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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Israeli Army’

Is Learning Torah ‘Sharing the Burden’?

Monday, March 11th, 2013

I have to respectfully disagree with the esteemed Mashgiach of Lakewood, Rav Matisyahu Salomon. An article in YWN quoted him as saying that the statement being made about Haredim in Israel not ‘sharing the burden’ is apikursus – heresy.

I suppose that the way he explains it, it might be heresy to say such a thing. To make the claim that learning Torah is not “sharing the burden” is indeed a slight to learning Torah. Learning Torah does help protect Israel from harm by its enemies just as a physical army does. Those are two necessary components.

But it is a gross misunderstanding to characterize “sharing the burden” in the way Rav Salomon does. The burden that is not shared – is the one that involves putting oneself in harm’s way. I can’t repeat this enough times. Rav Salomon cannot possibly think that yeshiva bachurim (lomdei Torah – those who study Torah) risk their lives in the same way as a solider in combat does. They are nowhere near harm’s way while they are in a Beis HaMedrash being protected by soldiers who do share the burden of risking life and limb.

Once again we see a great rabbinic figure who apparently does not understand what it is that really upsets the non-Haredi public – which includes many observant Jews. To say that our views are apikursus is both false and insulting – even if unintentionally so. Nor does Rav Salomon even attempt to give credit to those who do risk life and limb protecting those lomdei Torah – as did a Gadol of the previous generation, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz.

How sad it is that a leader of such great stature in the Haredi world feels he has to insult so many observant Jews in order to make his point about the importance of learning Torah. Would it not serve Klal Yisroel better if he were to first acknowledge the contributions of those who do serve in the IDF?

And wouldn’t it also serve Klal Yisroel better if he were to understand that “sharing the burden” means participating in the risk to life and limb equally… and not meant to denigrate the contributions of lomdei Torah to our survival as a nation?

Statements such as those made by Rav Salomon are very upsetting. Is there any wonder why there is such a lack of Achdus in Klal Yisroel? But all is not lost. I do in fact agree with his final paragraph:

HaRav Solomon said if there are מקטרגים (opponents; detractors) on the Torah, the Gra teaches us that this is a sign of the תביעות (claims) against us in Shomayim [Heaven] and while today we do not have prophets, one can know this is bases on מידה כנגד מידה (measure for measure) and we must look and see from where the פורענות (troubles) come from and this is the area where the teshuvah [repentance] and מעשים טובים (good deeds) must be focused.

Indeed. Perhaps God is sending a message about an area that needs improvement. And perhaps the first place his community should be looking at is in how they have reacted to this very issue. Perhaps if they would treat those of us who have made this statement (about sharing the burden) with a measure of understanding and respect instead of calling us apikursim, we would return that respect and understanding measure for measure.

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Why US Ambassador Condemned IDF Probe, Boosting ISM’s Rachel Corrie Myth

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

This Tuesday the verdict is expected in a wrongful death suit against the government of Israel brought by the family of an American girl who died when she acted as a human shield against Israeli military anti-terrorism efforts.

As if there weren’t already enough drama and media attention surrounding the Rachel Corrie trial, it appears that U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro this week lent credibility to the plaintiffs’ case against the government of Israel when he reportedly criticized the Israeli investigation into Corrie’s death.

According to several news reports, Ambassador Shapiro told the Corrie family that the U.S. government believes the Israeli investigation was not “thorough, credible and transparent.”  That was enough to feed the liberal blogosphere, which touted the US support for the Corries, convicting Israel in their own court hearing.

But is that really the case?

The Israeli investigation, conducted immediately after Corrie’s death, concluded that what happened was a tragic accident brought on largely because Corrie insisted on entering and remaining in a military zone, and ignored repeated and escalating efforts to leave the area.  Further, that investigation found that the bulldozer operator could not have seen Corrie when she was struck and killed.

A little background, first.

In late January, 2003, Rachel Corrie moved from Olympia, Washington to Gaza, where she joined the virulently anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement and volunteered to act as a human shield in order to stop Israeli efforts to combat terrorism. She died on March 16, 2003, when she placed herself in the path of an Israeli army bulldozer that was in the process of leveling ground and removing booby traps planted by terrorists.

Between the time that Corrie arrived at the site and her death, the IDF issued multiple warnings and attempted to remove Corrie and her colleagues with shock grenades, tear gas and warning shots. The protesters refused to leave the site.

An Israeli military investigation took place immediately after Corrie’s death. The IDF concluded its investigation in June, 2003, finding that the bulldozer driver could not have seen Corrie, that the death was a tragic accident, and that Corrie had endangered herself by entering and remaining in a combat zone.  The investigation determined there was no fault on the part of the Israeli bulldozer driver, and that no charges would be brought.

What happened next within the US government on this issue is nearly as much of a deep mystery as many of Corrie’s supporters believe events surrounding her death is.

When Amb. Shapiro met with the Corries in advance of the court verdict last week, he was representing the US government, speaking to an American family, and discussing the death of an American citizen.  Although much has been made of his statement by supporters of the Corries, in fact he was simply repeating what has been described as the official position of the US government with respect to the Israeli investigation into Corrie’s death.

But where did the position come from?  Upon what was it based?

It turns out, the position appears to simply be the opinion of Rachel Corrie’s parents, the plaintiffs in the case against the government of Israel.

During his confirmation hearing in May, 2011, now Ambassador Dan Shapiro was asked by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry what steps he would take to ensure, as the State Department Spokesperson had called for, “that the Israeli government would continue a thorough, transparent and credible investigation of the circumstances concerning [Corrie’s] death.”

The State Department spokesperson was echoing what, in 2008, Senator Joe Biden asked during the confirmation hearing for Ambassador James Cunningham, now ambassador to Afghanistan, who was leaving his position at the US Consulate in Hong Kong.

Biden asked the future ambassador to Israel about the Rachel Corrie incident.  He asked whether, “in your opinion, has a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation taken place?” The Ambassador did not answer in the affirmative.  Instead, Cunningham stated that “The Department remains committed to providing the highest standards of citizen services  to the Corrie family. If confirmed, I will continue to press the Government of Israel for a thorough and transparent investigation of the tragic death of Rachel Corrie.”

Curious.

For those few who have followed the path of the “official US administration position” regarding Israel’s investigation into Corrie’s death, the trail leads to a letter allegedly written in June, 2004, to the Corries by Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.  Wilkerson was replying to the Corries who asked him whether, in his opinion, the investigation conducted by Israel was “thorough, credible and transparent.”  According to legend, Wilkerson replied: “no.”

A Mother’s Soldier: A Candid Discussion with a Toronto Mother About Her Son who is Serving in the Israeli Army.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

War. Guns. Bullets. Combat Officers. Tanks. Paratroopers. Unfortunately, we’ve all become far too familiar with these terms.


And yet, as familiar as I am, for me, as for many of us in the Western world, the whole scenario remains a vague blur.

And as small a nation the Jewish People is – and though I may know people who currently are, were or will be serving in the Israeli army – it’s still all about them.


Fighting far away, over there. Across a vast ocean.


As connected as I may feel to our Homeland, as much as I feel so much a part of one large extended Jewish family, it remains in safe cognitive dissonance territory.


Until today.


Today, an e-mail was sent out to our entire community by my father, Rabbi Dovid Schochet, our community rabbi, making us aware of two of “our own” boys who were stationed on the front, asking us to increase in prayers and good deeds in their and all the soldiers’ merit.


“Our” two boys, Avraham Meyer (ben Leah Naomi) Ostfeld and Levy Yitzchack (ben Margalit) Mogilevsky, are in their early 20s. They grew up in our Toronto community, where their families currently live, just a stone’s throw from my own home. Yet the boys decided, on their own, to volunteer for the Israeli army; and in their respective special divisions – they were chosen from amongst many others in training – both are preparing to be at the very fore of the ground assault – if and when it may come.


I reached one mother, Lily Ostfeld, last night. Lily and her husband, Eron, are well-known members of the Toronto Chabad community, as well as the international Chabad community, for their philanthropy. Here, Lily is known for her modest grace, elegance and open warmth, generously offering her beautiful, spacious home to host any one of our many large communal events. The highly polished, ever shiny stone floors, the plush Oriental carpets, the tasteful furnishings and delicate knickknacks – as well as the mess, chaos and exertion of hosting hundreds of women – never prevent Lily from warmly agreeing.


“What is it like for you to have a son poised to begin the ground assault? To come face to face with his enemies?” I ask Lily.


“Avrohom Meyer was actually serving in an intense Maz lan battalion in the North. He switched very recently to the elite Golani brigade where he felt that the atmosphere was less intense, there was less rivalry and there was more of a sense of camaraderie amongst the unit. At this point,” here Lily sighs, “I guess I’ve got mixed feelings about his switch, since he might very well be involved in ground combat.”


“How did it all begin?” I wonder.


Lily speaks openly and frankly. “Three years ago, Avrohom Meyer was studying in CRC, now Meorot Chabad, a Lubavitch yeshivah in Israel, when he decided to volunteer for the army. He is well aware of the faults of the Israeli government in the whole peace plan and fully understands why many people are disillusioned with the effectiveness of the government in providing adequate security for its citizens,” Lily pauses. “But he has always said to me, ‘our brothers and sisters are in danger. Someone has to go to the front line to protect them. Just because the government puts the land in peril, someone still has to defend them.’”


One of those “someones” is now Avrohom Meyer.


How does a mother, living a comfortable life in Toronto, feel about her son’s decision?


“I’ll be honest with you, Chana.” Lily confides. “I can’t tell you how many times I tried to talk him out of this. I can’t say that I’ve supported his decision. I still have reservations and I admit that I was not a fan. And yet, I admire his determination and I’m so impressed by his motives.


“And the way that I hear him talking now – he’s changed. He’s grown. Life in the army makes them grow up really quickly. They gain a certain ” Lily grasps for the word, “a certain wisdom and knowledge.


“Look, here is a Toronto boy, growing up in a sheltered, cushy environment. And suddenly, he’s faced with real questions, with life staring him in the face, and situations in which he needs to ask for guidance from mentors.


“We speak to him very often – probably three or four times a day! I call him every night at 1:30 a.m. – which is 8:30 in the morning Israel time – to hear what is happening, or if he has been informed of the day’s schedule.


 “It’s important for him to speak to us. He can talk to us differently than to his katzin (army officer) – even though he’s got a great officer who’s a former expellee from Gush Katif and from whom he’s learned so much – but there are still things that you want to say to your mother or your father.


“He’s talking differently. He speaks about preparing his mindset, being especially focused in his goals and his mission and how he needs to be ready – not only physically but emotionally too – to face the enemy. He’s done his briefing and his training and a lot of work on himself emotionally, to be in the right frame of mind.”


“And, you, as a mother, Lily?” I ask. “How are you faring? What do you do when you feel nervous or scared?”


Without a pause, Lily continues, “I remind myself of this:


“I know he is there with his chitas [book containing a Chumash, Psalms, and Tanya, recommended by the Rebbe for extra safety - C.W.] − safely nestled in his bullet-proof vest, and with his Rebbe dollars.


“I know theAibishter firt de velt – G-d runs the world.


“And I say my Tehillim (Psalms).”


Almost as an afterthought, Lily says, “Please, Chana, write that the more Tehillim that is said for our boys, the more mitzvot that are done – it’s so important for them and the more encouragement we all feel.”


Because really, truly, there is no “them.”


It is all about us. Every one of us.


 


Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute videocast on www.chabad.org/intouch for your dose of weekly inspiration. Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/a-mothers-soldier-a-candid-discussion-with-a-toronto-mother-about-her-son-who-is-serving-in-the-israeli-army/2009/01/21/

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