode in March, Truman had guaranteed Chaim Weizmann that the United States would support statehood, only to learn on the very next day that the American delegation to the United Nations had voted – upon instructions from the State Department and in defiance of Truman – for a UN resolution supporting a continued trusteeship in the land of Israel and suspending the implementation of partition.

Truman recorded in his diary that he was made to feel for the first time in his life “like a liar and a double crosser. There are peoplein the State Department who always wanted to cut my throat. They are succeeding in doing it.”

Rank Jew-hatred was another obvious factor in mobilizing opposition to a Jewish state. Conspiracy theorists who feared Jewish “world domination” (venomously ironic in light of the just concluded Nazi Holocaust that consumed six million Jews and that made so manifest the reality of Jewish powerlessness) campaigned vigorously against the formation of a Jewish state.

Some Christian theologians correctly perceived a Jewish state as a repudiation of the doctrine of the “eternal wandering Jew,” punishment for our “heretical” beliefs. Some liberal Jewish leaders dreaded that statehood would inevitably spawn accusations of “dual loyalty” against Jews in foreign lands, and that Jewish nationalism would erode the universalistic dimensions of Judaism they so prized and preached – to the exclusion of Torah, mitzvot, and the prophetic vision of the return to Zion.

Secretary of Defense James Forrestal played the Arab oil card and attempted to convince Truman – and the rest of the cabinet – that a Jewish state would endanger American security by angering the Arabs. That card, worn and tattered after sixty years, is still on the table. Forrestal also averred that a Jewish state – under Socialist-minded rule – would invariably fall into the Soviet-Communist orbit, further jeopardizing American interests in that region.

Further muddying the waters, the Soviet Union in early May 1948 (perhaps anticipating that the Jewish state would become a Soviet client) called for Jewish statehood and announced that it would recognize the Jewish state.

By Thursday, May 13, nothing had yet been decided, either in Israel or in the United States.

In Washington, Truman defied most of his cabinet and the political establishment and sent word to Marshall that if a state were declared, the United States would recognize it.

In Israel, Ben-Gurion, acting with vision, courage, and foresight, argued that if statehood were not declared immediately, history would not be forgiving, and the opportunity lost might not be regained for generations.

He submitted his motion to declare a Jewish state without defined borders to the Provisional Council. The motion not to specify borders carried 5-4; the motion to declare a state, on the following day, passed 6-4. One or two votes spelled all the difference.

After briefly considering the name “Zion,” the Council approved the name of the first Jewish state since the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash in 70 C.E. – Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel.

* * *

At 4 p.m. that Friday, the 5th day of Iyar, with the British Mandate due to end at midnight, Ben-Gurion, out of respect for the sanctity of the approaching Shabbat, read the Proclamation of Independence. He declared to the world the establishment of a Jewish state, “by virtue of our national and intrinsic right.” Rabbi Maimon of Mizrachi recited the Shehechiyanu prayer.

Statehood went into effect at midnight in Israel – 6 p.m. Washington time. At 6:11 p.m. the United States extended de facto recognition to the Jewish state. The Soviet Union, several hours later, became the first nation to recognize Israel de jure.

In what Rav Yosef Soloveitchik termed one of the “six divine knocks” on the door of the people of Israel to herald His renewed, overt involvement in world affairs, both the United States and the Soviet Union agreed on the establishment of the Jewish state. They would agree on little else in the ensuing 50 years.

(Truman, at 36% in the polls in May, won reelection in November with barely 50% of the vote, defeating his main opponent, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey.)

That same Friday, the last defenders of Kfar Etzion were taken captive. The provisional Government of Israel, in its first official act, abolished the British White Paper of 1939 that had cruelly barred the gates of Israel to European Jews during the Holocaust, and plans to evacuate Jewish displaced persons from European camps were immediately put into effect.

The British authorities and most soldiers sailed that night from Haifa harbor. Early on Shabbat morning, the Egyptian Air Force bombed Tel Aviv, the armies of seven Arab nations invaded Israel in an effort to carry out Azzam Pasha’s “war of extermination,” and the deadliest of Israel’s wars ensued.

When hostilities ended, approximately 6,000 Jews – 1% of the population – had fallen in battle, but Israel had successfully expanded its territorial holdings far beyond the boundaries of the 1947 Partition Plan that had been summarily rejected by the Arabs.

Israel’s sovereignty extended over the Galilee and the Negev all the way to Eilat, the coastal plain was expanded, and Jerusalem itself – the “New City” – came under Israeli jurisdiction.

As the notion of the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” had not yet entered the world’s legal or moral lexicon (that ingenious bit of hypocrisy would be concocted to torment Israel only after the Six-Dar War), no retreat to the 1947 borders was contemplated, and the battles ended in the signing of armistice agreements – but no peace treaty – between Israel and most of its adversaries.

In a factual sense, though, the war has never ceased, notwithstanding the variety of peace treaties signed with a number of parties whose commitment and stability are both questionable.

The “era of peace” signaled by those agreements has not yet permeated the Arab masses, and the hatred and intolerance of our enemies show no signs of relenting in the near future. In Israel, wishful thinking and indulgence of fantasies have substituted for sound policy judgment, reasoning, and execution. The three pillars of government are indecision, hesitation and paralysis.

But, in May 1948, for one moment in time, true and gifted leaders made decisions – without consulting pollsters or reading tea leaves and in defiance of some of their closest advisers.

They led, knowing that their choices would have adverse consequences, but with the confidence that the positives far outweighed the negatives.

They made decisions recognizing that war would follow, casualties would ensue, criticism was sure to follow, and political defeat might be their personal fate.

They understood that the good is not the enemy of the perfect, and that inertia is often fatal to both personal and national aspirations.

In our generation – orphaned of real leaders – one looks back longingly on Ben-Gurion’s determination and steely resolve, and Truman’s courage and political will, and marvels at how great leaders with a sense of history can, in fact, shape history and even transform it.

They were neither infallible nor beyond reproach; they were both flawed and biased people who made mistakes before, during and after the transpiring of these events. Yet we recognize that “the Omnipresent has many agents” and that “the heart of a king is like streams of water in the hands of God; wherever He wishes, He directs it” (Proverbs21:1).

Truman and Ben-Gurion stand out as historic figures who acted with daring and steadfastness, and together ushered in a new era in Jewish and world history.

The concerns of some of the opponents of statehood – Jews and non-Jews, religious and otherwise – were not illegitimate. War did come, but the yishuv was not destroyed and was able to repulse the invaders. Israel did not fall into the Soviet orbit – something that in a very short time would cause the Soviet Union to turn against Israel with a vengeance.

Rav Reuven Grozovsky, speaking for the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel, pledged to participate in the governance of Israel, saying that abstention from Israeli politics would mean “relinquishing our basic rights.”

In retrospect, Ben-Gurion, forced to make an agonizing decision, was right, and Truman’s judgment was vindicated. Ben-Gurion knew that war was coming, but chose to fight it on his terms from a position of moral strength – a nation fighting for its independence and not relying on the kindness of strangers or the cult of victimization.

And when Israel’s chief rabbi, Yitzchak Herzog, visiting the White House in 1949, told Truman, “God put you in your mother’s womb so you would be the instrument to bring the rebirth of Israel after two thousand years,” the president burst into tears.

Israel’s founders had a profound knowledge of the Bible, and of the modern state’s place in Jewish history. The contrast to today’s Israel is striking, if not somewhat depressing.

One can only wonder how the Olmert government perceives the glorious struggle for independence and statehood, and how it explains away the jarring contrast of that generation’s decisiveness and accomplishments with its own inadequacies.

Those officials who have boasted about how “tired” the people of Israel are; who have carried out the destruction of Jewish homes and communities and the internal exile of thousands of Jews and are currently plotting future retreats and expulsions; who botched a war and squandered Jewish lives and treasure; who lack a coherent strategy to deal with looming threats and improvise (poorly, at that) in response to each of the enemies’ maneuvers; who have dissipated the justification for Israel’s existence by embracing the enemy’s narrative and conceding that the land of Israel is not inherently Jewish; who shamelessly cling to power through a combination of schemes, spoils and bribes – those officials must cringe at any comparison with even the flawed giants of Israel’s founding.

We look poignantly, even enviously, on that generation – on Truman, on Ben-Gurion, and also on Menachem Begin, who tenaciously spearheaded the underground that enervated the British and hastened their departure and Israel’s establishment.

The mediocrity of today’s leadership underscores the greatness of those who sixty years ago changed our world for the better.

But such greatness, we pray, lurks within our Jewish leaders of tomorrow. Israel’s 60th anniversary is most meaningful if we internalize the spirit of 1948 – the benevolence of our Creator, the justice of our cause, the magnitude of our choices, and the awesome responsibility thrust upon those who move Israel’s destiny forward.

Then, the majestic moment of the Jewish people’s reentry into the world of nations – as overseers and landlords of their own independent, sovereign country – will continue to inspire us to build the Israel of tomorrow, the homeland of all Jews and the foundation of God’s kingdom on earth.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, of Teaneck, New Jersey, and the author of “A Prophet for Today: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Yehoshua” (Gefen Books) and the forthcoming “Judges for our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim.”

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Ben-Gurion No Model
   Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s column on Ehud Olmert in last week’s Jewish Press quoted David Ben-Gurion saying “We chose a Jewish state without the entire land of Israel.” What was the Jewish character of the state chosen by Ben-Gurion? Ben-Gurion’s “Jewish” state took Yemenite children from their parents, cut off their payos, and raised them as secular Jews. Ben-Gurion’s “Jewish” state was state without Torah.
   Also, how was Ben-Gurion any better than Olmert with regard to dealing with the Arabs? In 1956, after Israel conquered the Sinai peninsula, Ben-Gurion caved in to American pressure and returned the entire Sinai, thus setting the stage for later confrontations. In 1967, Ben-Gurion, retired but still influential, opposed the preemptive strike that enabled Israel to win such an overwhelming victory in the Six-Day War.
   Mr. Hikind ought to know better than to hold up Ben-Gurion as a model for true Jewish behavior.

Jay Grossman

Spring Valley, NY


Time For Action


   Dr. Phyllis Chesler’s “Manifesto for Survival” (op-ed, Dec. 15) needs to be understood and acted on pronto. A first course of action would be for each of us to contact every political official and demand that our government issue a non-negotiable ultimatum to the Arab states that are identified beyond any doubt as a declared and dedicated enemy seeking our destruction.
   The ultimatum would clearly state that we take their threats seriously and that those threats constitute an act of war. The only civilized, moral consideration we will extend these governments as an opportunity to protect their civilian populations will be this one-time offer to cease and desist further aggressive threats, publicly sign a non-aggression pact and cease the development and production of nuclear and chemical weapons. Failure to respond to this offer will render those governments responsible for all the terrible consequences we will bring upon them.
   In the name of sanity, we must do it.

Norman Shine

Brooklyn, NY


Trivializing Observance?
   Rabbi Mordechai Weiss (“Diversity: The Uniqueness of Our People,” op-ed, Dec. 15) correctly points out that it is unwise to judge people based on external criteria. Each person has something to contribute to society. However, I disagree with what I view as his attempted trivialization of the guidelines and principles essential for authentic Torah observance.
   In support of permissiveness, he cites the talmudic maxim koach d’heterah adif, which actually pertains to talmudic discussions; in particular, in the event one disputant has a mesora from his rebbe (a tradition from his mentor that a particular approach has its origins in the revelation at Sinai.) In that case, such an authority can argue by virtue of such knowledge in favor of a more liberal position. (This option is for the tannaim, the rabbis of the Mishna.)
   One classic case involves Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel in Masechta Beitza 2. This might surprise Rabbi Weiss: The liberal position does not prevail. (Also see Chullin 58)
   It is ironic that many of the most popular practices in Judaism stem from chumras. Without getting too technical, I’ll cite one timely example: Kindling the lights of the Chanukah menorah. The universal practice involves a mehadrin min hamehadrin ceremony, which is a super-orthodox lighting extravaganza. Every night an extra candle is lit to commemorate the triumph of freedom to believe in God and to proclaim that the Word of the Lord is from Zion and Jerusalem, and that this Torah will never be exchanged for any new man-made doctrine.

Chaim Silver

(Via E-Mail)


We Stand Corrected
   The tagline for writer Irwin Cohen (“The World Series That Wasn’t: Post-Season Musings of a Veteran Baseball Scribe,” op-ed, Dec. 1) describes Mr. Cohen as the only Orthodox Jew to have earned a World Series ring from a front office position. In fact, Joel Mael, an Orthodox Jew from Lawrence, Long Island, is the vice-chairman of the Florida Marlins. He held his current position in 2003 when the Marlins beat the Yankees in the World Series and he received a World Series ring at that time. Kindly correct this oversight.

Rhonda Younger

Brooklyn, NY





Neturei Karta Breaks Bread
With Holocaust Deniers

In Their Element


      I commend The Jewish Press for publishing the front-page photograph of Neturei Karta members being greeted by the president of Iran at that conference in Tehran. I hope those letter-writers who recently defended Neturei Karta now realize that the group’s agenda has gone way beyond anti-Zionism and has become plain old-fashioned anti-Semitism.
      By actively participating in a conference that questioned whether or not the Holocaust took place, Neturei Karta members hung their hats together with the likes of Iran’s Ahmadinejad and the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Those gentlemen are not just anti-Zionist, they are anti-Semitic.
      As a firm believer in the concept of midah k’neged midah – a person is punished in a manner similar to the sin he committed – I can only imagine what Hashem has in store for Neturei Karta members who associate with those who wish to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth.

Barry J. Koppel

Kew Gardens Hills, NY


Enough Is Enough


      Although initially outraged and disgusted by the picture of Neturei Karta representatives being greeted by the Iranian president at the Holocaust deniers meeting, I applaud The Jewish Press for putting it on the front page. We constantly prod moderate Muslim groups to speak out against their extremists, yet we allow these evil people dressed up as chassidic Jews to repeatedly disgrace our religion without vociferous protest from the rabbinic and lay leaders of our community.
      The vicious anti-Israel behavior we have witnessed in the past from this group has been swept under the rug as political – i.e., anti-government or anti-Zionist – but enough is enough. They’ve now become Holocaust deniers. If they can’t listen to reason here, there are six million souls waiting to set the record straight for them.

Dr. Marvin Brody

(Via E-Mail)


No Shame


      How low can they go? Have they lost all sense of shame? Those photos of Neturei Karta operatives openly consorting with notorious Holocaust deniers and arch anti-Semites in Tehran were absolutely sickening. They were “honored” with front row seats by their new associates, led by the proto-Hitler, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denies past genocide against the Jews while eagerly anticipating a future one.
      While Neturei Karta is entitled to its odious opinions concerning the legitimacy of the State of Israel, such a gross display of chillul Hashem crossed all remaining red lines. What these so-called rabbis lack in ahavas Yisrael is more than made up for by their sinas chinam.

Richard D. Wilkins

(Via E-Mail)


No Laughing Matter


      Just look at those costumes! You have three clowns dressed up like Orthodox Jews shaking hands with a beast masquerading as a human being, while two other similarly costumed beasts approvingly look on.
      I’m being facetious, but the reality is that this is no laughing matter. This goes deeper than Neturei Karta’s mere rejection of the State of Israel, as wrong-headed as that may be. (And how difficult is it to understand that Israel exists to this day only because God wishes it to exist and has foiled all efforts to destroy it over the past 58 years? To reject His great miracle is to deny His very existence). These lunatics are actively legitimizing haters of Jews by their presence at this so-called “scholarly conference” and by their claims to represent religious Jewry.
      Does Neturei Karta “Rabbi” Yisroel Duvid Weiss actually think that fellow conference-attendee David Duke would not gladly toss him into a fiery oven if he could? Believing that a Nazi or a Muslim jihadi would spare him because he is not a Zionist Jew is as foolishly naive as the belief of liberal “Jews of the Mosaic persuasion” in Holocaust-era Germany that the Nazis would spare them because they were not like those odd-looking religious Jews.
      We should keep the so-called rabbis of Neturei Karta in mind when we recite the verse in the Amidah calling on God to punish informers, heretics and other such arrogant sonnei Hashem and sonnei Yisrael.

Paul Deckelman

Far Rockaway, NY


See No Evil


      I must express my dismay over the front-page photo in last week’s Jewish Press. Publishing that picture gives publicity to an insignificant group that represents nobody but themselves and that has been condemned by all segments of Jewry. I feel your paper owes an apology to its readers. Please don’t even mention these traitors to our people any more – they are not worthy of it.

Shlomo Philipson

Monsey, NY


New Depths


      I thought Neturei Karta could not reach new levels of chillul Hashem, but they’ve raised (or rather lowered) the bar again. Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial gathering in Tehran drew some of world’s leading Holocaust deniers – and right there, present in the front row, were members of Neturei Karta.
      Apparently, this conference, which had been denounced by such friends of the Jews as Germany, England, France, the EU and the Vatican, is just fine for Neturei Karta.

Zachary Gorden

Brooklyn, NY


Al Tehi Tikvah


      Concerning those Neturei Karta representatives who met with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Holocaust deniers conference I can only say: Caesar had his Brutus, America had its Benedict Arnold, and we Jews have our traitors, too.
      Denying the legitimacy of the government of Israel is one thing. Expressing that view by legitimizing the potential murderer of millions of Jews and by tacitly denying the Holocaust is quite another. Let me suggest that while waiting for Mashiach to come and redeem us, Neturei Karta settle in Iran where I’m sure they’ll be warmly hosted by their friend Ahmadinejad.
      “And to slanderers let there be no hope.”

Henry Adler

(Via E-Mail)

Title: Real Jews; Secular Versus Ultra-Orthodox And The Struggle For Jewish Identity In Israel

Saturday, July 26th, 2003

Title: Real Jews; Secular Versus Ultra-Orthodox And The Struggle For Jewish Identity In Israel
Author: Prof. Noah Efron
(Bar-Ilan University)
Publisher: Basic Books, New York, NY

There may be some who would wish this book, and this subject matter, to not be discussed at all; to shove it back into some secret corner whence it came. “Don’t air dirty linen in public!”

But it has been done – published by one of America’s largest publishers, and it will be found in many Judaica bookshops, as well as in Barnes & Noble, Borders, and the leading independent bookshops.

Prof. Efron, whose own feelings remain quite professionally hidden even at the conclusion, aptly describes the struggle for the hearts and minds of young Israelis. Even before the secular Israeli public learned to demonize Palestinians, they learned to demonize charedim. In America, anyone characterizing a Jew with a long nose and payos in a derogatory cartoon would be called an anti-Semite, but in Israel, it has come to Jew against Jew.

When Israel’s government was first established, then-Prime Minister David Ben Gurion made what secular Israelis term, “A pact with the devil.” To obtain a working majority in the Knesset, Ben Gurion gained the votes of charedi parties in return for certain objectives, including exemptions from universal military service for young studying in Yeshiva.

The so-called “Ultra-Orthodox” reside in communities segregated from secular Jews and rarely interact with them. Although consisting of over 10% of the total Israel population, Yeshiva students are exempt from military service – while secular youth serve for many years. The charedi community also enjoys political (and economic) power way out of proportion to their actual numbers. A quite high percentage benefits from various forms of governmental largesse.

To the contrary, modern Israeli history venerates those secular individuals such as Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, and Moshe Dayan whose efforts built the nation in the first place and defended it during its formative years. It was Ben Gurion himself who declared that we would finally know Israel as an independent nation, when we would have our own burglars and criminals in Tel Aviv.

There is a reason why some cities built beyond the Green Line, such as Kiryat Sefer and Betar, are chareidi. The population in chareidi communities such as Meah Shearim and Bnei Brak have expanded almost to the point of explosion. Housing costs are disproportionate to the family incomes of the residents of these neighborhoods. Thus, real estate developers acquire relatively inexpensive lands from the government – especially when there is a policy to populate some given area – and build entire cities catering to charedim.

Secular Israelis also take issue with the kosher food ‘tax,’ in the form of extra cost to everyone due to the expense of kashruth supervision, which could raise food prices by as much as 4%. In places like America, where kosher-observant Jews may be a quite small percentage of the buyers of the products, the cost is evened-out by the many thousands of others, such as Moslems and Seventh Day Adventists who also rely on our kashruth supervision for their own dietary requirements. In Israel, where the costs are government-mandated, they are resented by the secular.

Here in America we Jews are concerned whenever a criminal’s Jewishness is reported in the media. In Israel a special case is made whenever it is a charedi who is charged with a crime, even if his religiosity is irrelevant to the case. Efron’s thesis is that because of social pressures, including those of kiruv work of charedim among the secular, secular Israelis are demonizing charedim. To quote: “Each new “conversion” (a secular Israeli becoming observant) is an assertion that we have failed. If we are who we think we are, why are our children leaving?”

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