The Top Ten Ways to Help Israel

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Offered as a way to get some discussion going, in the hope of generating some ideas beyond the boilerplate. I claim no special insight and only limited experience in some of these areas. Still, it’s a start

10. Speak with your neighbors There will be much misinformation and disinformation spread about what Israel is doing. We cannot afford to lose the good will of the average American. Most of them know very little about the background to the conflict, and have impressions shaped by images on the evening news. Do not be shrill, and keep it simple. Most people are NOT concerned with history. There are memorable sound bites you can use – but don’t use them all at one sitting. For example, Charles Krauthammer’s that this is the beginning of the West’s war with Islamofascism, not a war between Israel and her neighbors. John McCain: imagine if rockets were hitting cities and states in the US. We would respond like we did to Dresden in WWII. (Probably not true, but it gives people something to chew on.) Joe McCain (his brother) After thousands of years of getting slaughtered, the Jews are not going to go down without a fight. And the smart money is on them finishing off the others, just like we did to the kamikazes and Wehrmacht. Rabbi Marvin Hier authored a great one, and rolled it out in front of media at a demonstration here in LA on Thursday: Punish the terrorists, not those who respond to them.

9. Raise money Some of you must have friends and relatives who just won’t donate to the Bais Yaakov you must support, and are touched enough by the crisis to want to do something. Money to Magen David Adom or to Israel Bonds can’t hurt

8. Call relatives in northern Israel They appreciate knowing that they are not experiencing this ordeal on their own, and their families not only are concerned, but share their pain. The call can be distracting from their own anxiety. I called one non-frum relative today who, as the veteran of too many wars, had his hands full trying to calm down his grandchildren who were responding to the nervousness of their mother, who was not a native and had never before experienced a war. In many cases, they are also bored out of their minds, if they are trapped in their homes or even shelters.

7. Call friends in northern Israel Go the extra mile. Call people you are not expected to call. They will really appreciate it. I called some folks on a kibbutz near Kiryat Shmoneh who told me that people who last worked on the kibbutz 40 years earlier called to inquire after the well-being of their old friends. It certainly brightened their day

6. Write op-eds The Palestinians do. Nasrallah does. They know that there is a PR war to be won as well. The Consul General in LA told some of us that the consulate personnel have their hands full with other problems, and were depending on the rest of us to keep up the PR battle. Forget the Big Five newspapers, unless you are an authority, a celebrity, or the sister-in-law of the editorial page editor. Remember that the majority of Americans read smaller papers. It is not so difficult to get 900 words in a smaller paper, and if what you write is particularly good, it will get picked up by others

5. Write letters to the editor Challenge the bad guys, both in print media and in major internet outlets. Best is if you do not do this on your own. Try to organize small groups of keyboard warriors who can criticize each other’s work, and strategize on monitoring all local media. In LA, we’ve had a writers’ group going for years (under the auspices of Aguda and Am Echad) that worked very effectively.

4. Be in touch with local Christian leaders Now is not the time to try to make new friends for Israel. Concentrate on the ones who are known to be on our side. They need to be energized, to hear our pain and concern, as well as our gratitude for the support they have given us. (One group I know of has three thousand pastors coming to Washington this week – it was planned a long time ago – to campaign in the halls of government.) The good guys also need the pat on the back. There are a lot more Christians pushing for Israel right now than Jews. We need a full-court press on Washington to allow Israel to do what it must do.

3. Contact government officials Don’t stop at the White House. Your Senator and Representative also need to hear that many citizens care about this issue. Otherwise, they get lazy or play it safe. Even local government is important, because it creates good PR. Here in LA, a bright and energetic city council member, Jack Weiss, persuaded the council and mayor to reach out to Sderot. While the two mayors were conversing on the phone, the conversation had to be interrupted – twice! – by incoming Kassams. It made an impression on Mayor Villaraigosa, who then attended the solidarity rally for Israel and spoke about it on camera. Having a non-Jewish mayor deliver a message like that is priceless. (So was the presence in the front row of a tall husky black pastor from South Central.)

2. Call in to talk shows Concentrate on the friendly ones, not the hostile ones. Hugh Hewitt devoted hours at a time to the crisis last week. Having intelligent, informed Jews take part in the discussion makes a positive impression on the captive listenership caught in rush hour traffic. There are many more such talk show hosts, particularly on the Christian stations.

And now, for the Number One way in which to support Israel…..

1. Daven like you really mean it. Avodah She-balev. If you didn’t have a heart, you wouldn’t be reading this. If you don’t already know that no human activity can hold a candle to what can be accomplished through shaking the Gates of Heaven, you should probably be reading a different blog. Review what ein od milvado really means. (Dust off your Nefesh HaChaim.) Having read the first nine suggestions, this may be a harder task, but no one said life is easy. It is easier to embrace one of the two poles – either a quietism, in which human activity is seen as meaningless, or a deism in which G-d takes a back seat and everything is left in our hands – than to live the life of a Torah Jew. That demands our hishtadlus (human intervention) – vigorous at times – while fully realizing that the only ultimate reality is the Divine Will.

[If you are looking for a brief but elegant nusach that focuses on the return of our kidnapped soldiers and the entire military crisis facing Israel, consider this, authored by my friend and colleague Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom. It can be used after Tehilim or at any other time.]

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19 Responses

  1. Aaron Wapner says:

    Buy Blue and White. Everytime we go to the supermarket we should have in mind to purchase Israeli products.

  2. Seth Gordon says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein: Thank you for the clarification. I apologize for my previous comments.

  3. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Jewish Observer is right, but wrong. He is correct in underscoring a deeper appreciation of prayer. But where would he draw the line? According to Nefesh HaChaim, we ought to be praying for the relief of tzara deshechina (the anguish of the Shechinah, as it were, of not being able to give as much blessing as it would like.) Yet Rav Dessler cautioned that on our level, this cannot be expected. I believe that it is not terribly wrong for many people in our days to daven precisely because they believe that davening is the best pragmatic “tool” and strategy for accomplishing what one wants. Hopefully, many people will get beyond this, and understand what Jewish Observer wants from them, but the lesser approach should not be dismissed. See Shut HaRashba 1:423 in the analogous area of kavanah, where he insists on not disparaging the accomplishment of those who daven even though they muddle the words, and do not understand them altogether. There are many levels of davening, and even the minimum level – standing before G-d and recogninzing Him as the source of all we want – is laudatory.

    Seth and Edvallace – Stop the bickering! Of course Edvallace is correct. I meant nothing at all about non-Orthodox groups. I meant that within the Christian world, now is not the time to try to win over opponents. We should be concentrating on shoring up relationships with those who will stand by us.

    As far as non-Orthodox groups, my understanding is that the concern about bestowing legitimacy on movements that distort Torah generally only applies to public figures like rabbis, but never included laypeople. Even rabbis can work with non-Orthodox leaders – if done completely privately, in a manner that does not grant recognition. Seth is barking up the wrong tree. If anything, I might be accused of leaning too far in the other direction, since I privately am friendly with quite a few Reform and Conservative clergy. I also believe that in times of great danger to our people as a whole, even those who usually avoid all contact with heterodox leaders see room for exception, and band together to fight the common enemy.

  4. Evallace says:

    Seth,

    Just a I figured, you dreamed it up because it’s not there.

    I would imagine that RA assumes that CCAR are generally friendly toward Israel and he may even have assumed that he was addressing them as well when encouraging all to develop friendships with Christians.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    Seth Gordon said,
    “By contrast, references to non-Orthodox and cross-denominational Jewish organizations were conspicuously absent from Rabbi Adlerstein’s list.”

    We would expect all Jewish organizations to be self-motivated to stand up for Israel. Does Seth suspect that some organizations within his two categories are not so motivated, and need an attaboy or kick in the pants from us?

  6. Seth Gordon says:

    Edvallace: Rabbi Alderstein encouraged his readers to be in touch with local Christian leaders, and went on to say “Now is not the time to try to make new friends for Israel… There are a lot more Christians pushing for Israel right now than Jews.” In item #2 on his list, he highlighted talk shows on Christian radio stations.

    By contrast, references to non-Orthodox and cross-denominational Jewish organizations were conspicuously absent from Rabbi Alderstein’s list.

  7. joshua says:

    Micha,
    Please make aliyah and we will welcome you with open arms I really meant that to be the ideal thing to do and the most helpful so thanks for the correction.

    Kol tov and we should hear good news on all fronts,

    J

  8. Evallace says:

    Seth,

    Where did you get the idea that Rabbi Adlerstein was excluding affiliating with the CCAR for the purposes of assisting Israel? Is that something you found explicit, implicit, or imagined it to be in his post?

    Please clarify because I saw nothing even remotely suggesting that in his words.

  9. Micha says:

    I disagree with Joshua (comment #1). Since moving to Israel is itself a mitzvah, it operates on both levels — adding merit and acting in a more physical cause-and-effect manner. It may therefore be superior to teshuvah for lapses in other mitzvos.

  10. Seth Gordon says:

    Be in touch with local Christian leaders Now is not the time to try to make new friends for Israel. Concentrate on the ones who are known to be on our side.

    Compare this statement from the Vatican Secretary of State (“In particular, the Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign nation”) with this statement by the Central Conference of American [Reform] Rabbis (“Actions which prevent more weapons from reaching Hezbollah and which prevent the transfer of kidnapped Israelis to another country are integral to Israel’s right to defend its borders and its people”). Who is more of a “friend of Israel”?

  11. Max Stesel says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    What is a Jew supposed to do at a time like this is the question that I had been grappling with, quite unsuccessfully. Unfortunatily I don’t see an answer in the ideas you had suggested in #2-10.
    I think there is lack of clarity of what the problem really is. It is not Hizaballa or Hamas. Their commitment to Israel’s destruction is yesterday’s news. It is not the ‘friendly’ international community. Little has changed in their position. It is sheer impotence of the Israeli government and inability to fulfill basic responsibility to its citizens of providing them basic security that is extremely alarming.
    The state that in 1967 had defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan in 6 days, acquiring vast territories can not find a solution to a downpour of home- made rockets in its South, and of katushas on its main population centers in the North. Two points must be made:
    Israeli government and possibly its military is either stupid, cruel or both. Either they did not anticipate the Hizballa attack that took place last week, despite the fact that the arsenal was stockpiled over 5 years which would make them extremely stupid. Or they anticipated and they planned to expose their cities to missle rain while they patiently go after infrastructure targets and bomb the same buildings 10 times after dropping leaflets with warnings. This would make them cruel. Either way they showed themselves unqualified to protect their citizens.
    What is even more troubling is that there has not been an explosion of protest neither in media nor in the streets at the government’s impotence in providing security. This means that most of Israelis, who by the way elected current government, expect little of it.
    It does not take magic to stop the onslaught of missiles. It takes making a hard choice. Either Israel attacks Gaza and Lebanon with ground forces and goes door to door cleaning up terrorist infrastructure. This however would likely involve significant casualties to our soldiers. Or Israel turns its artillery and aircraft away from fields and deserted roads and annihates villages and neibourhoods from where kassams and katushas originate. This would involve killing many Arab civilians, which is tragic, but since these civilians are explicitly or implicitly cooperate with terrorists, they are not so civil in truth. While I am far from being an expert on these issues, it seems to me that the latter scenario, although most despeakable from the ethical perspective of Western Europe is most appropriate approach from Torah perspective.
    However since most of Israel’s population doesn’t use Torah as their moral compass, the vacuum is today filled with the ethical code of the countries whcih did not have to worry about their defense since the end of World War II. The result is the current inability to provide for basic safety of Israel’s population. And what is worse, the tomorrow’s enemies of Israel tomorrow who will reflect on this conflict and Israel’s performance will be emboldened by it to attempt to give the Jewish state the final checkmate. To me it is like watching a close relative fighting lung cancer while refusing give up smoking. So I am still searching for ideas of what I can do about what is taking place in Israel.

  12. Manny says:

    One other suggestion. Perhaps if we would all be careful about stepping into others’ daled amos during davening, or walking in front of them (within daled amos), or sitting within daled amos of someone who is davening (all explicitly prohibited in Mishna Brura), we would increase our understanding and focus of the essence of tefila, and thereby (hopefully) improve our own davening as well.

  13. Manny says:

    The following suggestions are from Rav Yitzchok Summers of Kehillas Anshe Emes in Los Angeles.
    ——-
    Dear Rabbosai:

    As we begin “The 3 Weeks”, the situation of Achaynu in Eretz Yisroel is getting more serious with each passing moment. We must understand that though in the “outside world” it is summer time and “livin is easy” , for us , Klal Yisroel , it is a time of year where we must besige HaS for rachamim (mercy).

    In the halachos of Fasts, the Rambam says that when a sorrow or travail befalls us, we can not think for a moment that it is a “mikrei”, a happenstance . We must be totally aware that everything is directly from HaS. The timing of the current war, ( and it is a war), in Eretz Yisroel is a clear wake-up call for us to come closer to HaS and that He wishes us to come closer. We should not wait until Yom Kippur, or even Aseres Yamei Tshuvah or Rosh HaShanah to start our journey. Rather, the Ballei Mussar say, the time is NOW. Now. when we start our commemoration of the destruction of the physical Bais HaMikdash, the first step is to internalize the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash INSIDE ourselves, inside our neshama, and take steps to rebuild that Bais HaMikdash.

    Therefore, at this “eis tzarra”, (time of trouble), I urge the members of our wonderful Kehilla to take steps towards the “banyan haMikdash” inside ourselves. The idea is to do something small but tangible:

    1- Learn the halachos of Shmiras HaLashon DAILY. we hope to have available soon a letter from Rebbitzen B. Kaniefsky, the wife of HaGaon Chaim Kaniefsky shlita and daughter of Maran Eliyashu shlita, concerning this.

    2- Concentrate during the first bracha of Shemona Esrei. The Rambam says this is a powerful tool to strengthening our bond with HaS.

    3- Say a kapitel of Tehillim on behalf of Eretz Yisroel. (Recommended #’s are 142, 130, 79, 20)

    Last, but certainly not least: focus on shalom and strive to stay as far away as possible from machlokes (strife and division). If we could repair and mend a relationship which has been previously broken, that is a great zechus (merit). Overlooking wrong that is done to us is another aspect of the masterpiece of shalom. This is the greatest singular thing that we can do.

    May our deeds and tefillos be answered and may HaS speedily bring us the yeshua that we so desperately need.

    With wishes of bracha v’hatzlacha
    Rabbi Yitzchok Summers

  14. Baruch Horowitz says:

    It is wonderful to hear an Israeli leader mention Hashem’s name and quote from Yirmeyahu. Hopefully, some will take these stirrings further!

    http://www.ou.org/news/article/address_by_prime_minister_ehud_olmert_the_knesset/

  15. Jewish Observer says:

    I don’t think we can talk about way #1 in the same breath as the other 9. a mature view of prayer says that we must always strive to be in a state of worship and connectedness to g-d. this stands on its own where or not there is a crisis. if the current situation moves us to intensify our connection, mah tov. but to try and proactively apply it as a “tool” in the same way as the other “derech hateva” tools diminishes the total experience of prayer of which devotion is an attribute.

    maybe I would have been more comfortable with the following: “Really mean it. maybe that will lead you to daven”. the difference is subtle but significant.

  16. HILLEL says:

    Guest comment from Rabbi Lazer Brody:

    http://lazerbrody.typepad.com/lazer_beams/

    Jerusalem Post says no to Protest Ad:

    Mrs. Shifra Hoffman wanted to do her part for the war effort. She collected money, and ordered a full-page fully paid ad in the Jerusalem Post, as follows:

    ISRAEL CAN DEFEAT ITS ENEMIES… ONLY WHEN WE FOLLOW G-D’S COMMANDMENTS! TO BE VICTORIOUS AGAINST THE MURDEROUS TERRORIST ONSLAUGHT …ISRAEL DARE NOT ALLOW THE OBSCENE WORLD ‘SHAME ‘ PARADE ‘ TO TAKE PLACE AND DEFILE OUR HOLY LAND, ERETZ YISRAEL! “FOR THEIR VINEYARD IS THE VINEYARD OF SODOM AND FROM THE FIELDS OF GOMORRAH” (Devorim -Deuteronomy 32)

    Sponsored by: The Coalition for the Sanctity of Eretz Yisrael, [email protected], Tel. 02-566 4137

    According to Mrs. Hoffman, The Jerusalem Post refused to print the ad. When we wrote to the JPost management asking for an explanation, they refused to comment.

    Who would have the audacity to think of a Gayday Parade when the nation of Israel is under missile attack and burying its martyrs?

    Even worse, who would have the audacity to flaunt Torah transgressions in public within Israel’s holy borders?

    Do you think that the entire war is simply Hashem’s way of stopping the Gayday Parade from taking place? Rabbi BT certainly does.

    July 16, 2006 in Eretz Yisroel | Permalink | TrackBack

  17. Micha says:

    Also: Money — people are losing homes and property, and will need our financial help.

  18. Bob Miller says:

    This was received yesterday and deserves a generous response:

    EMERGENCY APPEAL FOR TSFAT

    AN URGENT MESSAGE from the Nachal Novea Tsfat Fund REGARDING THE PERILOUS SITUATION IN THE HOLY CITY OF TSFAT AND THE UPPER GALILEE

    The recent missile attacks launched by Hezbollah on Northern Israel including the historic and holy city of Tsfat reveals to the world the great strategic nature of this area for the Jewish People and all the State of Israel. Residents of the Tsfat and Meron area have suffered fatalities and dozens of casualties. Many homes and buildings have been destroyed. It should be noted that the vast majority of the missiles have been directed to the homes and lives of innocent residents of the Old City. Many have chosen to evacuate, others remain steadfast as guardians of the city and the sacred sites they treasure. Emergency economic relief is necessary to sustain the residents of the city who wish to remain and to assist in the rebuilding effort.

    Tsfat is the capital of the Upper Galilee and hosts the headquarters of the IDF Northern command. Tsfat is where Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz received their briefings yesterday from commanders of the IDF.

    Attacks by Hezbollah not only threaten lives but strike at the future of one of Israel’s holiest sites. Tsfat and Meron are places that have given the Jewish people some of its most important contributions of liturgy, Kabbalah and Jewish tradition. These are treasures that the Jewish people must guard and not abandon.

    At the behest of our leadership, we ask for your prayers for all of Israel’s embattled citizens and ask you show your solidarity by supporting the families of Tsfat at this critical time. The personal and economic impact on our families is enormous. (Funds will be distributed by need and will be made available to all victims regardless of affiliation.)

    CHECK DONATIONS:
    NACHAL NOVEA TSFAT FUND – EMERGENCY FUND
    225 West 34th Street, Suite 701
    New York, NY 10122

    CREDIT CARD DONATIONS:

    You may donate via credit card… Should you wish to speak with someone to give credit card information over the phone, please call Heidi at (516) 823-4010.

    This foundation is a 501c3 charitable foundation and all donations are tax deductible.

    On behalf of the NACHAL NOVEA TSFAT FUND:

    PROF. ELIE WIESEL, Honorary Chairman
    SAMUEL SOLOMON, President
    RABBI EPHRIAM KENIG, Vice President, Tsfat
    RABBI JAY YAACOV SCHWARTZ, Executive Director
    MS.TALYA LIPSHUTZ, Director of Israel Operations,Tsfat
    MS. PAMELA WEINER, Director of Development

    PS As this email goes out to you Sunday evening, missiles are again being launched into our beloved City. Please be as generous as you can. If you want to contact us regarding assistance or information on what is happening, please email [email protected]. Thank you!

  19. joshua says:

    Doing teshuva learning and davening after that the best thing to do for eretz Yisroel if for eveyone to make aliyah.