1) Hamas is evil.
2) Israel has a responsibility to protect its citizens.
3) Anti-Israel sentiment is usually simple Jew-hatred in (not very good) disguise.
4) The United States needs to be fully supportive of Israel.
5) It has been.
Some would take issue with that last sentence. They are wrong. And it behooves Klal Yisroel, which is meant to be imbued with the concept of hakaras hatov, to recognize that fact.
Over the past six years, some have come to imagine that the current occupant of the White House is some sort of adversary of Israel.
Anyone, of course, can disagree with President Obama on any or all issues, even, perhaps, to just dislike him for no good reason, as some apparently do. But for those of us who (even though we expected the worst, considering some of the baggage he brought to Pennsylvania Avenue) have carefully observed him, he has proven himself more than worthy of Jewish respect.
Yet he was pounced upon, after his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world for, well, the simple decision to address that world; and for basing the state of Israel’s legitimacy on the Holocaust. What seemed to be overlooked, though, was that he made a full-throated argument for Muslim acceptance of Israel and rejection of terrorism. And he can hardly be faulted for not raising a Torah-based argument on behalf of the Jewish right to Eretz Yisroel.
In subsequent years, he had the US boycott the Durban Conference, rejected the Goldstone Report, strongly backed the Iron Shield and David’s Sling programs (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, beyond the $3 billion the US has given Israel annually) and bluntly, publicly reiterated that the entire Arab world needs to accept Israel as a Jewish state. He wasted not a minute in the middle of the night to, by threatening Egypt, effect the rescue of endangered Israeli embassy guards in Cairo, and condemned the Palestinian Authority’s denial of the Kosel Ma’aravi’s connection to the Jewish people.
Under Mr. Obama’s watch, moreover, the US conducted the largest joint American-Israeli military exercise in history. And he has demonstrated determination to neutralize Islamic terrorists, including with drones and targeted assassinations (like that of Mr. Bin Laden), gravely disappointing many of his left-wing long-time supporters. They are not likely much heartened, either, by his recent decision to launch airstrikes against Islamists in Iraq.
When Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, was reported missing, an anti-Israel, or even Israel-neutral, leader would simply have considered him a prisoner of war. Mr. Obama publicly demanded his return. And in asking for a cease-fire, the president made any final truce unconditionally dependent on a demilitarization of Gaza. To ignore any of that is to forfeit any claim, leave aside hakaras hatov, to fairness – or emes.
Nor is it fair to characterize the president’s words of concern for civilians in Gaza as somehow antithetical to his support for Israel’s right to defend herself; he explicitly reiterated the latter each time he voiced the former. Nor is it justified to lambaste Secretary of State John Kerry, a stalwart defender of Israel for the nearly 30 years of his public service, for promoting a draft peace proposal that, in fact, he had never put forth.
Some Israeli media are not guiltless here. They slurred Mr. Kerry and “reported” details of a purported private telephone call between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu; the transcript, it turned out, was a fabrication, according to both the White House and Mr. Netanyahu.
To be sure, there has been friction between the Israeli and American leaders over past years, but which of them is at fault for that is entirely arguable. In our zeal to defend Israel, we sometimes forget that Mr. Netanyahu, whatever good qualities he may possess, is neither a novi nor a godol. He is not, we do well to realize, beyond either errors of judgment or faults of character. The issue here isn’t the relationship between two men, but rather Mr. Obama’s support of the state of Israel’s needs. And in that he has acquitted himself well.
Yes, the US State Department harshly condemned an apparent Israeli shelling of an area near a school filled with Gazan civilians that killed ten people, and urged Israel to do more to “avoid civilian casualties.” Yet that entirely understandable reaction (who among us didn’t cringe at the news ourselves?) didn’t prevent President Obama from, the very next day, signing a bill to give Israel $225 million to restock its Iron Dome missile defense system, or from declaring as he did that his administration is determined “to make sure that Israel is able to protect its citizens.”
There is a reason that people like left-wing political activist Professor Cornel West have declared Mr. Obama a “war criminal” for his support of Israel.
We’re still in golus, of course; Tisha B’Av was only days ago. And in golus, Klal Yisrael is supposed to be, and always has been, respectful of even less-than-friendly leaders of the lands in which we live. The phrase “kal vachomer” is inadequate to convey how we should feel about the United States’ current leader.
As events distant and recent alike well attest, Klal Yisrael has enough true enemies out there. Why in the world would we want to treat a friend like one?
© 2014 Hamodia
Rob Schneider, a second-tier celeb, best known for a series of sophomoric comedies, recently tweeted: “To not be outraged at the killing of children to risk your very soul.”
To which I would reply. If the only deaths of children that provoke a response from you are those of children killed in Gaza, but not the hundreds of thousands of black Muslim children killed in Darfur by their co-religionists over the past decade or the 700 Syrian civilians killed in two days recently (or the 170,000 killed over the last three years), it is not the capaciousness of your soul that you display, but the depth of your narcissism and need to be admired as a “good person.”
If the only deaths of children that set your thumbs twittering are those when Jews are involved, then you are an anti-Semite. And please spare me any references to your Jewish father.
If your outrage is devoid of any context – who started the fighting, who deliberately sought the deaths of those children for their own propaganda gains – you are not quite the moral paragon you imagine; you are a dunce and the enabler of the deaths of more children.
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I grew up watching Mork. I’ve seen Aladdin. I even, during college, watched him perform live. But I never knew Robin Williams.
He was the consummate entertainer. He just knew how to make us laugh. His improvisation, his off-the-cuff remarks, were brilliantly funny. But we never understood who he really was.
And that was, perhaps, the problem, that which made him so depressed as to bring him to a tragic end.
With his passing, journalists and commentators are talking about mental illness and depression, recognizing the challenges he faced. [UPDATE: And let me make it clear that I am not commenting about most cases, or even necessarily his case, of mental illness or depression. A person with either must seek professional treatment and it is a Mitzvah to do so.]
But I don’t believe that Williams simply had a mental illness. Few are discussing how common depression seems to be among the leading entertainers — or why this is so. While I could of course be wrong in this one case, it is hard to imagine that so many entertainers, upon finding success, coincidentally develop depression.
Someone challenged me, asking whether it is true that so many entertainers are depressed, so I did a little research. I looked up Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 albums, and found that nine of the top ten artists (those with the most albums on the list) had a drug problem (Bruce Springsteen being the exception). So did all five of IMDb’s top five actors (that’s where I stopped looking, though #6, Dustin Hoffman, did as well). Sports figures, of course, must stay in shape, but even there you find one drug scandal after the next. And what are drugs? Escape from the plain, real, often-depressing world.
[UPDATE: Someone sent me the link to comedian Jim Horton's article about Williams. In it he writes: "So many comics I know seem to struggle with the demons of self-hatred and self-destruction... In the 25 years I’ve been doing stand-up, I’ve personally known at least eight comedians who committed suicide."]
I’m not aware of any other industry whose top practitioners are so likely to have trouble with drugs, alcohol, broken marriages, other self-destructive behaviors, and of course suicide… as entertainment. Not politicians, not the military, not any other profession or (legal) blue-collar field. In order to find a similar level of prevalence, one must look at drug dealers or prostitutes.
Isn’t something wrong with this picture? The entertainment industry is supposed to be about making us happy; entertainers are sharing happiness with us. Yet behind the scenes, they seem to need to escape. Either temporarily by getting drunk or high, or all too often permanently, whether via overdose or deliberate action.
The answer, I believe, is that what I said above is not really true. Entertainers are not sharing happiness, they are acting. Comedians practice their art and make people laugh… and then go home, where life isn’t funny. They aren’t creating something real, or (usually) making a lasting difference in someone’s life, so the feelings of accomplishment are similarly transient. Thus the need to escape.
True happiness is not found via entertainment. Happiness is tied to attainment, to achievement, especially to attaining completion as a person. The Vilna Gaon says on Megillas Esther (8:16) that in this world, Simcha, happiness, precedes Sasson, joy. “Happiness is moving forward to reach an objective in happiness, and joy is afterwards, when one has already achieved the objective and feels joy in his heart.”
Happiness is not a casual thing, it doesn’t just happen, it is something that one can pursue and develop. This is why Chazal say “it is a great Mitzvah to always be happy” — it’s something we can cultivate.
This statement also teaches us that happiness is not a state of laughing delight. Rav Alexander Mandelbaum, in his “V’hayisa Ach Samayach” (“and you shall only be happy”), speaks about two types of happiness considered by Chazal — happiness with one’s lot, and happiness in performance of Mitzvos. Happiness with one’s lot is developed by considering that G-d gives each individual precisely what that person needs — so he or she, even in a difficult situation, should be happy with the understanding that HaShem saw that the difficult situation would prove to be of ultimate benefit. That sort of happiness doesn’t “just happen.”
One does not always feel Sasson, joy. But it is a Mitzvah to always be happy — even on Tisha B’Av, even during Shivah. How can this be? We can comprehend this by understanding Simchah as a feeling of moving happily in the right direction, pursuing a goal. That is something that can remain with a person even during times of grief and pain.
That is real happiness. Unfortunately, the purveyors of what the modern world calls “happiness” — the entertainers — realize within themselves, either consciously or subconsciously, that they have not found and are not providing true happiness.
What makes this especially sad is that now that he is gone, the stories are emerging of Robin Williams, the humanitarian, who visited hospitals on Dec. 25 to give presents to all the children. When he met the doctors and nurses who had spent their holiday stabilizing a premature baby, he teared up — recognizing people whose efforts were real and transformative. Perhaps he didn’t realize that yes, you can make others happy, you can give people something lasting, just with a smile — and even a joke or two, which Robin Williams had in abundance.
Yes, it’s sad that he went, and it’s sad that he was so sad — he could have been so happy.
The death of lone soldier Max Steinberg in combat in Gaza served as a Rorschach Test for Jews around the world. In Israel, 30,000 Jews, across the spectrum of Israeli society, took time off to go to Mt. Herzl for his levaya to express their admiration and gratitude to a young man who came to Israel to risk his life to protect theirs.
In the opposite corner, Slate editor Allison Benedikt could barely wait until the last shoveful of dirt had been placed on Max’s grave before portraying his as a dupe of Birthright, which spends “hundreds of millions of dollars to convince young Jews that they are deeply connected to a country that desperately needs their support.” Benedikt’s lament over Max’s death picks up where a 2011 reminiscence of her misspent Zionist youth left off. There she describes how her non-Jewish boyfriend, now husband, opened her eyes to evils of modern Israel.
Benedikt is emblematic of disappearing American Jewry. In her adult persona, she can no longer imagine any natural affinity between American Jews and the state of Israel, even though the latter is the only majority Jewish nation and home to the majority, or soon to be majority, of the world’s Jews. She denies that there could be any deep connection between an American Jew and Israel – only an ersatz sentimentality.
Max, in her reading, was likely “especially lost or especially susceptible,” for what else could explain his decision to serve in the IDF. The idea that “picking on an IDF uniform and grabbing a gun” might be a way of doing some good in the world is nothing short of laughable to her. Max, according to Benedikt, might as well have been the dim high school student in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie who inspired by her teacher’s passionate rhetoric goes off to fight in Spain and ends up dying on the Republican side, even Miss Brodie supports the Loyalists.
How much has changed over sixty years. In 1948, hundreds of Jewish men, many of whom had fought in World War II, came to Israel to fight in the War of Independence. U.S. Col. Mickey Marcus became the first general in Israel’s fledgling army and played a major role lifting the siege of Jerusalem. Foreign pilots formed the core of Israel’s original air force, and played a major role in stopping the Egyptian advance up the coast towards Tel Aviv. True, the decision to volunteer was brave then as now, but few American Jews would have considered it strange or unnatural for a young Jew to be willing to fight for Jewish independence.
For Benedikt, Max’s death was a waste. Fortunately, that is not how his parents, who had never before been to Israel, viewed it. In his eulogy for his son, Stuart Steinberg was emphatic on this point: “We want to answer the question on the minds of many people. Do you have any regrets that Max enlisted in the IDF as a lone soldier? My answer is an unequivocal, ‘No!’”
His mother Evie admitted that in his upper-middle class southern California upbringing, Max had “never found his purpose.” But he did in Israel. “As parents, we are filled with joy and pride for the man that our son became and the life he lived. . . . There is no doubt in our minds that our son was put on this earth for a mission.”
Had he stayed in Los Angeles, Max would likely have lived to a much older age (though there are no guarantees). But how likely is it that he would have died with a clear sense of having fulfilled a mission? How likely that he would have been zocheh to arichus yamim – days filled with life – and not just arichus shanim. Max, pace Ms. Benedikt, needed Israel every bit as much as Israel needed him.
BENEDIKT NOTWITHSTANDING, MAX STEINBERG was no dupe. He knew exactly the dangers involved. After all, he made the decision to come to Israel at the grave of another “lone soldier” killed in battle.
I can well understand Max’s decision, though I am in awe of it. I can still remember tooling around in my father’s convertible, in our comfortable Chicago suburb, just after the Six-Day War, and wondering what I was doing with my life when Jewish boys just a few years older than I were dying.
On July 4, 1976, that question returned in force. I was in Jerusalem that summer, just after finishing law school. While the dominant mood the morning of the Entebbe rescue was celebration of the miraculous rescue, I could not stop thinking about my namesake Yonatan Netanyahu. Until then, I would probably have justified my reluctance to do what Max Steinberg did by reference to my bright future and all then great contributions to humanity that I would doubtless make one day. But Yonatan Netanyahu was educated at all the same elite schools, and his future was even brighter. He was already viewed as a future chief of staff, and perhaps prime minister. Yet he did not let that hold him back from being the first through the airport doors at Entebbe, as his men stormed the terrorists. I was out of excuses.
The latest war in Gaza has, I would imagine, many of us thinking constantly about the courage, motivation, and faith (yes faith) of the Jewish soldiers fighting there. To go into battle means to give up to a large extent control over one’s life. Yes, there are mistakes that can increase the danger. But no matter how well-trained, how skilled one is, if a IED blows up under your unarmored troop carrier, or a sniper hidden from view puts you in his sites, all the skill and bravery in the world won’t help.
Gaza is a particular death trap. David Horowitz of The Times of Israel describes Hamas’s years of preparation: “It has booby-trapped buildings, deployed snipers, primed teenagers with suicide-bomber belts, planted bombs, and most relevantly, when it knows where the soldiers are headed: to the tunnel openings Hamas had dug and in which its gunmen are hiding.” That the casualties are not higher is evidence of the courage and training of the soldiers and the Hashgacha Pratis watching over them.
IN THE HEAT of war, there is too little time to contemplate the full magnitude of the loss represented by the over fifty Jews killed so far. But hints of the loss to the Jewish people are all around. Last week, I was listening to the funeral of Uri Heiman of Efrat, the son of friends of friends. His fiancé related, between sobs, how the last time they were together they made a siyum on Mesilas Yesharim.
At another recent levaya, the mother of the fallen soldier read a letter he had left behind in his desk drawer in the event that he did not return. Listen to his final message: “Mom, if you are listening to me right now, you know that I have not come back from battle. But know in your heart that you raised a son proud to be a Jew and willing to die as a Jew (emphasis added) . . . . Be proud of me. I know it must hurt, but I will always be around you. I will always look after you and after Danielle and Benny. I love our country, a love you instilled in me. So don’t cry Mom. Look at what you and your parents accomplished since 1948. Look at the dream I was able to live. And how proud I was to join the IDF and defend our people . . . . “
There were an almost endless number of reasons for rejecting the ceasefire proposal put forward by Secretary of State Kerry. But perhaps the most important of all is that by denying Israel the chance to finish the destruction of the offensive tunnels from Gaza into Israel – tunnels that were to be used for a mass terror attack on Rosh Hashanah – and substantially degrade Hamas’s fighting capabilities the ceasefire would have turned to vain the sacrifices made by the soldiers killed and wounded so far. And in President Lincoln’s immortal words, a government has no more solemn duty than to “resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
It could well be, as some have charged, that the New York Times’ choice of photographs to accompany its reportage from Israel and Gaza has been skewed to emphasize Hamas’ grievances; or it could be that the imbalance of photos is merely a manifestation of the old journalistic adage “If it bleeds, it leads.”
Despite my general satisfaction with the paper’s actual reportage on the conflict, I lean to the former judgment. And I have similar misgivings about headlines that are created for dispatches. It’s not widely known that media have “headline writers” over whom reporters have no control. There have been several examples of headlines that didn’t truly reflect the articles beneath them, and in ways that led readers (of the headlines alone, at least – and that’s a lot of readers) to regard Israel negatively.
A recent Times report began with the following sentences: “Militant rockets can be seen launching from crowded neighborhoods, near apartment buildings, schools and hotels. Hamas fighters have set traps for Israeli soldiers in civilian homes and stored weapons in mosques and schools. Tunnels have been dug beneath private property.” Its headline? “Israel Says That Hamas Uses Civilian Shields, Reviving Debate,” as if the technical issue of the legal definition of a human shield under international law (and what “Israel Says” about it) were more compelling than the undisputed facts that open it. The technical definition debate is part of the piece, to be sure. But the more essential facts that the headline might well have synopsized were what the piece’s first sentences describe.
Another head of the hydra that is the Old Grey Lady is its business department, which recently demonstrated an astoundingly deficient judgment. In an advertisement in its July 20 travel section touting a New York Times tour package to Israel and the West Bank, the paper touts how participants in its offering will experience “a fascinating journey through the geographical, cultural, historical and political landscapes of the region.” And the “featured expert” for, presumably, the latter landscape is… Hanan Ashrawi.
Ms. Ashwari, of course is a well-known Palestinian activist, legislator and member of the PLO’s Executive Committee; and her portrayals of Israel are little short of rabid. Citing her denial (in Arabic, in an Arab periodical) that there were ever any Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the American Jewish Committee’s David Harris remarked that “Hanan Ashrawi is to truth what smoking is to health.”
The articulate but malign Ms. Ashwari regularly uses terms like “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid” and “the premeditated killing of civilians” with regard to Israel. “Israel’s calculated crimes” is one of her particularly cherished phrases.
Back in 2000, when two Israeli reservists, having mistakenly entered Ramallah, were captured, killed and grossly mutilated to the cheers of crowds (remember the fellow elatedly displaying his bloody hands for all to see?), Ms. Ashwari asserted, defensively and falsely, that the pair of soldiers (who were wearing army fatigues and whose car bore Israeli plates) were “undercover Israeli agents that had infiltrated” the town and were recognized by her fellow Palestinians “as members of the Death Squads that had been responsible for assassinations and provocations” (Jordan Times, Oct. 29, 2000).
Two years earlier, Ms. Ashrawi founded MIFTAH – the “Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy,” which was caught a number of times offering alleged quotes of Israeli leaders that turned out to be invented. Last year it was forced to remove an article from its website that, in the context of attacking President Obama for hosting Pesach sedarim in the White House, accused Jews of using “the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.” (The group, graciously, later offered its “sincerest regret” for the error.)
More recently, the Palestinian propagandist said that “Israel’s military assault on Gaza constitutes an act of state terror and a deliberate war crime” and that Israel’s building in the West Bank and Jerusalem “constitute another aspect of Israel’s aggression and impunity.”
So, to put it most mildly, Ms. Ashwari is about the least objective observer one might choose to feature as the “expert” to enlighten tourists seeking an objective and factual lesson about the region’s political situation. But she was the Times’ choice.
One has to wonder if the newspaper would ever have dared offer, say, a right-wing member of the Knesset (whose most extreme member would pale in radicalism next to the choice the paper made) for the edification of American visitors partaking of one of its tourism packages.
Alerted to the advertisement by an Agudath Israel constituent, I immediately wrote the paper’s “public editor” or ombudsman, to ask about the wisdom of the choice of “expert” for the tour. On July 21, her assistant, Jonah Bromwich, replied that although ads are not part of the public editor’s bailiwick he would pass on my note to an executive in the paper’s advertising department.
Despite several follow-up inquiries, Mr. Bromwich informed me that my communications had all been forwarded to the advertising department, but that “unfortunately,” he “cannot compel them to respond.”
© 2014 Hamodia
The Nation of Israel and Operation Protective Edge Uri Shachter – Deputy Brigade Commander Nachal (Res.)
After almost a month of fighting in the Gaza Strip, with all the reactions, I find it important to clarify to the Nation of Israel that we won, decisively. Both from a military and civilian point of view, we have been victorious. From a military perspective we can begin the victory parades. Hamas is on the ropes, the most they are able to do is poke their heads out of their hidey-holes for a second to declare victory (until it gets struck by the next missile). They are unable to rearm from Egypt (something they were able to do with a free hand during the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood). For years Hamas has been building tunnels beneath our towns to use to attack them and we have been able to destroy all the tunnels. Every military goal Hamas set for itself has failed, on land, in the air and by sea.
So why are we giving them the idea that they won?!
Every contact with the enemy resulted in our overwhelming victory.
Every town we wanted to conquer, we conquered within a … Read More >>
Living lives of comfort and ease, it’s difficult for many of us to fulfill the direction of the first siman in the Shulchan Aruch to “be pained and distressed over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh.” Do we experience agony at the fact that the holiest spot in the universe lies in picturesque ruin, trampled daily by the feet of deluded masses? Do we feel sick over the reality that, no matter how nice the weather and the house and the bungalow and the cars, we are in golus?
It’s easier these days, unfortunately. We’re reminded.
It will be less of a challenge, too, to access the sadness of Eicha and our kinos this Tisha B’Av, when (unless we’re wonderfully surprised first by Moshiach’s arrival) we will focus entirely on the churban Beis Hamikdosh and its appalling offspring, the subsequent tragedies of Jewish history.
Because, no matter how one chooses to regard past weeks’ events in Eretz Yisrael, and no matter what may have been accomplished or might yet be, the situation is in fact dire and seemingly hopeless.
Some may take heart in the elimination of terrorists who, in their happiest dreams, and all too often in … Read More >>
by Harvey Tannenbaum
Shavua Tov to the world.
I looked back at my clock which flashed back to 2002. We drove to Kiryat Arba for the PTA meeting at the Ulpana where our oldest daughter was a high school student. The drive from Efrat was always an extra careful one due to the risks of a terrorist in his car waiting for the Jews on highway 60 during those years. We made our rounds with the teachers to hear the reports of how our daughter was doing in the school year.
We sat with Michal Sar El, one of her teachers, who smiled and had such warmth and excitement to share the ‘status’ of our daughter’s learning in the Ulpana of Kiryat Arba. Michal was Orit’s ‘Israeli literature’ teacher.
On Friday afternoon, we received the news that Benaya Sar El, 26, an officer of Givati brigade was killed during the Kerry/Obama/Dim Son Moon UN/ Bibi cease fire on Friday morning in Gaza. The name rang a bell in our heads, and it was not until our oldest daughter called to confirm that Benaya was her teacher’s son from Kiryat Arba. Benaya was killed by the suicide bomber terrorist who … Read More >>
Over the past month and a half, the unity of the Jews of Israel has been overwhelming. No one would ever hope for the tragic events that have aroused feelings of closeness – the kidnapping of three yeshiva students and Operation Preventive Edge in Gaza – but the tangible desire of Jews to draw closer to one another cannot be denied.
Tens of thousands of Jews, from across the Israeli spectrum, attended the funerals of two “lone” soldiers from America – Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg – whom they did not know personally. And in communities across Israel, Jews are reaching out to one another with acts of chesed, both great and small.
Beit Shemesh, the scene of bitter intra-religious confrontation over the past two years and of a highly divisive mayoral election and subsequent re-run, has proven fertile grounds for various campaigns for unity. All sides of the religious and political divide in Beit Shemesh were eager to put the bitter feelings of the two mayoral campaigns behind. Two “unity” tefillah gatherings for Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach, H”yd, were the first steps towards doing so. The gatherings drew chareidi, national religious, Yerushalmi/chassidiche, and secular women. … Read More >>
According to the latest CNN poll, 57% of Americans think that Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip are fully justified, while 39% think that Israel’s actions are “too much.” One might interpret those figures optimistically: It is doubtful support for Israel is higher in any other Western country. On the other hand, I would be more than a little dismayed to learn that 39% of Americans believe in mermaids or the tooth fairy, and I fail to see any plausible distinction between that belief and the claim that Israel has been employing excessive force.
But it gets worse. Over half of Democrats are within that 39%. And to judge by their recent statements and actions, it appears that the president and secretary of state are among the believers in mermaids. Fox News caught Secretary of State Kerry in an unguarded moment sarcastically speaking of Palestinian civilian casualties in heavy fighting in Gaza’s Shejaiya neighborhood, “It’s a hell of a pinpoint action, a hell of a pinpoint action.” Once he knew he was back on camera, Kerry quickly reverted to message; Israel has a right to defend itself; he was just reacting to the tragedy of innocent lives lost; … Read More >>
The two constants of the Obama administration’s foreign policy have both been on ample display in the efforts to force upon Israel a premature ceasefire to the fighting in Gaza. The first constant has been the consistent betrayal of allies – originally Poland and Czechoslovakia – to curry favor with enemies – i.e., Russia. Bernard Lewis long ago described the United States under Obama as “neither trusted by its friends nor feared by its enemies.”
The second constant has been an inexplicable affection for the Muslim Brotherhood, its supporters – Turkey and Qatar, and its offshoots – Hamas. Had the Obama administration had its way there would still be a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. Instead of the current Egyptian government closing down Hamas’s smuggling tunnels across the Philadelphi Corridor and fighting Islamic jihadists in the Sinai, Hamas would still be smuggling in rockets and concrete for its offensive tunnels and the Islamic jihadists would be extending their control over the Sinai.
With respect to the betrayal of allies, it would be nearly impossible to overstate the shock in Israel at the proposed ceasefire agreement Kerry put before the Israeli cabinet last Friday. The normally fractious cabinet rejected the … Read More >>
I get lots of correspondence, but a few paragraphs of something in my inbox today struck me as incisive and worthwhile sharing. It is doubly valuable in light of the opinion poll at the beginning of Operation Protective Edge that showed both black- and Latino-American support for Israel about twice that for the Palestinians.
Sorry to keep drawing parallels of the conflict to the historic experience of my ethnicity, but when I go through this exercise, it really helps me to see how absurd the claims and actions are of the anti-Israel contingent. Bear with me. There are persons of other ethnic minorities who have also turned to their respective historical experiences to come to the same conclusions as I. I read a good one today from “an angry black woman.” There is also this account from someone who is Metis.
For me as a Mexican who descends from people who saw their land truly stolen—not bought as the Zionists did—by people who had no historic, social, genetic or cultural connection to the American Southwest —again, completely unlike the Zionists—I can still stand behind supporting the government of the usurpers enough to embrace it as my … Read More >>
Below are remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice to the National Jewish Leaders Assembly today (July 28) at the National Press Club in Washington.
I thought they might be of interest to Cross-Currents readers.
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you so much Bob for that incredibly generous introduction. I also want to thank my friend Malcolm and express my personal gratitude for this invitation. And it’s good to be back at the Conference of Presidents and seeing so many friends and familiar faces. Many of you have come from Jewish communities across this country in a strong show of support for Israel.
These are indeed difficult days. Today, together, all of us who care about the State of Israel are again confronted with the challenges of a dangerous and imperfect world: Of sirens and shelters. Young people called yet again to war. (Audience interruption). Of a land where, in the haunting phrase of Yitzhak Rabin, “parents bury their children.”
Today is the first day of Av, the month when Jews commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples. It’s a reminder that the Jewish people have endured much worse than rockets and survived much … Read More >>
I cannot reveal my source. All I can say is that it happened as he patrolled late at night in a Beit Hanoun street abandoned by its residents, walking a few paces ahead of the rest of his unit. He saw a figure, standing to the side, shrouded in light. “Sholom alechah, my son,” he said. His voice was redolent with peace and tranquility. My friend instantly realized that this figure was not of this world, and responded, “Sholom alechah, rabi u-mori. I presume that you are Eliyahu ha-Navi?” The figure smiled. “Not quite. They used to call me Levi Yitzchok, and I have been watching the events here with keen interest. I had to come back to revise one of my more famous songs – A Din Toyre Mit G-tt.” He handed my friend a handwritten scrap of paper, and vanished into the night.
Good morning to You, Ribbono shel Olam.
I, Levi Yitzchak, son of Sarah Sosho of Berditchev,
I come to you with a Din Torah from Your people, Yisrael.
What do you want of Your people Yisrael?
For everywhere I look it says, “Say to the People of Israel.”
And every other verse says, … Read More >>
by Avrohom Gordimer
Cross-Currents readership is all too familiar with discussion about Open Orthodoxy; every nook and cranny of Open Orthodoxy could be explored with a critical eye through Cross-Currents’ numerous articles on the subject, spanning a lengthy period of time. Once the major issues of Open Orthodoxy had been fully brought to the table, it was decided that our focus and energy should be directed elsewhere, as the Orthodox public assumedly had been presented with enough information about Open Orthodoxy to be well-informed, if not saturated. More discussion about Open Orthodoxy seemed moot, and it was hoped and supposed that Open Orthodox leadership would constructively utilize the criticisms to recalibrate the movement’s trajectory onto a more normative path.
However, we were dead wrong, for as we turned our attention away, the nature and magnitude of the challenges presented by Open Orthodoxy increased beyond imagination. Over the past several months, the intellectual leadership of Open Orthodoxy openly embraced highly problematic positions regarding the origins of Torah She-b’al Peh; Open Orthodox rabbis around the United States engaged in new, more radical types of interfaith and interdenominational endeavors that could make one’s hair stand on end; and much more.
… Read More >>
The solution to the long and ongoing war between Hamas and Israel is an obvious one, and it consists of two words: Gazan Spring.
Everyone knows the facts. Hamas, pledged to Israel’s destruction, is the de facto government in Gaza. In the Palestinian parliamentary elections of January, 2006, it won 74 out of 132 seats. Even though the United States and the European Union refused to recognize Hamas’ right to govern any area of the Palestinian Authority, it took control of Gaza and, began to fight with Fatah, its Palestinian rival. Over subsequent years, clashes and truces between the two groups became the recurrent reality. Many hundreds of Palestinians have been killed there by their fellow Palestinians.
Just before the recent spate of violence between Hamas and Israel, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas entered into an agreement with Hamas to form a unity government. That latest attempt to heal the rift between the Palestinian faction that aims to eradicate Israel and the one that professes to back a two-state solution was widely expected to eventually meet the fate of previous, similar Fatah-Hamas pacts, which fell apart as a result of the two groups’ inherently diametric stances.
Now, with Israel’s … Read More >>
As I write on Thursday afternoon [July 17] more than 1300 Hamas rockets have been fired at Israel without causing a single fatality. (An Israeli volunteer assisting troops in the South was killed by mortar fire from the Gaza Strip.)
Of course, many of us remember miracles of an even greater magnitude during the first Gulf War when 39 Iraqi Scud missiles – with vastly larger payloads than the Hamas rockets – hit Israel. Yehuda Barkan, at that time one of Israel’s most popular screen stars, had, like Yisro, an “ear” to hear. Though he describes his life at that time as totally involved in the pleasures of the flesh, he could not shake the feeling that something miraculous had occurred.
Thirty-nine Scuds hit Israel, in many cases causing huge damage, and no one was killed directly by the missiles. (That’s how Barkan tells the story today, though I remember that one person was killed – someone who enjoyed riding his motorcycle through the streets of Bnei Brak on Shabbos.) Yet Saddam Hussein fired only one Scud at Saudi Arabia, and killed 25 American servicemen on their base.
Soon after he began to mull over the contrast, Barkan stopped … Read More >>
I am convinced that Israel had no choice but to undertake a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip, and that the time has never been so propitious in terms of what can be achieved by such an operation. “Mowing the grass” for the third time in five and a half years is not sufficient, and will only result in a higher cost later.
That said, I am relieved not to be the one charged with actually making that decision. In the natural order, a ground invasion of Gaza will certainly cost many Jewish lives, perhaps hundreds. Anyone who does not feel the weight of such a decision should not be prime minister of Israel. On the other hand, anyone who cannot make such a decision should not be prime minister of Israel.
No national leader in the world faces as many such decisions weighing the costs of lives now versus those likely to be lost at a future date due to inaction as the prime minister of Israel . Such balancing, which in the nature of things must always be made in a state of uncertainty, is implicated in every prisoner exchange and it is at the heart … Read More >>
From day one of its existence, the sole raison d’etre of the Hamas quasi-state in Gaza has been to kill Jews, the more the merrier.
Since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas has siphoned off billions of dollars of foreign aid money to build a vast labyrinth of underground tunnels, whose only purpose is to hide rockets to be launched at Israel’s civilian population and to facilitate mass terror attacks in the form of cross border raids on kibbutzim, moshavim and towns close to the border.
All the human energy of the Gaza Strip has gone into the digging of the tunnels, often by hand. The very magnitude of the effort both impresses and depresses, for it is a measure of the hatred of Jews of Hamas and its followers.
Hamas proudly proclaims its goal of reclaiming the entirety of Palestine and killing all the Jews in its Charter. Article VI of the Charter announces that the Islamic Resistance Movement exists to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine. Article VII states that the final resurrection will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and the very trees call out, “There is a Jew … Read More >>
by Asher Brander
As of last Friday, no soldiers had fallen. Now we have 32 korbanos. Hashem Yerachem
In a trip that started out for us with chasunos, we and the whole country are busy with shivas and levayas – even as one can not fail to acknowledge the revealed miracles of this war, B’chasdei Hashem.
There are almost no words of machlokes to be heard. People are packing anything (energy bars, tissues and t-shirts) and everything to send to the soldiers. Tehillim is said across the spectrum. Chassidishe Rebbes are “holding tish” in Gaza.
By now, most have heard the story of Max Steinberg – a free-spirited young man who hesitatingly came to Israel in 2012 on Birthright with his siblings, was touched in a profoundly personal and deep way, decided that this was the country of his calling, fought to get into Golani and fought and died in Gaza on that bloody Sunday this past week where we lost 13 beautiful young men. On Wednesday, among tens of thousands, we attended his funeral.
One wonders: How does a secular young man with almost no Jewish education, who barely knew hebrew, merit to have a funeral with aza … Read More >>
by Shaya Karlinsky
We have been witness to an increasing number of depressing revelations about Rabbis acting inappropriately towards women they have been counseling or educating. I have no intention of discussing any specific case. I would like to discuss a pattern that is all too common in these cases.
In response to accusations of improper behavior by Rabbis with female students or congregants, lots of well-meaning people come to the defense of the accused. These people will vouch for his tremendous integrity, meticulous observance of all appropriate boundaries in every interaction they ever experienced or witnessed, and the life-changing advice and counseling they or their friends received from the accused. Since, if and when breaches of ethical and Halachic behavior happen, they happen “behind closed doors,” the only way to verify the accusations is for victims to provide detailed testimony of what they claim happened. Frequently, the victims themselves are troubled individuals, or were having some specific emotional crisis which can make them vulnerable to advances from the predator, while compromising their credibility as plaintiffs or witnesses. People can become easily swayed and confused when weighing claims of somewhat unreliable plaintiffs/witnesses against the claims and testimony of obviously … Read More >>
As Israel applies itself to the task of rooting out terrorists in Gaza, and destroying their tunnels and rocket launchers, there have been, as always when Israel acts to defend herself, condemnations of her effort to protect her citizens from an enemy bent on murdering them.
Seizing on the tragic consequences of even as just a war as the one Israel is conducting against Hamas, the condemners vehemently protest Israel’s actions – and, in the time-honored tradition of Jew-hatred, wax violent against Jews, wherever they may be.
And so, we have come to witness over recent weeks hatred and violence directed toward Jewish communities in France and other countries. Such incidents are reminiscent of an earlier, darker time in our history when hatred of Jews was openly and unabashedly expressed both verbally and physically. Witnessing these attacks today is a stark and chilling reminder that the scourge of anti-Semitism remains a malignant reality in the modern world.
Without questioning the sentiments or actions of the French government, or of the other governments involved, the fact that these incidents have primarily taken place in Europe, where just decades ago many “ordinary citizens” were complicit in the persecution and extermination … Read More >>