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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Second Temple’

God’s Country

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Approximately 1,000 years after the destruction of the Second Temple and Israel’s exile from its homeland – deep in the depths of the harsh exile and 1,000 years before the beginning of the return to Zion – the great Torah commentator Rashi opens his monumental commentary on the Torah with the question of the ownership of the Land of Israel. What with all the hardships and troubles facing European Jewry at the time, with the Land of Israel but a vague and distant memory, the most pressing problem demanding Rashi’s attention is what we will answer the non-Jewish world when it will claim that we are robbers in our own land – usurping its ownership from the local Canaanites.


Rashi explains that the Torah opens with the story of creation to establish the fact that God created the world. “If the nations of the world say to Israel, ‘You are robbers – you have conquered the lands of other nations,’ Israel can answer as follows: The entire world belongs to the Holy One, Blessed Be He. He created it and gave it to whom He pleased.”


During the Sunday Manhigut Yehudit Sukkot event in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yitzchak Brand gave me a paper with some of his Torah thoughts. “With all due respect to Rashi,” writes Rabbi Brand, head of a large faction of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Manhigut Yehudit, “wouldn’t it have been better if we had received the Land of Israel empty of previous residents? Why did the Creator of the world choose to bring us to a land that was already occupied? Why didn’t He give us the Land of Israel first – just like he gave France to the French? Why do we first have to conquer and then look for excuses?”


Rabbi Brand answers that if we had not been forced to conquer the Land of Israel, nobody could have accused us of robbery. But then we would not have been able to answer with the irrefutable facts that Rashi points out in his commentary on Parshas Bereishis. (And, after all, the reason for our presence in the Land of Israel is specifically so that we may give this answer.) When it drives out its enemies and settles the Land of Israel, the Nation of Israel is living testimony to the existence of the Creator of the world. He created the world and He determines the path that it will take. The only reason that we merit to live in Israel is so that we may proclaim that God is King of the World.


When I read what Rabbi Brand had written, I remembered a short article that Manhigut member Meyer Goldmintz had sent me. The State of Israel expelled Goldmintz from his home in Yad Yair, destroyed it and turned the place into an Arab garbage dump. Today, Goldmintz lives with his family in the settlement of Harasha. In his article, he asks a simple question:


How is it that we, the settlers – who have taken the utmost care not to settle lands privately owned by Arabs, who searched for strictly state-owned lands to settle, and were sure to distance ourselves from even the slightest hint of robbery of Arab-owned land – are nevertheless constantly accused of robbing Arab lands, while the kibbutzim of the leftist Shomer Hatzair, almost all of which were built on lands that had belonged to Arab villages that were conquered and destroyed in 1948, are considered bastions of “peace”?


Goldmintz answers that it is specifically the fact that the settlers are careful not to build on Arab land that has brought about their dismal reputation. Very simply, they (we) have betrayed our mission and cannot give the answer that Rashi gives at the beginning of the Torah.


The leftist kibbutz member, who had ostensibly disassociated himself from the Torah, did not deny the fact that he was a Jew. As a Jew, he drove out the non-Jew living in his land and settled in his place. By doing so, even though he likely did not intend to, our leftist fulfilled the essence of the reason for the return of the Jews to their land. He showed the world that there is a Creator, and that He decides when non-Jews will live in His land and when His children will live in their place. Thus, the borders of Israel in the places from which the Arabs were forcibly expelled are not questioned today. But we, the settlers, who strive to fulfill God’s commandments, have not yet fulfilled the basic reason for settlement of the land. On the contrary, we have avoided it. We were careful not to drive the Arabs out – the complete opposite of the sanctification of God’s Name accomplished by the leftist kibbutzim.


Today, we are suffering the consequences of our actions.

Poland’s Jewish Ghosts

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky

Through July 12, 2009

The Detroit Institute of Arts

5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit

www.dia.org  

 

About 2,500 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah, having predicted Nebuchadnezzar’s imminent destruction of the First Temple, composed the famous line, “Why did I leave the womb – to see toil and pain – that I may live out my days in shame?” About 500 years later, Joseph ben Matthias, also known as Josephus, observed and recorded the destruction of the Second Temple by Roman emperor Titus, claiming in Book VI of the “War of the Jews”  (chapter nine) that 1.1 million Jews were killed and 97,000 were enslaved in the siege.

 

Jeremiah was a prophet who communicated with G-d; Josephus was not. The Jewish general was something close to a historian, albeit prone to exaggeration and to various biases, including the belief that Greco-Roman culture could and should embrace Judaism. Jeremiah wrote the book on Temple mourning, while Josephus simply came up with a sequel.

 

The same could be said of the pair of photographers featured in the exhibit “Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky” at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Separated by six decades rather than half-a-century like Jeremiah and Josephus, Vishniac and Gusky both captured the destruction of Eastern European Jewry.

 

 

Roman Vishniac, Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Cracow, 1938, gelatin silver print,

Poland’s Jewish Ghosts

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky


Through July 12, 2009


The Detroit Institute of Arts


5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit


www.dia.org  


 


About 2,500 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah, having predicted Nebuchadnezzar’s imminent destruction of the First Temple, composed the famous line, “Why did I leave the womb – to see toil and pain – that I may live out my days in shame?” About 500 years later, Joseph ben Matthias, also known as Josephus, observed and recorded the destruction of the Second Temple by Roman emperor Titus, claiming in Book VI of the “War of the Jews”  (chapter nine) that 1.1 million Jews were killed and 97,000 were enslaved in the siege.

 

Jeremiah was a prophet who communicated with G-d; Josephus was not. The Jewish general was something close to a historian, albeit prone to exaggeration and to various biases, including the belief that Greco-Roman culture could and should embrace Judaism. Jeremiah wrote the book on Temple mourning, while Josephus simply came up with a sequel.

 

The same could be said of the pair of photographers featured in the exhibit “Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky” at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Separated by six decades rather than half-a-century like Jeremiah and Josephus, Vishniac and Gusky both captured the destruction of Eastern European Jewry.

 

 


Roman Vishniac, Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Cracow, 1938, gelatin silver print,

© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy of the International Center for Photography.

 

 

The review ought to write itself based on the model of Jeremiah and Josephus. The first 45 images belong to celebrated Russian-Jewish photographer Roman Vishniac (1897 – 1990), born in the town of Pavlovsk to an umbrella manufacturer and the daughter of a diamond merchant, who in the mid-1930s used an American Joint Distribution Committee commission to take more than 16,000 photographs (2,000 survive) of Eastern European Jews. The other 45 photos in the exhibit belong to Gusky, a physician from Texas, who traveled to Poland to photograph the remnants of destroyed Jewish houses and villages, “motivated by his personal feelings of horror, experienced five years before 9/11 while traveling in Poland, that mass destruction could happen again in modern times,” according to a release from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (where the show originated).

 

Vishniac is of course the master, and Gusky the student who imitates rather than innovates. As the Santa Barbara Museum puts it, Vishniac reflects an “emotionally raw” and “less polished” approach than Gusky, who is an “amateur” photographer. The two have “very distinctive photographic styles.” Promotional materials do reveal that both artists are of Russian-Jewish descent, that both were “compelled” to create photos “in part by personal reasons springing from their Jewish heritage,” and that both have “professional ties to biological science” and as such address “the fragility of human life.”

 

But unlike the Jeremiah-Josephus example, neither of these two artists is a prophet, nor does Vishniac need be worshiped. Art historians might call my position absurd, but “Of Life and Loss,” at least in my estimation, shows two equally accomplished photographers, who wield their cameras in much the same way – yielding black-and-white images which are simultaneously arresting for their beauty and their tremendous sadness. 

 

 


Jeffrey Gusky, Desecrated Synagogue and Jewish School, Dzialoszyce, 1999, baryta fiber print, © Jeffrey Gusky.

 

 

Surely, Vishniac was a name I recognized, while I was unfamiliar with Gusky, but just spending half-an-hour on the latter’s website revealed a tremendous repertoire, including works like “Former Jewish Home In Use As Public Toilet” (Dzialoszyce, Poland, 1996), “Last Remaining Segment Of Wall Around Wartime Jewish Ghetto” (Cracow, Poland, 1999), and “Desecrated Synagogue As Trash Repository” (Wodzislaw, Poland, 1999). Given the powerful narrative components to the photographs, I was not surprised to learn that Gusky’s photos had been paired with etchings by Francisco de Goya in a show on “Images of Human Tragedy” (2003-2004).

 

Gusky’s “Broken Stain Glass Window” was taken inside a darkened room looking out through a circular window, which features a Star of David missing a “leg.” Not only has some vandal done damage to the star itself, but the wall surrounding the star is cracking, and seems unlikely to be able to bear the burden of the Jewish symbol much longer. Gusky offers his viewers a glimpse of the Polish cityscape through the lens (literally) of a desecrated Jewish symbol.

 


Jeffrey Gusky, Broken Stain Glass Window, Wielkie Oczy, 2001, baryta fiber print,

© Jeffrey Gusky.

 

 

If “Broken” is abstract in its geometric approach, “Desecrated Synagogue and Jewish School” shows a more literal scene: a muddy path leading to the shell of a former synagogue. However decimated, Gusky’s building has the majestic appearance of Roman ruins. Having lost much of its roof, the former synagogue seems to sport a classical pediment, and the scene looks all the more magical since Gusky’s camera captures such bright light on the left edge of the photo that the tree branches in front of the building appear to come out of nowhere.

 

By comparison, Roman Vishniac’s “A Square in Kazimierz” brings a figure into sharper (though still somewhat blurry) focus, while pushing the villagescape to the background. A man carrying a cane rests while trudging through the snow. Despite the cane, the man is in danger of collapsing, and with him the entire world he knows. The Jew in “Isaac Street” seems to be faring far better, though he puts his left hand over his heart, perhaps holding his coat closed to evade the snow, or perhaps clutching at his heart. Yet, the street corner, announced as “Ulica Izaaka” by a sign above the head of a woman bearing a covered basket, is the same street corner that Gusky tracked down 63 years later in “Graffiti on Izaaka Street in the Former Jewish Quarter” (Cracow, 2001). As the title implies, Gusky’s photograph shows a swastika drawn on the wall of a building. Several figures walk away from the swastika, perhaps guilty for creating it, attempting to avoid it, or altogether oblivious to it.

 

 


Roman Vishniac, A Square in Kazimierz, Cracow, 1938, gelatin silver print,

© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy of the International Center for Photography.

 

 

Vishniac’s camera told him that the scenes he was recording were breathing their final breaths, and Gusky, returning to the scenes of the crime, found symbols still declaring hatred and destruction. In their approach to photographing destruction, Vishniac and Gusky might be compared to a different Jewish ancestor. Rabbi Akiva famously laughed when he saw foxes running around in the ruins of the Temple. Just as Rabbi Akiva found promise and hope in the destruction, Vishniac’s and Gusky’s photographs are complex and reveal tragedy and beauty bundled together.


 


Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, D.C.

Rabbi’s Visit Stirs Temple Mount Debate

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

JERUSALEM – The recent visit by a prominent U.S. rabbi to the Temple Mount – Judaism’s most revered site – stirring anew a quiet debate among some within the Jewish religious community about whether Jews should be permitted to enter the mount.

Some rabbis who forbid Jewish entry may indirectly contribute to the current Islamic consolidation of the site, argued Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler, a Jewish law and ethics professor and top rabbinic scholar.

“The reality is that slowly the area has become without Jews. The claim of the Arabs that it belongs to them is being affirmed by our absence,” Rabbi Tendler told The Jewish Press.

A video of Tendler visiting the Temple Mount in January was released last week on YouTube by the Temple Institute, a nonprofit organization promoting awareness of the mount.

The video sparked some controversy within the Orthodox Jewish community, where some rabbis forbid Jews to go up to the mount until the Third Temple is built.

Many contemporary rabbinic authorities permit entry to the outer areas of the mount, which can be measured by a change in the kind of foundation stone. According to Jewish law, the sanctity of the Temple Mount is structured in concentric circles. In the innermost circles, where the Holy of Holies was said to be located, the restrictions of access are the greatest.

Tendler, who is a professor and rabbi at Yeshiva University in New York, said the exact locations of the restricted areas are well-known. He asserted that establishing proper Orthodox Jewish tours of the Temple Mount would help those who currently ascend the mount from violating Jewish law.

“The rabbinic ban has not been working. We know how to visit the [mount] properly. As of now, secular tour guides take people where they should not to go; they have become a negative force. We need to correct this.”

Most rabbis who ban Jewish visits justify their decree by claiming Jewish ascent may violate the sanctity of the mount.

Tendler countered: “[Holiness] is not emphasized by not going into a place of [holiness], but by going into a place of [holiness] properly prepared.”

“The idea of forbidding this area because it’s an area of [holiness] is counter to what we know about man’s relationship with [holiness]. Holiness comes from man’s behavior. The holiness of [the Temple Mount] comes from all the [holiness] of the [Jewish nation]…. If we come and pray here, we make the place holy,” Tendler added.

In the 1970′s, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate ruled it was forbidden to enter any part of the mount. Followers of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, one of the founders of the religious Zionist movement, opposed the ban. In the past few years, more and more rabbis have ruled that visiting the mount is permissible.

Some have argued that the rabbis who forbid Jewish entry to the area may indirectly contribute to the current Islamic consolidation of the site.

Israel recaptured the Temple Mount during the 1967 Six Day War. Currently under Israeli control, Jews and Christians are barred from praying on the mount.

The Temple Mount was opened to the general public until September 2000 when the Palestinians started the second intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshipers after then-prime minister candidate Ariel Sharon visited the area.

Following the onset of violence, the Sharon government closed the mount to non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian traffic, fearing further clashes with the Palestinians.

The Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It still is open but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. The mount is closed on Christian, Jewish and Muslim holidays and any other day considered “sensitive” by the Waqf.

During “open” days, Jews and Christian are allowed to ascend the mount, usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or bring any “holy objects” to the site.

Visitors are banned from entering any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission. Rules are enforced by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert nearby Israeli police violations of the guidelines.

King Solomon built the First Temple in the tenth century BCE. The Babylonians destroyed it in 586 BCE. The Jews built the Second Temple 70 years later after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE.

The Temple Mount has remained a focal point for Jewish services for thousands of years. Prayers for returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Jewish Temple have been uttered three times daily by Jews since the destruction of the Second Temple.

Muslims constructed the al Aqsa Mosque around 709 CE to serve as a place of worship near a famous shrine, the gleaming Dome of the Rock, built by an Islamic caliph.

About one hundred years ago, Muslim scholars began to associate al Aqsa in Jerusalem with the place from which they believed Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Islamic Authorities Caught Destroying Temple Artifacts

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

JERUSALEM – Islamic authorities using heavy machinery to dig on the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – have been caught red-handed destroying Temple-era antiquities and what is believed to be a section of an outer wall of the Second Jewish Temple.
 
But Israel is blocking leading archeologists from surveying the alleged massive damage to the Mount or identifying whether a Temple wall was discovered by the Muslims, as is believed. If verified, the wall would possibly be the most significant archeological find related to both Jewish Temples.

“It is unconscionable that the Israeli government is permitting the Wakf to use heavy equipment to chop away at the most important archeological site in the country without supervision,” prominent third-generation Temple Mount archeologist Eilat Mazar said.

“The Israeli government is actively blocking us from inspecting the site and what may be a monumental find and is doing nothing while the Wakf destroys artifacts at Judaism’s holiest site,” charged Mazar, a senior fellow at Israel’s Shalem Center and member of the Public Committee for Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on Temple Mount.

Last month the Wakf – the Muslim custodial body overseeing the Temple Mount – was given permission by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to use bulldozers and other heavy equipment to dig a massive trench they say is necessary to replace electrical cables outside mosques on the holy site. The dig, which extends to most of the periphery of the Mount, is being protected by the Israeli police and is supposed to be supervised by the Israeli government’s Antiquities Authority.

Earlier this month, after bulldozers pulverized a trench 1,300 feet long and five feet deep, the Muslim diggers came across a wall Israeli archaeologists believe may be remains of an area of the Second Jewish Temple known as the woman’s courtyard.

The Antiquities Authority has not halted the dig and has not inspected the site. The Wakf has continued using bulldozers to blast away at the trench containing the wall and has steadfastly denied it is destroying any antiquities.

But The Jewish Press has obtained a photograph of the massive Wakf trench. In view in the picture are concrete slabs broken by Wakf bulldozers and a chopped-up carved stone believed to be of Jewish Temple-era antiquity.

Mazar analyzed the photo and said the damaged stone displays elements of the second Temple era and might be part of the Jewish Temple wall that Israeli archeologists charge the Wakf has been attempting to destroy. She said in order to certify the stone in the photo, she would need to personally inspect it.

“The Antiquities Authority tells us to coordinate with the police. The police send us back to the Antiquities Authority,” said Mazar.

The Antiquities Authority did not return repeated requests for comment.

“It’s crucial this wall be inspected. The Temple Mount ground level is only slightly above the original Temple Mount platform, meaning anything found is likely from the Temple itself,” the archaeologist said.

Mazar and other top archaeologists last week ascended the Mount to hold a news conference and inspect the site without government permission, but they were blocked from the trench by the Israeli police.

Rabbi Chaim Rechman, director of the international department at Israel’s Temple Institute, was among those on the Mount last week with Mazar. He said he attempted to take pictures of the damage the bulldozers are allegedly wreaking on the wall, but his digital camera was confiscated by Israeli police at the direction of Wakf officials.

“If Israel were building a shopping mall and they found what may be an ancient Buddhist structure, the government would stop the construction and have archaeologists go over the area with a fine tooth comb.

“Here, the holiest site in Judaism is being damaged, a Temple wall was found, and Israel is actively blocking experts from inspecting the site while allowing the destruction to continue,” Rechman said.

Rechman charged that the Wakf was “trying to erase Jewish vestiges from the Temple Mount.”

The last time the Wakf conducted a large dig on the Temple Mount – during construction 10 years ago of a massive mosque at an area referred to as Solomon’s Stables – the Muslim authority reportedly disposed of truckloads of dirt containing Jewish artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods.

After the media reported on the disposals, Israeli authorities froze the construction permit given to the Wakf, and the dirt was transferred to Israeli archeologists for analysis. Israeli authorities found scores of Jewish Temple relics in the nearly disposed dirt, including coins with Hebrew writing referencing the Temple, part of a Hasmonean lamp, several other Second Temple lamps, Temple period pottery with Jewish markings, a marble pillar shaft and other Temple period artifacts. The Wakf was widely accused of attempting to hide such evidence of the existence of the Jewish Temples.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism; Muslims say it is their third holiest site.

The First Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E. and was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. The Second Temple was built in 515 B.C.E. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 C.E.

The Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God’s presence dwelt.

The Dome of the Rock now sits on the site and the Al Aksa Mosque is adjacent to it.

The Temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place in Israel during Jewish holidays.

The Temple Mount compound has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition. Jews worldwide pray facing toward the Western Wall, a portion of an outer courtyard of the Temple left intact.

The Al Aksa Mosque was constructed around 709 C.E. to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aksa was meant to mark where Muslims came to believe Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven.

Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran. Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque” and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque later became associated with Jerusalem.

Title: One Special Prayer

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

        What a surprise it was when I began to think about writing a review of the book One Special Prayer - the third of a series of four books – to find out that my son, David, had recently purchased the four-volume series in Hebrew, called B’Chatzrot Beit Hashem, for his children.

 

         Several years ago, Feldheim Publishers heard about the series and asked permission to translate it into English. The series is called Naftali in the Beis Ha­Mikdash. One Special Prayer is the third book in the series.

 

         Each book in the series is written as an adventure story about Naftali, a boy who lived in the time of the Second Beis HaMikdash. The narrative is interspersed with halachic material and the source of every mitzvah, Halachah and minhag is listed at the bottom of each page. This enables parents to both answer their children’s questions and to use the book as a reference. Some adults have commented that the books helped them to better understand the Gemara.

 

         One Special Prayer tells the story of how Naftali and his friends experience the Days of Awe in the time of the Second Temple. Four traitors had come to Caesar in Rome to falsely accuse the Kohen Gadol in Jerusalem of praying on Yom Kippur for the destruction of the Roman Empire. Caesar sends two assimilated Jewish spies to authenticate the story. One spy, in order not to arouse suspicion, brings his 10-year-old son, Dimitrius (who eventually calls himself Dovid), along with him.

 

         The book was hard to put down as the adventure unfolded. As each action of the Kohen Gadol and of the people prior to Yom Kippur is thoughtfully explained to Dovid and to the two halachically ignorant spies, they internalize the lessons and are emotionally affected by the events occurring in the Beis HaMikdash.

 

         Both children and adults will find the book fascinating and well written.

 

         For many years, Rabbi Yaakov Meir Strauss, was bothered by the fact that people do not really mourn for the Beis HaMikdash because they do not fully understand what they are missing. In his 20 years of teaching, Rabbi Yaakov has taught his classes about the Beis HaMikdash and his principal in the Bnei Brak Vishnitz school, HaRav Yitzchak Roth,shlita, suggested that he write a book.

 

         The first two volumes in the series, Three Special Days (a young boy and his family celebrate Pesach during the time of the Second Temple) and Seven Special Weeks (a young boy and his classmates in the period of the Second Temple, experience the daily sacrifices and solve a mystery) are available in English, and the fourth volume is being prepared. All four volumes are available in Hebrew.

 

         The series bears the approbation of HaRav HaGaon Rabbi Chayim Kanievsky, shlita, which is reprinted in the English edition. The series also has approbations from HaRav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Chug Chatam Sofer, in Bnei Brak; Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Itzkovitz, shlita, the rabbi of the Hagefen community in Betar Elite; and HaRav Avraham Yisroel Gumbo, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Karlin Stolin Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

 

         Dov Gilor is a Jewish Press columnist. His column is called “Focus On Israel.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-one-special-prayer/2007/08/08/

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