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February 22, 2017 / 26 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘nation’

The Pita That Revived Terror

9 Tishri 5775 – October 3, 2014

First Published on Sept. 25, 2012

“And all the nations will see that the Name of God is called upon you, and they will fear you” (Deuteronomy 28:10).

During the First Lebanon War, the IDF forced the PLO terrorists all the way to the Beirut port and then to Tunisia. The PLO, which had lost its stronghold in Lebanon, was shattered. Salach Taamri, the most senior and admired terrorist captured by the IDF, was imprisoned in the Ansar detention camp. He was a broken man.

Later, Taamri was interviewed by journalist Aharon Barnea for the book he would write about him, To be Captive. In Barnea’s book, Taamri describes the situation of the terror organization prior to Pesach, 28 years ago. “I concluded,” said Taamri, “that we had no chance to overpower Israel’s financial and military prowess, and that we should make do with the crumbs that they would throw us and fold up all our flags.”

Taamri, an intellectual and patriot, willingly cooperated with his captors. The other prisoners understood from their admired commander that the end had come and that the war was lost. And then, Taamri continued, a surprising event took place that turned everything upside down.

“My hands were holding the cold bars and I was looking from inside my dark jail cell toward the hall where an Israeli guard was walking. I saw him from far. He was walking slowly, holding something in his hand that he would constantly bring close to his mouth. He would bring it close and then distance it. When he was close to my cell, I called to him. I saw that he was eating a pita. He would bite, chew, bite and chew.

“You are a Jew,” I said to him. “Why are you eating chametz on Pesach? Don’t you know that it is forbidden for a Jew to eat chametz on this holiday?”

“I am not committed to the things that happened to my people during the exodus from Egypt 2,000 years ago. I have no connection to it,” said the Jewish prison guard.

Taamri continued: “I sat on the mattress in my cell and said to myself, ‘A nation of people who do not have a connection with their past; who are willing to publicly desecrate the laws of their faith, is a nation that has cut off the roots from its land. We will be able to achieve our goals.’ On that night, my approach completely changed. I couldn’t fall asleep. In all those hours of darkness, I replayed that scene with the Jewish prison guard.

“The next morning I gathered the Palestinian leadership in the prison, all those who knew my opinion over the years. I told them about my experience and the conclusions that I reached. I clarified to everyone that from that morning, we were embarking on a new course: a war for everything. Not for a small percentage and not for crumbs that they would throw us. For opposing us was a nation that lacked the connection to its roots, a nation not interested in its past. Thus, its motivation was necessarily void of any will to struggle and fight.”

Since then, Taamri says that he has told his story to tens of thousands of people and has convinced all of them that the approach must be changed to this: the Palestinians must struggle without compromise.

Taamri was elected to the Palestinian parliament and indeed convinced his friends, breathing new spirit into the war against Israel. The damage done by that pita eaten by the Israeli soldier on Pesach cannot be exaggerated.

Friday the Rabbi Read Isaiah 53

12 Kislev 5774 – November 15, 2013

In this morning’s video pick, a recording of the late Christopher Hitchens discussing the inherently immoral notion of someone dying for someone else’s sins, a kind of spiritual cannibalism, really, reader Alex Rivera entered the comment: “I take it the editor has never read Isaiah 53…”

Since Isaiah 53 is being used as one of the foundation strategies of missionary tricksters in seeking proof for their pagan ideas in our holy scriptures, I decided to respond immediately, lest this drivel have a chance to spread further.

Now, this article is directed at both Jewish and Christian readers, as an attempt to set the record straight. If you’re a Jew, I expect this should satisfy any doubt you may have had regarding the most remote possibility that the missionary claims bear any validity; if you’re Christian, I hope that this would serve as an opening to explore further the deep seated errors of your faith.

Isaiah 53 is an amazing piece of poetry, besides bearing a stirring prophetic message. I cannot understand how one would be able to get it without a thorough knowledge of Hebrew – even if he or she don’t have preconceived notions about the Christian message. This is precisely why the missionaries are able to fool our Jewish brothers and sisters who aren’t fluent in Hebrew – but now they can all come to the JewishPress.com and see the Jewish version of Isaiah 53.

To start, the original Hebrew texts had no chapters, and we read them based on their content, referring to each as a distinct episode, or a distinct poem, with their own cohesive content.

The segment in Isaiah 53 actually starts in Isaiah 52:13, flowing into Isaiah 53:1:

52:13 goes: “Behold, My slave has become wise, he has risen and become superior and very high.”

The nation of Israel, in the singular, is called God’s slave throughout the book of Isaiah. In one particular verse, Isaiah 41:8, the text refers to our nation using both names of our patriarch: “And you Israel, my slave Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham my lover.”

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah use the term “My slave Jacob” six times, four of them with the Divine’s call to “fear not.”

In both cases, the prophets are borrowing the names of our forefather Jacob-Israel, whom God addresses with that calming call on the eve of his journey down to Egypt, in the context of his becoming a great nation, the nation of Israel:

“He said, I am God, the God of your father, fear not going down to Egypt for I shall turn you into a great nation there.” (Gen. 46:3)

So that there’s no doubt in any Hebrew reader’s mind that the prophetic poem in Isaiah 52-53 is referring to us, the nation of Israel, children of Jacob. Nothing here about some guy telling folks he is the messiah.

The scene described by Isaiah is that of the nations of the world, kings and all, who are reviewing the progress of the nation of Israel—very much the way they do today, when 9 out of 9 UN resolutions are against Israel, when the president of the United States and his secretary of state cannot tear themselves away from discussing the extra bathroom the Berkowitzes wish to construct in their East Jerusalem apartment, when the faraway, impoverished nation of Iran is devoting $175 billion, at last count, to build a weapon that would finally annihilate all the Jews of Israel – this is precisely what the prophet describes, this obsession of the entire world with the children of God.

And so, God shares His own report with them:

52:13 “Behold, My slave has become wise, he has risen and become superior and very high.”

God proceeds to describe our history:

52:14-15 “Just as many were appalled by your appearance, saying: he is so disfigured, worse than any man, and his form worse than any human being, so he will humiliate many nations, kings will stand speechless over him, for that which had not been told them they’ll see and that which they had not heard they’ll ponder.”

The prophet continues:

53:1 “Who would believe what we have heard, and to whom has God’s arm been revealed?”

The Undivided Past

30 Tishri 5774 – October 4, 2013

There are several words used in the Bible to describe the Jewish people. At one stage we were simply tribal. Then we became an “Am”, a people, a “Goy”, a nation, a “Mamlacha”, a kingdom. Post-Biblically, if the gentiles called us Jews, Judeans, Israelites, Hebrews, Yids, or whatever, we used “Yisrael” as the name of choice, in the main, which meant a people, a culture, a religion, a relationship with God and a land, all of that in varying and amorphous degrees. We knew what it meant, even if others were confused or bemused. It takes one to know one.

Under pagan empires religion was not a factor, just loyalty to an overarching regime or royal family. If you were a serf it was loyalty to your lord and village. Neither the Persian, nor the Greek, nor the Roman Empires cared how you worshipped or behaved, so long as you professed loyalty to the empire. Then Christianity emerged as the religion of the Roman Empire and other religions were marginalized. Ironically the bloodiest battles were within Christianity, between one theological variation and another. The same thing happened under Islam. Ideals soon got perverted by politics and as today, Muslims of different sects killed more Muslims than all their enemies put together and doubled. Freud memorably described this internal divisiveness as “the narcissism of minor differences”.

In the West, most Jews that non-Jews encounter are not particularly committed to being Jewish. For Jews like a Soros or a Zuckerberg, it’s an accident of birth, a minor casual affiliation, like belonging to the Church of England. And this explains why most of those in the West who think about the matter reckon that the Jews are not really too concerned about having a land of their own and that it was only the accidental intervention of imperialist powers that explains the Jewish presence in the Middle East. It was a misjudged adventure. And really the Jews ought to pick up and leave and stop being nasty to the indigenous population.

It takes an objective observer to notice that for millennia Jews have shared a powerful core identity, even if in almost every situation except when they were given a choice, most Jews actually abandoned the community of Jews. But it took a determined minority within a minority to fight hard, relentlessly, and ultimately victoriously for its Jewish identity.

In his book The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences, David Cannadine writes:

“Egypt under the Pharaohs may have resembled a nation…but there was no accompanying sense of public culture or collective identity. As for the ancient Greeks, their limited pan Hellenic aspirations embodied in their shared language, Homeric epics and Olympic games foundered on the disputatious reality of their fiercely independent city-states. Similar objections have been made to claims that the Sumerians, the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Arameans, the Philistines, the Hittites and the Elamites were ancient nations, or that the Sinhalese, the Japanese or the Koreans might be so described during the first millennium of the common era. Only in the case of Israel does it seem plausible to discern a recognizable ancient nation with its precise though disputed territoriality, its ancient myths, its shared historical memories of the Exodus, the Conquest and wars with the Philistines, its strong sense of exceptionalism and providential destiny and its self-definition against a hostile “other” and its common laws and cultures. These were and are the essential themes in the unfinished history of the Jews this example has also furnished ever since a developed model of what it means to be a nation.” (p. 58)

Throughout exile we somehow did preserve a sense of belonging to a people, to a tradition, to a land, a sense of community, Klal Yisrael. This is why the problem of Israel in the Middle East, the Jewish problem, is so intractable. The overwhelming majority of Jews now living in Israel or the West Bank are committed to the notion of a Jewish people. It is not to be compared as ignorant opponents of Israel try, to a few British or white imperialists imposing themselves on a vast majority “other”. Some may try to delegitimize us by overturning a decision of the United Nations, but they cannot delegitimize or wish away the Jewish people.

Farrakhan: Disappointed in Obama

9 Elul 5773 – August 14, 2013

Originally published at The American Thinker.

Fox Nation’s byline, “Farrakhan rips Obama,” was too good to pass up.

Have we just witnessed a chink in the armor of the Black Liberation Movement?  Did Louis Farrakhan, the Lord of the Nation of Islam finally confess a sin?

Let’s review what Farrakhan’s said:

“Clearly, we are in a dire condition… even though we in 2013 are celebrating a two-term black president — the brother simply has not been able to repair the damage caused by centuries of racism [and] greed, which has now run this nation over a fiscal cliff.”

I’m beginning to wonder about Fox. Farrakhan’s statement wasn’t a rip, it was a pander.

Poor Obama just can’t seem to overcome the mountain of guilt and shame that is needed to remake [his] people into the second coming of the “Great Society.”

Farrakhan’s last sentence was priceless:

“… centuries of racism [and] greed, which has now run this nation over a fiscal cliff.”

Ya gotta love the progressives!  The blame always rests with the enemy — that would be us, the conservatives.

We must digest these hallowed words of Farrakhan again so our noodles can catch up — let me offer a candid response:

Racism is packaged and sold by the progressives much like a commodity is traded on the Futures Market. It is promoted as a scourge on America and often derives its staying power in greed.  The commodity rises in value when the best promoters [like Farrakhan] are at play.  The political hacks that use racism to influence public emotions often see bigger turnouts at their elections.  Therefore, the problem appears to be unstoppable. ‘Racism and greed’ [at least as long as the progressives run the show] will forever be embedded in our fine nation.

Accept the obvious — for the conservatives feeling a sliver of hope that Obama is losing favor with Farrakhan or the black folks, fear not!

“Blacks were the only race or ethnic group to show an increase in voter turnout in November [2012].”

Whenever the the Democrats feel the slightest threat of losing their black voting base, out pops the racism card and a promise to spend more welfare money — then, with renewed vigor, the race hustlers are good to go for another round.

Looking For God In Our Skyscrapers

26 Av 5773 – August 1, 2013

Over the last decade, Tisha B’Av, the day that we traditionally mourn the destruction of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, has been admitted to the pantheon of Jewish holy days that are not for the observant only: holy days that speak to everyone.

Yom Kippur has always been there. It is the private holy day, special to us all. A solid majority of the Jews in Israel fast on that day. Even those who do not fast feel something special: they respect the day and search for its meaning. Yom Kippur does not just pass us by like the holiday of Shavuot, for example.

Pesach is another holy day that has always been a holiday for all the Jews. It is the family holiday. The Seder night – kosher-for-Passover or not – is celebrated by Jewish families everywhere. It is a holiday that has not been separated from the nation by the walls of religion.

What we still lack is the national dimension, the dimension that retains a void not filled by banging on plastic hammers on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. Yom Ha’atzmaut always leaves us with a vague sense of emptiness.

The collective subconscious that pulls the young people of Tel Aviv’s trendy Shenkin Street to alternative lamentations on the city rooftops discovers something in Tisha B’Av. It longs for the spiritual national dimension. It searches for meaning and warmth.

Real Israeli culture, the authentic national creation that we are all looking for, the point that affords meaning and validity to our national existence, is there – in our Father’s house, from which we were exiled and to where we will return.

Return to religion enriches the returnee. But usually it is at the expense of the real achievement of the return to Zion, Israel’s rising and return from the dimension of community to the dimension of nation – at the expense of the return to reality and history.

Generally speaking (and yes, there are certainly exceptions), the returnee to religion is no longer interested in the news, politics or the state. He has found his personal happiness and leaves the rest to the Messiah. His God is not so relevant outside his home, study hall or synagogue.

The new generation, however, wants God to be relevant in all dimensions. It doesn’t want to escape into religion. It wants a grand message, rectification of the world; neither to go backward into pre-Zionism nor to be stuck in the place bereft of identity and meaning in which Zionism – which shed all regard for religion – finds itself today.

The new generation wants it all. It wants to go forward into religion, to a Torah that is also a relevant culture and to a God who is with us here, in our modernity. It wants to proceed in our multilevel interchanges, in our skyscrapers, and in our hi-tech. It is looking for a God who is with us in our most private moments, in our most national triumphs, and in our most universal aspirations. The new generation wants warmth, a sense of belonging and meaning. It wants to herald a great message. It wants a home: it’s Father’s home, the home to which we all belong.

It wants the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The Merit Of Eretz Yisrael

17 Kislev 5773 – November 30, 2012

“And Yaakov became very frightened, and it caused him much pain, and he split the nation that was with him, as well as the sheep, the cattle and the camels, into two camps.” – Bereishis 32:7

Yaakov Avinu received word that his brother Eisav was coming to greet him. He understood fully well that this was not to be a warm family reunion. Eisav came accompanied by a band of four hundred armed men, bent on revenge. The Torah describes Yaakov as “very frightened,” so he prepared for war.

The Rishonim are bothered by why Yaakov would fear Eisav. After all, Hashem had promised to return him to his father’s house in peace. Throughout the many years, Hashem was right there protecting him, guarding him, keeping the promise. Why should he now fear a mere mortal?

The Dos Zakainim answers that Yaakov was afraid of the “zechus of Eretz Yisrael.” For the previous twenty years, Eisav had been living in Eretz Yisrael while Yaakov had not. Therefore, Yaakov was afraid that if he engaged in mortal combat with Eisav, that merit might win the day for him, and Yaakov might die in battle.

This Dos Zakainim is difficult to understand on a number of levels. First, the reason Yaakov wasn’t in Eretz Yisrael was not that he had abandoned the land, but that he fled from Eisav. He spent the first fourteen years in the yeshiva of Shem, and then he worked for Lavan.

But even more pointedly, what possible merit could Eisav have from living in Eretz Yisrael? He wasn’t practicing Torah and mitzvos. Quite the opposite, he was a rasha. His entire existence was focused against holiness. Eretz Yisrael is a land that has an enormous amount of kedushah and cannot tolerate wickedness; it is highly sensitive to tumah. Eisav’s very presence in the land should have been intolerable. So what type of merit would he have from being in that land? It would seem the opposite. His many years of defiling that holy land should work against him, not for him.

The answer to this question can best be understood with a perspective on capitalism.

If a man owns a successful small business, he might do a million dollars a year in sales. But that is the gross revenue, not the amount he takes home. As a rule in business, 15 percent of revenues is a reasonable profit margin. So if his mark-ups are strong and his expenses are in line, he might bring in a net profit of $150,000. Eighty-five percent of the money he earns goes to expenses. And this illustrates an interesting phenomenon. While his only motivation may have been to earn a living for himself, he is providing a substantial gain to those he does business with. In this scenario, $850,000 of his efforts are going to vendors, suppliers, and employees. And while it may not be his intention, he is making a substantial contribution to the economy as a whole.

In the same sense, Eisav was engaged in the building of Eretz Yisrael. While his interests may have been strictly his own, he maintained sheep, owned fields, hired workmen and built fences. His efforts directly benefited the land. It was cultivated and improved because of him. And this was Eretz Yisrael, the land that Hashem chose as the site for the Jewish people to settle, the home of the eventual Beis HaMikdash. Its very ground is holy. While he may not have been a credit to the land, and may not even have felt an attachment to it, because of him the land was built up – and that is a great merit.

Yaakov did not in any sense think that Eisav had more merit than he did as a person. He was well aware of the different lives they led. But Yaakov understood that Eisav had a tremendous zechus: he was responsible for building the land, and because of this Yaakov was afraid. In times of danger a particular merit can stand up for a person, and that can change the outcome of a confrontation.

We Don’t Belong Here

This concept is very relevant to our lives. While we patiently await imminent coming of Mashiach, one of the concepts that must be in the forefront of our minds is that we are in a foreign country. We don’t belong in chutz l’aaretz. It isn’t our home. While the United States is one of the most benevolent lands that has ever offered us residence, a Jew doesn’t belong in Brooklyn. When we build up this land, whether with palaces or impressive businesses, we are building other people’s land.

From Jerusalem – Not From New York

16 Kislev 5773 – November 30, 2012

Israel has a simple option in response to the UN upgrade of a “nation” bereft of history that is intent on stealing our Land to non-member state status: Immediate withdrawal from the United Nations. If the UN would know in advance that Israel would respond by withdrawal, this preposterous idea would never have gotten off the ground.

The interaction between the United Nations and the State of the Jews has become the central axis of the UN’s activity. Without Israel, the UN loses its raison d’etre. From our tiny little corner of the world, from our grasshopper view of all those giants, this seems patently absurd. But a check of the subjects of the majority of Security Council deliberations and decisions makes it impossible to ignore this logic-defying phenomenon: The entire world is obsessed with a tiny state that conducts itself more honorably, democratically and morally than most of the other UN members – and contributes to the world in a vast array of spheres, more than any other country.

The UN obsession with Israel is not based on Israel’s ethics or actions. It is on an entirely different plane. This is how British intellectuals described their anger at Israel to the dean of the Sapir College, Dr. Ze’ev Tzachor: “We dreamed of a place in which the Book of Books would be written anew in anticipation of the redemption of the world. For you are a treasured nation. The world had great expectations, and look what you have done.” (From a Makor Rishon interview written by Meir Uziel).

The world anticipates the declaration of liberty that will emerge from Zion. When this anticipation comes up empty-handed, it becomes disappointment and is translated into loss of legitimacy for the existence of a Jewish State on the face of the earth. The other side of the coin is traditional anti-Semitism of all sorts. All the anticipation and hopes from the universal humanistic message of Abraham on the one hand, and all the hatred for and opposition to that message on the other, are now directed at the State of Israel. Whether it likes it or not, Israel will always represent the Jewish message in the eyes of the world.

The incessant condemnations, the hypocrisy and the never-ending battles in the various UN committees express more than anything else the dichotomy of the world’s deep need for Israel and its fear of its light. After all, the UN cares about Arab human rights as much as it cares about last year’s snowflakes, as it has demonstrated with the ongoing catastrophe in Syria. When someone shouts at you, he clearly needs you. Without Israel, the UN loses its meaning and returns to the moral Stone Age, the pre-Abraham world.

But Israel is afraid of its own message. So it begs for recognition instead of understanding that if it would proudly bear its message to the world, the nations would vie to be recognized by the Jewish State . Post-Oslo Israel, which with its very own hands gave the keys of connection to the Promised Land to a non-nation, has no case against the world that recognizes this invented entity as a state.

The problem is not the UN. We are the problem. The solution is to immediately nullify the Oslo Accords; to prove our complete loyalty to all parts of the Land of Israel and first and foremost: to restore full and exclusive Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. We must declare Israeli sovereignty over all parts of the Land of Israel that are in our hands, as stated in the Likud constitution. And then, we must withdraw from the United Nations. Switzerland managed just fine without being a member of the UN and we will also “survive” at least as well – and probably better – without it.

“And many nations will go and say, ‘Let us go up to the mountain of G-d and to the house of the G-d of Jacob, and he will teach us his way and we will go on his paths.’ For from Zion shall the Torah emanate and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.” (Micha 4)

From Jerusalem – not from New York.

I Am a Loser Today

9 Kislev 5773 – November 22, 2012

First we must admit we lost the war with Hamas.

It will allow us to begin healing from our wounds. For until we make the admission that we are on the losing side in the war and remain in a state of denial about it, no recovery is possible. We are thankful to be alive, of course, there is that to be grateful for – we can write letters like these and feel some satisfaction in the small pleasures of daily life, but we lost the war, yes, we did.

If we all make the admission simultaneously it will be an even stronger spur to our recovery, for we will be able to move on and examine our options. But until we as a nation, say it out loud, we’re trapped in fear, despair and disappointment.

We lost the war with Hamas. Please, don’t be afraid to say it out loudly and clearly. Say it to yourself. Say it to your family and friends. Say it at work and in the streets. Let’s own our defeat and see how it feels before condemning it as defeatist or negative. I think it will do us a world of good, actually. Today, this Thursday morning, this week of Parshat Vayetze, we were defeated by Hamas.

We’re alive, unapologetic and eager to find the positive in the situation, but we are defeated. We lost the war with Hamas this week, you know. It hurts a lot. We were sure it was going to be a resounding win, a victory and a new beginning for Israeli citizens everywhere but especially in the south. Unfortunately, we lost the war with Hamas.

They won, you see, because they have two advantages over us, superior tactics and a superior strategy. I’m not writing an analysis; that’s for the historians and the war-college professors to do. I’m merely stating what needs to be said out loud for our health’s sake, today. We lost the war with Hamas.

I cry for us, for those who survive unscathed and for those who mourn their losses, all our collective losses. Their children are our children, their parents, our parents. We are all living in Sderot, we are all about five seconds from a devastating trauma – we all have the scars this morning from the war with Hamas which we lost.

We are a noble people, for the most part. God knows we seek no one any great harm, and rarely dream, as a nation, of committing genocide, rapine or plunder. But we must, for our health’s sake, admit that we are locked in a deathly embrace with Hamas who have beaten us this week, who have reduced us to the role of the vanquished, to the point where we were forced to sue for peace on their terms, on any terms. We need to internalize the simple fact that Islamists have forced us to settle, not for peace on any terms, but with a lull, a not-even-truce. They have graciously, as the victors, agreed to allow us a short respite, for as long as it takes them to rearm, regroup and reposition for the next battle in the war we have lost.

I am not ashamed to say I am an Israeli Jew, I am a loser today in the war with Hamas.

I’m ashamed of the men and women we voted into political power, whose duty it is to protect us, let us not sully our lips with their names, they know who they are. I will look for more savage politicians to vote into power next time, lesser practitioners of the reasonable arts – with frothier spittle and madder eyes.

I am ashamed for us, I’m crying for us. We seem to have lost our vision and our insight. We are lost in broad daylight, blinded by the truth and crippled by common sense.

Because it’s true, I admit it. We lost the war with Hamas.

Join with me, friends and family. Let us make the admission with contrition in our our hearts and all the earnestness at our command; We lost the war with Hamas.

It’s My Opinion: Time To Talk Turkey

8 Kislev 5773 – November 21, 2012

It’s that time of year again. Turkey, cranberry sauce and a harsh lesson in the reality of “land for peace” deals.

America will celebrate Thanksgiving on November 22. Tremendous effort has always been focused on portraying this time in a lovely, romanticized light, in which pilgrims and Native Americans worked together in harmony. The reality, however, is quite grim.

The Indians were the original “land for peace” advocates. They believed a nation has to negotiate with its enemies, not with its friends. They wanted to give peace a chance.

The Native Americans gave away their land for worthless peace treaties. They did not want to be viewed as “intransigent.” For the most part, they acquiesced. They thought that two peoples could share one land.

There were some who took the white man’s desire for their land as a declaration of war. These tribes fought fiercely to protect their domain. Perhaps they were viewed as misguided right-wing zealots.

The “peace now” contingent believed it could give the interlopers their own state within America’s borders and they would be satisfied. They thought wrong.

Their “peace partners” wanted it all. Their “road map” was called “Manifest Destiny.” The once proud Indian nation was crushed. They are now an insignificant minority in what once was their exclusive homeland.

The misguided attempt to be compliant ultimately led to the decline of the entire nation. For the most part they live in ghetto-like areas called reservations. The recent acquisition of Indian reservation casinos is a poor exchange for the pride of a viable nation.

We are taught, “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone.” Israel could learn a lesson from the Native Americans, who gave “land for peace” and lived to regret their naivety.

The giveaway of Gaza is a prime example. Israel again acted in the mistaken belief that surrender of land would lead to peace. Instead a terrorist state now looms alongside its border.

Rockets fire down on innocent citizens. The dream turns into a nightmare. Israel now faces the threat of war.

Israel needs to stop the cycle of unilateral concessions and ceding of its land. Doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results is insanity. It’s time to talk Turkey.

Petraeus: Did a Great Man Have to Fall?

27 Heshvan 5773 – November 11, 2012

Did General Petraeus have to resign? He opened himself as head of the CIA to blackmail, which is a major security breach. So the argument goes. But surely once he admitted the affair, he presumably couldn’t be blackmailed any more. And yes I know there are many facts as yet unknown, like this mystery second woman who complained about email harassment. But for now, Petraeus seems to have resigned over marital infidelity. And if so, did he have to leave his position? Why, because he displayed personal weakness? But this was a public, as opposed to a private, position. And years of counseling unfaithful husbands and wives has taught me that private failings do not necessarily indicate public faithlessness.

Those who say that a man who cheats on his wife will cheat on the country forget how many privately moral men have been publicly immoral, and vice versa. As an example, there was never a suggestion that Richard Nixon even looked at a woman that wasn’t his wife. Neither did Jimmy Carter, and he was the worst president in memory. Conversely, my issue with Bill Clinton’s presidency was not Monica Lewinsky, which does not interest me in the slightest, but rather his moral failure to stop the Rwandan Genocide, which is utterly unconnected with his marriage. Thomas Jefferson was one of the great public men of the past thousand years, but he was replete with private moral failings, as was FDR, JFK, and LBJ.

It is my own opinion that an American hero like David Petraeus who served his country with distinction and honor deserved better than to leave his post in humiliation and ignominy, even if his own immoral actions brought it upon himself.

A few weeks ago, at the height of my campaign for Congress, a fellow Republican candidate got into hot water locally for comments she made about Martin Luther King whom she criticized a few years back as a womanizer. Two days later I gave a speech in which I explained that Christian morality demands perfection because Jesus is perfect. But Jewish morality is based on the idea of struggle, that people are human, have many failings, and their righteousness rests in the courage they show in wrestling with their nature to choose the good amid a predilection to do otherwise. Not one person in the Hebrew Bible is perfect. That and the Jewish emphasis of communal redemption over personal salvation – that what we do for others matters more than how personally virtuous we are – would have us acknowledge Martin Luther King as the greatest American of the twentieth century despite his personal failings. No other American did more to restore this great nation to its founding ideals of the equality of all of G-d’s children than King.

Similarly, few men have done more to combat terrorism and save human life in our generation than Petraeus. As the author of America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and commander of the surge, he took a war being waged by terrorists that was claiming the lives of thousands of civilians, and humiliating the world’s foremost force for good in the world, the American military, and reversed the situation. As someone who proved that terrorism could be defeated when so many Americans had given up, he is owed a debt of gratitude by this and every other civilized nation.

Still, there are important lessons from the Petraeus tragedy.

The first is the admonition of the ancient Rabbis’ on the need for a certain alertness in even the everyday interactions between men and women, a notion that is scoffed at in modern society that wants to pretend men and women have melded into some sort of unisex gender. In an interview with Jon Stewart of The Daily Show this past January, Petraeus’s biographer and the woman he is alleged to have had the affair with, Paula Broadwell, said that the general had helped her in what she described as a mentoring relationship and that, given their shared passion for fitness, he took her running from time to time in Kabul. “That was the foundation of our relationship. For him, I think it was a good distraction from the war.”

Now, take a soldier who is away from his wife for lengthy periods of time, put him around an adoring female fellow member of the military for long stretches, and you have a potential problem. The same seems to have allegedly been the case with Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower and his British driver Kate Summersby during the Second World War. Men and women can, of course, be friends. But that presupposes they respect the natural attraction that adheres in most situations and safeguard against conditions that foster inappropriate intimacy. As the sage Hillel said, “Do not believe in yourself until the day you die.”

Then there is this: having counseled many men who were unfaithful to their wives, I discovered that the principal reason men cheat is the desire to be desired, to feel special and extraordinary, to counter the effects of a broken ego and low self-esteem by feeling wanted, especially by an admiring woman. How would this apply in the case of someone like Petraeus who was so universally admired? I’m not sure and it might not.

But all the biography now appearing about the General says he has always been driven, always been highly ambitious, and more often than not, ambition is fueled by the need and desire to prove oneself. The New York Times reported that Petraeus wanted to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but the Obama Administration, afraid of a high profile rival, pushed him in the direction of the CIA posting, with the concomitant lower, more secretive profile that was out of the press limelight. The same New York Times says that the affair began in earnest after he had taken his new posting. Did he miss the public acclaim? Did he begin to feel somewhat overlooked amid the immense power of his lower-profile role? Again, this is all mere speculation.

But the lesson for the rest of us mere mortals is that if someone of such iron discipline as General Petraeus can err this big, we all need to be on our guard – men and women alike – to get ego boosts from those things which are wholesome, holy, and healthy, rather than what is harmful, however hot.

Originally published on Rabbi Pruzansky’s blog, Rabbipruzansky.com.

Text of Romney Concession Speech

22 Heshvan 5773 – November 7, 2012

This text was taken from a report by The Washington Post:

ROMNEY: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you so very much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations.

ROMNEY: His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters.

(APPLAUSE)

This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: I want to thank Paul Ryan for all that he has done for our campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

And for our country. Besides my wife, Ann, Paul is the best choice I’ve ever made.

(APPLAUSE)

And I trust that his intellect and his hard work and his commitment to principle will continue to contribute to the good of our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

I also want to thank Ann, the love of my life.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: She would have been a wonderful first lady. She’s — she has been that and more to me and to our family and to the many people that she has touched with her compassion and her care.

I thank my sons for their tireless work on behalf of the campaign, and thank their wives and children for taking up the slack as their husbands and dads have spent so many weeks away from home.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank Matt Rhoades and the dedicated campaign team he led.

(APPLAUSE)

They have made an extraordinary effort not just for me, but also for the country that we love.

And to you here tonight, and to the team across the country — the volunteers, the fundraisers, the donors, the surrogates — I don’t believe that there’s ever been an effort in our party that can compare with what you have done over these past years. Thank you so very much.

Thanks for all the hours of work, for the calls, for the speeches and appearances, for the resources and for the prayers. You gave deeply from yourselves and performed magnificently. And you inspired us and you humbled us. You’ve been the very best we could have imagined.

ROMNEY: The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.

And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion. We look to our teachers and professors, we count on you not just to teach, but to inspire our children with a passion for learning and discovery.

We look to our pastors and priests and rabbis and counselors of all kinds to testify of the enduring principles upon which our society is built: honesty, charity, integrity and family.

We look to our parents, for in the final analysis everything depends on the success of our homes.

ROMNEY: We look to job creators of all kinds. We’re counting on you to invest, to hire, to step forward.

And we look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.

I believe in America. I believe in the people of America.

(APPLAUSE)

And I ran for office because I’m concerned about America. This election is over, but our principles endure. I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy and to renewed greatness.

Like so many of you, Paul and I have left everything on the field. We have given our all to this campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

I so wish — I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader. And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.

Thank you, and God bless America. You guys are the best. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks, guys.

(APPLAUSE)

Why Has New Jersey Been Forsaken?

19 Heshvan 5773 – November 4, 2012

Is there anyone who can tell us what the heck is going on? We in New Jersey have no power, no heat, no lights, in some places little food, and no gas. Yes, I know these are mere inconveniences compared to those who have suffered the unspeakable tragedy of losing family members. At least 50 are dead from Sandy, and those lives are irreplaceable. We mourn their loss. But nothing should excuse New York and New Jersey looking like Armageddon.

Aren’t we the nation that rebuilt Iraq and have done tons of nation-building in Afghanistan? Can’t we put the lights and heat back on New Jersey? Is it asking too much to bring a bunch of fuel tankers here and end the 100 vehicle long lines that are growing larger by the day? Just getting from point A to point B has been like navigating an labyrinth since the gas lines have cut off so many of the streets. President Obama declared this area to be a Federal Disaster Area. But where is FEMA? Where are the troops? Where are the gas tankers?

On the news we see cities that are still underwater. Half of Manhattan has no electricity. Staten Islanders are desperate for food and shelter. Tens of thousands of residents on the Jersey Shore lost everything. But President Obama is back on the campaign trail in Ohio. Because I don’t want to politicize this, I’ll make the same point about Governor Romney. True, he’s the challenger, not the incumbent. But both the President and the Governor need to understand the extent of the catastrophe all around us and do something besides argue about mobs overseas. This is more immediate. President Obama is campaigning with the all the advantages of incumbency. But that entails all the responsibilities as well. And coming for a photo-op with Governor Christie then running back to Ohio ten times is wholly inadequate.

The people of this area deserve better. We’re taxed up the wazoo with the highest state and property taxes in the nation. For all that, we normally get crumbling infrastructure, potholes, and rusty bridges that cost $12 just to cross. To add a dismal and slow response to such a huge natural catastrophe is too much.

In the City of Englewood where I live nearly all the residents have no power. Trees are down everywhere. It would be nice to see the occasional electric crew repairing the wires or the occasional city crew chopping up the trees. It would be nice to hear more from Mayor Frank Huttle, who is running unopposed this Tuesday (yes, that’s what passes for democracy in our city), about when the power and heat will be back on.

Since Tuesday I have driven all over the Ninth District where I’m running for Congress. The police are out in strength, stopping you from going here, preventing you from going there. They’re trying to protect us and I thank them. But where are the relief crews?

Last year at almost precisely this time we had Tropical Storm Irene that became a freak snow storm that downed endless trees and caused huge flooding. We went without power for a week, unfortunately for us, the very week before my daughter’s wedding. Family and friends came from around the world. They sat and shivered for a week, thinking they had entered a third world country. They couldn’t wait to leave.

So it’s not as if we couldn’t see this coming. They promised us last year that it would not happen again. The next time they would be ready. Granted, the devastation this time is far worse. But the response seems far worse as well.

Three of my kids drive every morning from New Jersey to Brooklyn for Chabad yeshiva and seminary. Today, they waited three hours to get on the George Washington Bridge and eventually gave up. They joined with me instead as we drove around the district meeting people and hearing their tales of woe.

Not that we have much of a campaign left. My staff and I have been reduced to charging our phones and laptops on the floors of shopping malls, crowded Starbucks where there is no place to sit, and, especially in the cars. My run for Congress has become completely mobile. In the car we have heat, light, and the occasion cord for a laptop. And truth be told, it’s been great getting out at all out hours just to meet people, so there’s your blessing in disguise.

The Storm that United a Divided Nation

15 Heshvan 5773 – October 31, 2012

I’m sitting here with my kids on Monday night and, aside from the glow of the laptop, the Sabbath has come early this week. Outside Hurricane Sandy is pounding our New Jersey town of Englewood. Earlier in the day we saw trees bend like twigs and wind gusts tearing pieces of our roof clear off. This evening we said Psalms for all the people of the Northeastern United States to be safe and studied the Biblical portion of the day, appropriately, Abraham arguing with G-d to protect the inhabitants of his area condemned to destruction through the elements.

Just yesterday I was fully engaged in my campaign for the United States Congress. Winning, elections, and victory were on my mind. Boy, what a difference a day can make. Today, I just want my family and the 50 million people in the storm’s path to be safe. We just read of a man of 30 who lost his life when a tree fell on his house in Queens, NY. We read of two boys in New York State who lost their lives in similar circumstances. We’ve seen photos of people’s homes blown away. In Manhattan, a giant crane dangles and there is no telling whom it might hurt.

Does winning matter now?

As the storm approached I wondered what it all meant. I am a religious man and believe all to be providence. There are no coincidences. A freak storm, hitting New Jersey of all places, in late October, is so rare as to seriously raise eyebrows. And just a week before such momentous elections that will determine the future of our nation and who will be our President?

I cannot divine the mind of God and we would obviously all have been much better off without this storm. And while, by far, the most important thing is for everyone to be safe, and for the families of those who lost loved ones to be comforted, the storm’s arrival does suddenly put everything in perspective.

For the past few months America has been bitterly consumed by an election that has torn the country asunder. To an extent it’s understandable. While the tone has been at times quite negative, the stakes in this election are very high and the consequences for whichever visions wins very great. It’s understandable that passions are so intense.

Yet, along comes Frankenstorm, just days before the election, and knocks everything about the election clear off TV, newspapers, and the internet. Just try to find a candidate anywhere campaigning. President Obama and Governor Romney have both suspended their campaigns. Our own efforts here in New Jersey are focused on how we can help those who have most suffered in the storm. The only thing that matters now is people’s safety and wellbeing. Suddenly there is no talk of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, tax cuts and entitlements. There are no attack ads and there are no advocacy ads. All the talk is about protecting life, keeping people safe, and being there for each other.

In my book that’s coming out next month, The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering, I reject any belief that suffering is redemptive. I will not dignify human agony with according it some higher purpose. All suffering is awful and any good that comes by its means could be achieved far more effectively through something positive. Better there be no storms, better there be no danger. But to the extent this awful thing is here, perhaps God, in His providence, is telling us that unity is what life is all about and we’re just too darn divided.

Yes, I would prefer that we come together in the wake of something positive than negative. We don’t need hurricanes, we don’t need 9/11’s, we don’t need the murder of American Ambassadors in Benghazi to remind us that we’re one nation, one people, with one heart. Much better to unite around a man walking on the moon, a space shuttle lifting off, and Americans winning gold medals at the Olympics. Better to unite around inspirational stories of diseases being cured, people in danger being rescued, children who are hungry being fed. But to the extent that our country is way too divided, let’s internalize the message, just before one of the most partisan elections of all time, that there is nothing in life as special as unity, nothing more beloved by God than oneness among His children, nothing more inspirational that differences being put aside as humanity unites to protect life.

The Liberal Man’s Burden

13 Heshvan 5773 – October 29, 2012

One-hundred and thirteen years ago, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about the American enterprise in the Philippines. The title of that poem has since become a byword for racist colonialism and yet its text is a sardonic recitation of the dim virtues of the “Savage wars of peace.”

“Go bind your sons to exile, To serve your captives’ need;” Kipling wrote. “To seek another’s profit, And work another’s gain. Fill full the mouth of Famine, And bid the sickness cease.”

This moral imperialism has never gone away, though it is no longer thought of in racial terms. For over a hundred years, the United States has gone on trying to feed and cure the world, sacrificing for others and seeing nothing in return.

The burden has been internalized, its concept not racial, but moral. The lack of empire has not lessened it. That absence of a physical empire, of conquered provinces and colonies administered with the whip has only strengthened the might of the moral empire. And the savage wars of peace go on in places like Afghanistan and Iraq where we fight desperately to save the natives from themselves.

The liberal man’s burden is the United Nations. It is the obligation to universalize national greatness by extending it around the world through a moral empire. An empire of the progressive spirit that sweeps aside the old for the new, that makes the world over in a liberal image and a liberal template. The moral empire with the world as its consensual subjects whose conquests are achieved through the transcendent superiority of its modernity and humanity.

The Pax Americana is grounded in this notion of a moral empire. Russia or China may rule territories by force, but America expands its influence by exporting the virtues of its culture. Democracy and human rights are shipped overseas, wrapped in ribbons of international law, and soon enough the world is full of Pakistani Americans, Libyan Americans, Sudanese Americans and a horde of others who are happy to rule themselves under the systems of our moral colonialism. And once this is done then we will all be living in a truly Post-American world in which there will be no need for America because we will all be Americans.

American policymakers ask themselves why the people of another nation are still not Americans and then they set out to remove those obstacles, sending food, curing disease and gifting money to take care of physical needs, and removing dictators, enabling elections and instituting free market reforms to set aside any political repression. And if their theory were correct, then once that was done the people would be Americans. Instead they remain what they are and the policymakers remain baffled.

Introducing democracy to the Muslim world has not made it American, has not made it respectful of human rights or tolerant of dissent. It is possible to be a democracy and own slaves. It is certainly possible to be a democracy and treat non-Muslims as subhuman creatures to be beaten whenever the economy turns bad. Democracy is no defense against that sort of behavior. Character is and that cannot be exported along with election monitors and purple fingers.

Systems can be exported, but not assumptions and that is where the liberal man’s burden always goes wrong, because he believes that he is exporting his virtues, when he is only exporting his systems. And his systems are only expressions of his virtues, they are not his virtues. It is possible to export a CD full of Mozart symphonies, but not the ability to compose those symphonies. Similarly we can send out copies of the Constitution, but not the minds that created and maintained such a document.

The moral empire proves even more fragile than the physical empire, for it depends on the export of virtues. And for those virtues which cannot be exported, American soldiers go to the cities and deserts of other lands and mark them with their living and dead. And for those virtues, teachers, aid workers, diplomats and a thousand others go to export the unexportable, they try to bring Mozart to Pakistan and rather than learning to compose symphonies, the natives kill Mozart and leave his body in a ditch.

The European Problem with Zionism

13 Heshvan 5773 – October 29, 2012

The always-perceptive Daniel Gordis explains the significance of the ludicrous and stunningly narcissistic decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the dysfunctional European Union:

The Nobel Committee noted that “the dreadful suffering in World War II demonstrated the need for a new Europe.” Who understood that better than the Jews, millions of whom had been exterminated in Germany and Poland with little response from the rest of the world? But as they staggered out of what remained of postwar Europe, the Jews drew conclusions about their future that immediately put them at odds with Europe’s forward-thinkers.

European intellectuals decided that the nation-state was a model that needed to be relegated to the ash heap of history; the Jews, in contrast, decided that the only thing that would avert their continual victimization was creating a nation-state of their own.

So naturally, Gordis continues, the Europeans dislike Jewish nationalism — Zionism — and its concrete realization, Israel:

Thus, the Jewish state, without question the world’s highest-profile example of the ethnic nation-state, emerged onto the international stage just as Europe decided that the model had run its course. That is why historian Tony Judt called Israel “an anachronism,” urging that it be dismantled.

Widespread European disdain for Israel, while certainly fueled by both the enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Muslim immigration to Europe, was thus all but inevitable.

Yes, Israel affords civil rights and freedom of worship to its many minorities; but it makes no attempt to deny that there is one specific people, one particular narrative, one religion to which is it most centrally committed. The State of Israel is, to paraphrase Lincoln, “by the Jews, of the Jews and for the Jews.” How could those who labored to create the European Union not consider the very idea of a Jewish state anathema?

Of course, Gordis is right. And not only does the EU’s ideological problem with Israel express itself at the UN and in the EU’s expensive support for the Palestinian cause, but a continuing (and also expensive) attempt to subvert Israel’s democratic government byfunding extreme left-wing NGOs in Israel.

In fact, it’s not only the Europeans, but many who call themselves ‘progressives’ in the US who criticize Israel for its Jewish nationalism, which they wrongly characterize as ‘racism’. Here in America, the Left can put its money where its anti-Zionist mouth is by donating to theNew Israel Fund.

Gordis politely leaves it as an ideological disagreement and goes on to suggest that

Zionism, Israel’s leaders must begin to insist, should not be seen as the last gasp of a discredited worldview, but rather as a millennia-old claim that human difference is noble and that the preservation of ethnic distinctiveness is a deep-seated and natural human aspiration.

I certainly agree, but how can I fail to notice that it is only Jewish nationalism that evokes such a negative reaction on the part of the Europeans and the Left? They don’t seem to have a problem with ethnic homogeneity in countries like Japan (which is now dealing with foreign workers who don’t want to go home in a poor economy), nor to a great extent with the ethnic chauvinism of Arabs, the doctrine of Muslim superiority in Islamic nations, or the real and blatant racism in Saudi Arabia or the Sudan.

No, I’m afraid that there’s more to it than just an ideological disagreement!

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Sarah And Hagar

10 Heshvan 5773 – October 25, 2012

A historical drama unfolds before our eyes in this week’s Torah portion. It is a dramatic confrontation whose impact has shaped Jewish history for thousands of years.

Sarah and Hagar, two women – two worlds – faced each other.

On the one hand Sarah, Avraham’s wife and the mistress of the household; on the other, Hagar, the defiant slave girl, Avraham’s concubine, chosen by Sarah as a surrogate mother.

Can you picture yourself in Sarah’s position? Would you be able to make the ultimate sacrifice as Sarah did, elevating her maid to the position of her husband’s concubine for the sake of providing him with an heir, as he so keenly desired?

But Hagar proved less than equal to the task. As soon as she was certain of her pregnancy, Hagar displayed the characteristic arrogance of those who achieve a sudden rise in status without a corresponding growth in dignity.

Of the two women, it was Sarah who emerged victorious from the conflict: she retained her dominant position while Hagar, humiliated, fled to the desert. It was there that Hagar learned through divine prophecy of her destiny to give birth to Yishmael, “v’hoo yihyeh pereh adam, yado bakol v’yad kol bo — and he shall be a savage creature; his hand shall be against every one, and every one’s hand shall be against him.” (Bereshit, 16:12)

This prophetic pronouncement established Yishmael’s propensity for violence and lawlessness and his descendants’ future history as a road map of an incessant war of terror without borders.

The savagery of Arab history, the Muslims’ centuries long, bloody incursions against their neighbors, is well documented. Was fourteenth century Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun echoing the Biblical prophecy when he wrote in his Muqqadima (Introduction to History): “The Arabs are a savage nation… savagery has become their character and nature… it is their nature to plunder whatever other people possess… they are not concerned with laws. It is noteworthy how civilizations always collapsed in places the Arabs took over, and how such settlements were depopulated. The Yemen where the Arabs live is in ruins. The same applies to contemporary Syria.”

Was Susan Hatis Rolef, dovish editor of the Labor Party monthly SPECTRUM, doing the same when she wrote in the Jerusalem Post (August 13, 1990): “But we know, and we have known ever since modern Zionism began over a 100 years ago, that the other nation which inhabits this land has an extremely violent and brutal streak in it, which is part of its cultural heritage and is unlikely to change overnight.”

And yet, I believe, for Hagar the most painful aspect of the Divine revelation was the command to face reality – to return to the civilized world of Avraham’s household and peacefully submit to its laws, accepting Sarah’s rightful, dominant position. Hagar did so and Yishmael was born there, destined however to leave it early for the wilderness, choosing to live by the laws of violent physical force.

In the dramatic confrontation between the two women, Sarah and Hagar, a symbolic pre-enactment of history took place. The sons of Hagar have yet to learn to face the reality of their situation. They have yet to learn to rise above their impulsive nature of savagery and submit to the laws of civilization, where nations respect the possessions of others, and refrain from plundering what is not rightfully theirs. They have yet to acquire a set of values other than violence inherited from historical antecedents.

And the sons of Sarah – is it their destiny to painfully reassert their rights to Avraham’s legacy time and again – or perhaps there will come a time when their survival in this land will not be analogous with reiterated victory.

Inviting Tragedies?

7 Heshvan 5773 – October 22, 2012

There’s a superstitious thought that when you invite tragedy, it happily walks through the door. A second, more pragmatic view, is that when you prepare for it, you are better able to cope. Israel takes the second view as today we once again take part in the Turning Point 6 nation-wide exercise preparing us not only for earthquakes, but several other disasters.

According to INN, yesterday’s drill included:

The IDF rehearsed an emergency scenario in which an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale takes place in Eilat at 11:00 a.m. and a second, even stronger quake, subsequently hits northern Israel.

According to the scenario, MDA then receives reports of thousands of buildings collapsing throughout Israel, damage to hospitals, power outages and more.

In addition, the drill included a tsunami wave, a school in ruins, a mass casualty situation on Nahariya’s train station, a crash landing of a jet plane in Eilat, building collapses at Hebrew University and two prisons, a train wreck and more.

The drill had MDA emergency crews treating 2,600 “casualties” throughout Israel, 1,800 of them in moderate to serious condition.

Over two THOUSAND casualties…take a look at this video – it is, in every sense, a real exercise. Yes, there are subtle differences – the soldiers are not running around – many are standing and watching. In a real tragedy, they would likely all be in movement, trying to help where the could. Another difference, the “wounded” soldier on the stretcher was smiling and talking to the other soldiers as they carry him away. These are the faces that calm us as we watch – let them smile. Let them laugh. Please, let it never be real.

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Crowley’s Interference Saved Obama From Another Shellacking

2 Heshvan 5773 – October 17, 2012

Candy Crowley, the moderator of the presidential debate at Hofstra University on October 16,  interfered in this U.S. presidential race in a way no one ever has before and – let’s hope – no one ever will again. Crowley loudly validated President Barack Obama’s version of reality – and contradicted Governor Mitt Romney’s recollection of actual reality – regarding what the president said in the Rose Garden about what happened in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2011.

During the debate President Obama said he called the murder of four Americans an act of terrorism.  Romney said he didn’t.  Crowley said he did.  And Crowley told them they had to move along.

And then the debate did, in fact, move on. And the one opportunity during this debate that voters had to understand what Obama knew, when did he know it, and what did he call it, was lost.

So what did the President say to the American people about the tragedy in Benghazi when he spoke to them from the Rose Garden on September 12?

Obama referred to the violence that killed our compatriots as “an attack.”  He said it three times, “an attack,” and then he referred elliptically – but unmistakably –  to a movie that “denigrated” the religion of Islam, as the cause of that attack.  Four paragraphs into his address, the President said,

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.  None.  The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.

The words “terrorist acts” were not mentioned until much later, until after the president talked about what happened on “9/11,” the first tragic September 11 in our nation’s history: “Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.”

Not until the tenth paragraph of a 13 paragraph address did the President say anything about terror.  That was when he said, “no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”

So, the president repeatedly described what happened to Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Dougherty and Tyrone S. Woods as “an attack,” and he clearly and publicly connected the cause of that attack with a movie, The Innocence of Muslims, that enraged some Muslims because they believed it denigrated Islam.

And while the President may have referred to the the murder of Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, as “an act of terror,” his use of the word “terror” was not used to mean terrorism as we have come to understand that term:  as “senseless violence intended to lead to death because of a difference in world view.”   Instead, the President used the term terror, when he finally did, in his address in the Rose Garden on that day because the violence occurred not during a war, and because it was directed against non-combatants.

Is it fair to make that distinction?

That might depend on what you think the meaning of the word “is” is.

 

Here is the transcript from Obama’s now famous Rose Garden speech:

Remarks by the President on the Deaths of U.S. Embassy Staff in Libya

Rose Garden

10:43 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Every day, all across the world, American diplomats and civilians work tirelessly to advance the interests and values of our nation.  Often, they are away from their families.  Sometimes, they brave great danger.

Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  Among those killed was our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, as well as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith.  We are still notifying the families of the others who were killed.  And today, the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.  We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats.  I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world.  And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.  None.  The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.

Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya.  Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans.  Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’s body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.

It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save.  At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  With characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya.  When the Qaddafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy, and I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there.  He was a role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who aspire to walk in his footsteps.

Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war. Today, the loss of these four Americans is fresh, but our memories of them linger on.  I have no doubt that their legacy will live on through the work that they did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who love them back home.

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.  We mourned with the families who were lost on that day.  I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.

As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it.  Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.

No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.  We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done.

But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers.  These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity.  They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity.

We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.

Thank you.  May God bless the memory of those we lost and may God bless the United States of America.

END   10:48 A.M. EDT

Major League Judaism

25 Tishri 5773 – October 11, 2012

Browsing through a news website, I noticed that the World Series is just two weeks away. I haven’t followed baseball for 30 years, ever since making aliyah. When I lived in America, and thought I was an American, I loved baseball, like everyone else. But baseball doesn’t interest me anymore. I don’t even know what teams are in the running this year. The World Series has absolutely nothing to do with the Redemption of Am Yisrael, so who cares?

But maybe we can borrow a few metaphors from baseball to help America Jews understand that Judaism in the Diaspora is the Little Leagues. Now that we all can come home to Eretz Yisrael, there’s no reason to remain in the exile, getting all excited about foreign gentile pastimes, cheering gentile center fielders and first basemen who date Hollywood floosies, in a world where one out of a thousand players is a Jew. Let’s face it – Medinat Yisrael is the Yankee Stadium of Jewry and  Jewish life in Israel is the Major Leagues.

For example, everyone knows that the real baseball is the Major League baseball in America. In comparison, baseball in Japan is a laugh. No matter how skilled the players may be, Japanese baseball just doesn’t look real. It’s out of place. Baseball doesn’t belong in Tokyo. At best, it is a poor imitation of the real major leagues, with the unmatchable CRACK of a Louisville Slugger bat pummeling a fastball into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium to the unmatchable ROAR of the crowd and the smell of American hot dogs, spilled beer and roasted peanuts.

Just as Japanese baseball league is a poor imitation of Major League baseball, the Judaism of the Diaspora is a poor imitation of the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael.

As we wrote regarding the holiday of Sukkot, you simply can’t compare Jewish life in Israel versus Jewish life in foreign gentile lands. No matter how much private Yiddishkeit there is in Monsey or Boro Park, it’s the minor leagues compared to the NATIONAL Jewish life of the Land of Israel, which has all of the Yiddishkeit of Boro Park in Bnei Brak and Mea Shearim, plus a thousand things more. This is obvious. No one can argue this. The attention of the entire world is focused on Israel. In comparison, who cares what is going on in Monsey or Melbourne? The real Jewish news is happening here in Israel. When it comes to being a Jew, there is nothing like it at all.

In a letter, Rabbi Kook writes:

The source of the moral baseness which continues to darken the world stems from the lack of recognition regarding the value and wisdom of the Land of Israel. Thus the sin of the Spies, who spoke derogatorily about the pleasant Land, remains uncorrected. To rectify this, the Land’s praise, splendor, holiness, and honor must be declared to all the world (Letters, Vol.1, 112-113).

Our Sages have long ago noted the exalted level of Eretz Yisrael in saying, “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (Bereshit Rabbah,16:7). There is so, not only because over two-thirds of the Mishna deals specifically with Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael, and because of the many mitzvot which can only be performed here – the Torah of the Land of Israel is immeasurably more elevated because the Jewish people possess true NATIONAL vitality only in the Land of Israel.

Outside of the Land, Jews can excel as individuals in all fields of endeavor; including great Torah scholars, but the light of God cannot appear in its intended NATIONAL format. Only in the Land of Israel can the Jews be a KINGDOM of priests and a holy NATION (Shemot, 19:6). The Zohar emphasizes that the Jews can be a NATION only inIsrael, and not outside of it, where we are minorities in other people’s lands. (Zohar, Vayikra, 93B). Prophecies of Redemption all involve the return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land. The Jewish people’s unique prophetic talent is dependent on being in the Land of Israel (Kuzari, 1:95; 2:8-24). The Temple can only be rebuilt on the Temple Mount, and the full revelation of God’s Presence is exclusive to Eretz Yisrael, as the prophet teaches, “For Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem” (Isaiah, 2:3).

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