Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Significance of Each and Every Number

by Rav Binny Freedman

Numbers; such a simple concept; too often taken for granted. But every once in a while you get the opportunity to appreciate all over again the significance of each and every number.

I remember the first time, as an officer, I ever came under fire…well, sort of….

It was a bitter cold night in late December, and we were stationed on the edge of the Bekaa valley, in Lebanon. Intelligence had received information that terrorists might try to infiltrate south through the valley under cover of darkness, and we had orders to mount an ambush in an effort to stop them from getting over the border into Israel.

We set out at around 10 pm. A light rain had begun falling, and there was a heavy fog in the valley, which made for a lot of tension, as these were classic conditions for terrorist penetration.

A couple of kilometers from the designated ambush site, we sent a two-man point-patrol ahead to spot-check the site, and the rest of us took a few moments to put on heavier winter gear. We were about to spend a good number of hours lying in the wet cold night of Lebanon, and we had special one-piece snow Parkas that were too cumbersome and hot for the trek from our drop-off point to the ambush site.

Eventually everyone was ready and the point-patrol got back with the ‘all-clear’.

The aim of the next half an hour, given that this was meant to be an ambush, was not just to get in position; it was to get into position quietly. The entire squad slows down, with every step considered in order to avoid any unnecessary noise. Soldiers avoid putting anything in pockets that make noise, dog tags are taped to avoid metallic sounds, canteens are filled to avoid sloshing sounds, and of course the radio is on silent mode.

When you arrive at the ambush site, after a process of sweeping the area again for safety, the men eventually lie down on the ground in the form of a star, feet on the inside and heads out, with every one given different, over-lapping quadrants they are responsible for watching. For five minutes, nobody moves; you just lie in total, tense silence, listening to the sounds of the night for anything that doesn’t seem to fit in….

In the movies this may all seem very exciting, but in reality, it is incredibly depressing. Lying on the ground for hours on end, trying to stay warm, and for that matter, awake, can get pretty tedious. The first thing that begins to cause trouble is your neck. The pain of trying to keep your head up and looking out while lying prostate on the ground is something I can still feel on the back of my neck and all the way down my back to this day.

As the officer in charge, you are designated 12 o’ clock, and your first sergeant, directly behind you and looking the opposite way, is called six o’ clock. This way, everyone gets oriented pretty quickly, and in the event of trouble you don’t have to try to figure out which direction it’s coming from.

It is hard to describe the intense silence mixed with boredom, exhaustion, as well as the tension of knowing where you are and what you are doing, that settles in. But it was all of this that made what happened next such a shock.

All of a sudden, round about midnight, night turned into day and the silence exploded into a cacophony of gunfire as they opened up on us.

We were lying on a low hill in the middle of a large valley, with a few scattered Arab villages round about, and in the space of about five seconds our entire left flank was filled with the sounds of gunfire.

We had obviously come under heavy attack, and our position must have been ‘made’. At this point there was no longer any point to maintaining silence so I started yelling out commands as loud as I could above the sounds of gunfire. There are a number of things that go through your mind in such a moment, but most of all you discover how good all the training you received really was. They teach you not to wait until you are attacked, but to constantly be thinking what you would do in the event you are attacked, something I had been reviewing in my mind more as a ‘stay awake’ exercise just a moment earlier.

Standard procedure is to quickly get everyone in a line facing the enemy (in this case, my three o’ clock,) and unleash a barrage of fire in the direction the enemy fire is coming from. At this point, to be honest, you’re not scared, because you know what you are supposed to do, you’re following ‘the book’ and whatever will happen is pretty much out of your hands. There’s a recipe and all you have to do is follow it. You can’t really judge distances at night, so you have no real way of knowing whether they are near or far; you’re just firing into the night. At the same time, the radioman is screaming our position (already known) and ‘contact’ report to battalion headquarters.

And that’s when it got scary, because about a minute or so after our first contact, we came under more heavy fire, but this time from behind. This is an incredibly frightening feeling, but at least, again, you have been prepared for it. There is a standard response in such a situation; something I did not imagine I would ever have to employ, but which nonetheless has been ingrained into you by various sadistic commanders in the Officer’s Course: you simply split your unit. Half the men continue firing forward, and the other half turn around and begin firing back to your six.

And then it got out of control. Because at this point, having radioed Battalion that we were in need of either a withdrawal order, or back-up units, we suddenly came under fire again, from a third direction, and seconds later from a fourth. In fact, it seemed the entire valley was alive with gunfire, along with an anti-tank shell that came screaming down from a Syrian position up in the mountains a few clicks away. Clearly, we were in way over our heads…

Orders were given to get us out and we began pulling down off the hilltop back in the direction of the trail where there was a covered wood with a ditch I had seen earlier that I thought would give us more cover. I was still struggling with just how we had been detected and why no one had heard anything, when, just as quickly as it all began, it all stopped. The entire valley just went dead. This was really eerie and rather unnerving, as it meant there was one organized command center calling the shots, and this was obviously a unit much larger than any we had been briefed even existed in Southern Lebanon.

We made it in a couple of minutes back down to the ditch, at which point I ordered a count-off. This is also standard procedure. You need to know, is everyone with you? Are there any wounded? The seconds that ticked off as each man, awed by the sudden silence, whispered his number were like a lifetime for me. I cannot begin to describe the wave of relief that swept over me when I realized that not only were all my men present and accounted for, but not one of them had gotten even so much as a scratch.

And then the call came in over the radio that explained the entire course of events. You see, living in Israel, in a Jewish state, I had completely forgotten that Dec 31st is also New Year’s Eve. And all the Christian villages in the area, not being able to afford fireworks, just shot off all their ammunition instead…!

Needless to say, by this time headquarters decided our position was blown and we headed back to base for what ended up being the first good night’s sleep in a long time….

Counting: Giving each person a number, whether in the army, in a classroom, or on a field trip, is an idea that merits consideration. Why do we need numbers? How do we utilize them? Simply put, numbers allow us to designate individual items as part of a larger group. When something is given a number, it is essentially made equal, or equivalent on some level, to every other object included in that list of numbers.

Most often, we use numbers to assure that we include all the members or items we intend to, in a given group. A numbered list ensures that we don’t forget anyone or anything on the list.

All of which makes one wonder what is really at the root of the commandment at the beginning of this week’s portion:

“Se’u et rosh kol adat B’nei Yisrael be’mispar shemot tifke’du otam, atah ve’ Aharon.”
“Count each head of the congregation of Israel, according to their families…count them… you (Moshe) and Aaron.” (Numbers 1:2-3)

G-d tells Moshe to initiate a counting of the entire Jewish people and interestingly, Moshe is not to do this on his own; his brother Aaron must assist in the task.

What is the purpose of this massive counting? Does G-d want to check on the population growth? Is this about making sure there is enough Manna in heaven’s budget? Obviously, G-d doesn’t need a count; we do. Like every other process given us by Hashem, there is a message hidden within this seemingly innocuous command. Why are we counting?

More challenging is the fact that it seems we just finished counting everyone a few months ago. Indeed, Rashi himself (1:1) points out that there were actually three instances where the Jewish people were counted, in their first thirteen months in the desert: after they left Egypt, after the debacle of the Golden calf, and just prior to the time when the Divine Presence (the Shechinah) came to rest in the newly dedicated Tabernacle (Mishkan).

So what is all this counting about?

Further, it is noteworthy that here, unlike previous instances where the Jewish people are counted, the task is not the responsibility of Moshe alone; Aaron is also part of this Mitzvah. (Hence here the word used for counting is Se’u, count in the plural, as opposed to the word Sah’, in the singular, in Exodus 30:12, where the command is given only to Moshe.) What is so special about this particular counting that merits the special inclusion of Aaron in the counting?

Lastly, Rashi, the medieval super-commentary on the Bible, in discussing this issue (1:1) shares a couple of note-worthy points. Sensitive to the question of G-d’s need for a numerical accounting of anything, Rashi suggests that the reason for this and all counts of the Jewish people is:

“Mi’toch chibatan le’fanav”; “Because of their affection before Him.”

How does counting signify G-d’s love? And why is there a need at this juncture for a demonstration of that love? Doesn’t Hashem love us all the time? Indeed, Rashi himself makes that exact point, suggesting that because of this great love Hashem has for us,

“Moneh otam kol sha’ah” “He counts them (the Jewish people) all the time”.

What does this mean? Hashem is counting us all the time, of course, because there is never a need for Hashem to count us at all. Hashem’s awareness is unlimited, and there cannot be a process that provides new information to G-d; such information is not only already known to G-d, it is actually part of the totality of reality that is G-d.

Indeed, as Rashi points out, we are already constantly counted before G-d, and in fact the number that represents us, both past, present and future, ad infinitum, is all one before G-d. So what does this counting represent, especially at a given time and place?

What is really going on when we are counted together as a people? Essentially we all become one, equal parts of a whole, of a community. When we are all counted as equals, in a sense, we have the opportunity to discover that there is a part of each of us that is equal before G-d. We are not being counted based on our intellects; after all, some amongst us are smarter and wiser, while some have a slower wit and less garnered wisdom. Nor are we counted based on the level of ethical excellence we have achieved, for in this respect also, some are more righteous than others, even if we are not capable of necessarily discerning the difference. Rather, a ‘count’ speaks to the part of each one of us that will always remain equal.

Any instance in which anything is counted focuses on that aspect of a given list of items which is common and the same. If I am counting fruits, for example, even though bananas and pears are very different, I may not be interested in the difference between different fruits, I am rather focusing on the commonality of all fruits as edible items. And when we are counted as individuals we are focusing on the common ground we share as people.

When the press determines how many people attend a particular demonstration there is no interest in how many lawyers and how many doctors there are; the point of such a count is merely to ascertain how many human beings have made a statement together as a group. The count then focuses on that part of who we are as individuals which is common to us all.

I recall vividly the day of Yitzchak Rabin of blessed memory’s funeral. It was the largest gathering of Jews I have ever witnessed, with estimates of nearly a million people in attendance. That would mean nearly one fifth of the Jewish population of the entire country.

People of every background, level, and profession, from across the political spectrum came to make a statement, and for one day there were no religious and secular, no right and left, no rich and no poor. For in that mass of humanity we all shared the experience of being a part of one larger community.

There is a power to being part of such a mass of humanity. Such a ‘count’ speaks not to our philosophical leanings, nor to our religious preferences. Rather such an experience speaks to the essence of what in the end we all share in common. It reaches into our souls which is the essence of who we really are.

It is worth noting that this Shabbat’s portion of Bamidbar, almost always falls on the Shabbat before the festival of Shavuot, which celebrates the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. The moment of the giving of the Torah at Sinai is often described as the wedding of the Jewish people and their beloved G-d. So if Shavuot is the wedding, then this Shabbat is what is known as the Shabbat Kallah, the Shabbat when the bride and groom in their respective communities, celebrate the beginning of the new relationship they are about to enter. It is fitting then, that this week focuses on the essence of this relationship.

At the foot of Sinai, thirty-two hundred years ago, the Jewish people are described (Exodus 19) as having encamped as one: one people, with one heart. At Sinai we all stood together: the prophets and the plumbers, the scholars and the shoemakers, all one and equal in the eyes of G-d.

Perhaps this is the point of such a count: to remind us that at the heart of it all, every one of us is equal before Hashem. This is an idea which is constant, and is meant to be a part of our consciousness at all times, hence Rashi’s comment: “Moneh otam kol sha’ah” “He counts them (the Jewish people) all the time”.

And yet, the Torah takes the time to make this point at a number of specific junctures in the history of the making of the Jewish people. We were first counted when we left Egypt. Because there was a message we needed to inculcate into our psyches from the moment we left Egypt behind us. Egypt, with its rigid caste system of haves and have-nots, a society where the rich, powerful and even holy caste of priests, ruled the weak and less fortunate, this was not at all what Judaism was about.

The idea of a shared commonality of man, where each and every human being was born with a soul loved equally before G-d, burst onto the world scene with the splitting of the sea, when the entire Jewish community traveled as one.

Later, the debacle of the Golden Calf found the Jewish people on the threshold of this new age, sinking back into the morass of pagan idolatry, a system where the worship of nature meant that the strong survived, and the weak perished or served the mighty. And so, once again, we needed to remember this idea, which stands at the core of who we are as a people.

And finally, this week’s counting represents the beginning of the era of a Temple, (or its predecessor, the Mishkan) and the point in our history as a people when we became partners in bringing G-d into this world.

Perhaps especially at this point in time, with the inauguration of the priesthood, and the concept of holy space, it is so crucial to re-connect with this idea.

And maybe this is why this count involves Aaron, as well as Moshe. Aaron, who is the symbol of the priesthood, and thus of that aspect of who we are that we are born into, becomes the vehicle through which we as a people are reminded that nonetheless, we are all one in Hashem’s eyes.

It is interesting to note that we as individuals are exhorted on a number of occasions not to count human beings. (Indeed, King David and his men suffer severe consequences in the book of Samuelfor just such a count….) The idea behind this prohibition is that a human being should never be thought of as a number. We have learned all too painfully in our generation what happens when human beings are reduced to being numbers.

But that is very different from the idea we are expressing here where we do not become numbers, rather, the numbers allow us to experience the essence of who we are as a community.

The best example of this dichotomy within Judaism is the concept of a quorum, the minyan necessary for transforming the individual event into the community experience. As Rav Soleveitchik, one of the great sages and foremost thinkers of our generation points out, when that tenth individual enters the synagogue, he does not simply add himself as one more person in the room or 10% of the equation. Rather, he transforms the group of individuals into a community.

And indeed, these ten individuals are just that: ten equal individuals. It does not matter if, prior to the entrance of that tenth person, there are nine Torah scholars who happen to be the undisputed great sages of the generation, or nine janitors, teen-agers, or even nine Jews who just opened up a prayer book for the first time in their lives. Any nine people still need a tenth to transform that group into a Jewish community.

In the end we are, all of us, one community only when we are fully in touch with the essence that we share in common, found in each and every one of us.

Given the challenges we are facing in our day, and especially in recent times, we would do well to consider and ponder this thought.

May Hashem bless us all, soon, to be able to see the beauty in every one of us so that we can rediscover and rebuild that incredible moment of one-ness we shared together once, long ago, beneath a small mountain deep in the Sinai desert.

Shabbat Shalom, and best wishes for a happy and meaningful Shavuot.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Bamidbar/Shavuot: The Fantasy of the Seforno

Yeshivat Machon Meir - Bamidbar - Every Jew counts (video)

Rav Kook on Shavuot: Seeing Sound

וְכָל־הָעָם רֹאִים אֶת־הַקּוֹלֹת וְאֶת־הַלַּפִּידִם וְאֵת קוֹל הַשֹּׁפָר.
“And all the people saw the sounds ...”
(Exod. 20:15).

The Midrash calls our attention to an amazing aspect of the revelation at Sinai: the Jewish people were able to see what is normally only heard. What does this mean?

Standing near the Source
At their source, sound and sight are united. Only in our limited, physical world, in this alma deperuda (disjointed world), are these phenomena disconnected and detached. It is similar to our perception of lightning and thunder, which become increasingly separated from one another as the observer is more distanced from the source.

If we are bound and limited to the present, if we can only perceive the universe through the viewpoint of the temporal and the material, then we will always be aware of the divide between sight and sound. The prophetic vision at Mount Sinai, however, granted the people a unique perspective, as if they were standing near the source of Creation. From that vantage point, they were able to witness the underlying unity of the universe. They were able to see sounds and hear sights.

God’s revelation at Sinai was registered by all their senses simultaneously, as a single, undivided perception.

(Gold from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback) p. 135. Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe’iyah, p. 491 by Rav Chanan Morrison)

The Yishai Fleisher Israel Podcast: The Jewish Right to Rage

Israel is in a three-front war: Gaza rocket fire, Jihadist gangs in the streets of mixed cities, and the Narrative War against the Jewish State. Malkah Fleisher joins Yishai to talk about the Jewish right to be aggressive in the face of the Jihad - and what it's like to raise kids in this reality. Then, Rav Mike Feuer on the biblical command to get ready for war and being proud of Jewish strength.

The Jihad Within Israel

by Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 2,038

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The explosion of mass violence by Israeli Arabs against their fellow Jewish citizens is nothing short of a religious war and has to be treated as such.

When synagogues and religious seminaries are torched, it is a religious war.

When Torah scrolls are desecrated, it is a religious war.

When cars are torched only after verification that they belong to Jews, it is a religious war.

When Jewish drivers and passengers are dragged from their cars to the shouts of “Allah Akbar” and beaten up, it is a religious war.

When thousands of Muslims are rioting under the chant “With our blood and spirits we’ll redeem the al-Aqsa Mosque,” it is a religious war.

When mayhem is described and labeled as a jihad, it is a religious war.

And it is a religious war when rioters in the Israeli cities of Jerusalem, Lod, Jaffa and Acre, among many other localities, unite around such jihadist slogans as “Khyber, Khyber Oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return,” evoking the slaughter of all men of this ancient Jewish community and the enslavement of their women by Islam’s founder.

There are of course legions of commentators who will ascribe the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in general, and the ongoing explosion of violence by Israel’s Arab citizens in particular, to territorial, national, economic, civil, or legal causes. Yet they overlook the conflict’s deepest and most intractable cause: Islam’s absolute rejection of the Jewish right to statehood.

In the Islamic order of things, Jews are not considered a People but rather members of a religious community that must be reduced (like their Christian counterparts) to the legally- and socially-institutionalized inferior status of “protected non-Muslim minorities” (Dhimmis) under the rule of Islam, the world’s only true religion. As such, they have no right to independence existence in any part of Palestine, not least since this country in its entirety is an Islamic trust (waqf) that cannot be detached from its rightful place in the House of Islam (Dar a-Islam).

Indeed, from the onset of the Palestinian-Jewish conflict, it was run as a religious war. First by Hajj Amin Husseini, leader of the Palestinian Arabs from the early 1920s to the late 1940s, who was assisted in the 1930s and the 1948 war by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, then by the Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoots: Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza and the Islamic Movement in Israel itself.

Given Islam’s pervasive entrenchment in Palestinian society (and for that matter in all Middle Eastern societies) – even Yasser Arafat and most of the PLO’s founding generation were Muslim Brotherhood members in their young age – the acceptance of Israel’s existence by Muslims communities, both within Israel and abroad, will only be feasible upon their realization of the Jewish state’s overwhelming strength and invincibility. Only a powerful, well organized, highly determined and militarily invincible Israel can stand a chance of surviving in its violent and merciless neighborhood.

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence specializing in Syria, Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups, and Israeli Arabs, and is an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.

Cobra Kai and the Jewish State

by Victor Rosenthal

My granddaughter, Shai, told my wife that she should make her a “Cobra Kai” shirt. We were mystified, so she told us to watch the video series and we would understand. It turns out to be a continuation of the plot of the movie “The Karate Kid,” in which (as I see it) the yetzer hara and the yetzer hatov are personified by the competing dojos of Cobra Kai and Miyagi Do respectively. Keep that thought – I’ll come back to it.

In the real world, the struggle between Israel and her enemies is far more bitter and bloody. For several months now tensions have risen, with demonstrations and riots in several cities by Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel over various issues. Violent attacks on Jews by Arabs were followed by violence against Arabs by militant Jewish groups. The conflict reached a peak on Monday, Jerusalem Day, when hundreds of police and Arabs fought each other on and around the Temple Mount, the Arabs throwing rocks and shooting fireworks, while the police responded with teargas and stun grenades. At the same time, Hamas issued an ultimatum that if the police did not leave the Mount by 6:00 PM, they would fire rockets at Jerusalem. The police stayed, and Hamas carried out its threat, launching seven rockets.

Since then the violence has escalated. Israeli Arabs have rioted in various cities and towns in Israel, attacking Jewish citizens and police. In Lod, local Arabs rampaged in Jewish neighborhoods, burning cars and even synagogues, evoking visions of anti-Jewish pogroms. Riots also occurred in Acco, Yafo, and the Arab towns of the “Triangle,” east of Netanya and Haifa. Hamas has been broadcasting incitement for weeks via its imams and social media, including the perennial “Al Aqsa is in danger” line that has been inflaming Palestinian Muslims against Jews for at least 100 years.

Meanwhile, rocket fire from Gaza has reached unprecedented levels. As of Wednesday morning (as I write) more than 1,000 rockets have been launched at Israel from Gaza, reaching as far north as Hadera. At least 850 of them have reached Israel, with 200 falling short into Gaza (keep this in mind when Hamas blames its civilian casualties on Israeli retaliation). Massive barrages hit Ashkelon, setting a strategic gas facility afire, and keeping inhabitants in shelters all night. Naturally the towns and kibbutzim in the south, the usual targets of Hamas rockets, got their portion too. According to Hamas, 130 rockets were launched toward Tel Aviv. Even here in Rehovot, which is usually spared, we were awakened by sirens several times overnight. As of this moment, five Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets, including two Israeli Arabs whose car took a direct hit in Lod. There have been dozens of injuries and much property damage. The Iron Dome systems have intercepted many of the rockets, but due to their sheer volume it has been impossible to stop all of them.

The IDF – air force, artillery, and navy – has been hitting launchers, weapons factories, underground facilities, and some senior Hamas officials since the rocket fire started. A multi-story building that contained Hamas intelligence services was taken down. Hamas claims several dozen civilian casualties, but the IDF says that most of them are either Hamas operatives who were hit while launching rockets, or victims of their own rockets which fell short.

I think that the events of the past weeks have had a significant effect on the attitudes of many ordinary Israeli Jews. The riots in Lod, and the attacks on Jews in Jerusalem have given rise to a feeling that lines have been crossed. How can it be, they think, when they see a 65-year-old rabbi brutally kicked to the ground by Arab assailants, or Torah scrolls burned, that this can happen in the Jewish state? Although there was large-scale rioting by Israeli Arabs in 2000 at the start of the Second Intifada, the way individual Jews and Jewish shops and institutions were targeted this time was new, and evoked comparisons to the antisemitic violence of the 1930s. Although Arab members of the Knesset talked in ways that verged on subversion, it seemed that most of the Arabs in the street were motivated by economics, not nationalism. Either that has changed, or it was not the case in the first place.

The dimensions of the Hamas rocket attack were worrisome. It is clear that we cannot have enough Iron Dome systems to stop all the rockets that our enemies can launch. In the back of everyone’s mind is the knowledge that Hezbollah has far more rockets and better, more accurate and powerful, ones.

It seems that we always act the same: retaliate in a measured way, being very careful to keep civilian damage to a minimum, after which we are pilloried by the UN, the EU, and the “human rights” NGOs, regardless of that fact. We don’t destroy Hamas, we simply “mow the grass” every few years. We keep supplying Gaza with water and electricity.

There will be other escalations like this one. Each time, Hamas seems to have more and better capabilities. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to try to take over the Palestinian Authority, and to incite subversion among the Arab citizens of Israel. Soon Mahmoud Abbas will retire or die; it could happen today. Hamas will then move to take over the PA, which would make the present situation seem like a picnic in the park.

Is this the best our government can do, we ask?

The problem is that we have no real strategy. But it’s not hard to see what it should be. The Palestinians of the territories and even our own Arab citizens have shown us: they act in a Middle Eastern way.

We want to live in the Middle East because that’s where we came from. But we don’t want to act Middle Eastern. We want to live in an imaginary world, where nations actually adhere to the UN charter. We want to be “a villa in the jungle” as somebody said. That doesn’t work. In the Middle East, you defend your honor or you lose all of your property and then your life. In the Middle East, when someone challenges you, you destroy them or they destroy you. You don’t give them a break because they are weaker than you and you feel sorry for them. Tomorrow they may be strong enough to kill you – or they may sneak up on you and kill you, even though they are weaker.

The Palestinian Arabs have challenged us for the ownership of this land. For more than a hundred years they have made it clear to us that they will do anything and everything necessary to get it. We, on the other hand, keep trying to compromise with them. And they respond with bemusement, take anything we give them, and then continue trying to get the rest.

If they win, they will kick us out. Ask them. They’ll tell you. And that is what our strategy has to be: to remove the Palestinian Arabs from the Land of Israel. We need to do whatever is necessary to achieve that aim.

If that is offensive to you, then you can live somewhere else where at least they pretend to operate according to a “better” morality. It’s up to you.

Now that we’ve settled the strategy, it’s time to decide on the tactics. And in that connection, I come back to “Cobra Kai.” One of the recurring memes in the show is the motto of the Cobra Kai dojo. I am sure that the writers disapproved of it, but it fits our needs perfectly. Here it is:


Israel's Jihad Crisis is the World's Jihad Crisis

Israel is a not a war zone because of geopolitics, but because it shares a common crisis with Europe, America, Russia, China and numerous other countries, most of whom are trying to buy time for their own internal Islamic insurgencies by siding with the Jihadist insurgency inside Israel.

A sizable hostile minority within your borders is always an explosive element, but Islamic migration is unique in that it emerged and still emerges from a tribal and religious manifest destiny of world conquest.

Israel's Islamic minority is particularly hostile because unlike those of America, Europe, Russia, and China it came to the Jewish State as a conquering force and made up the 'Herrenvolk', the colonial master race, within living memory (religiously, if not ethnically under the Ottoman Empire). The hostility was fed by a succession of foreign powers, Britain before and after WW2, Germany in WW1 and WW2, by Russian during the Cold War, by Iran, Qatar, and Russia after the Cold War, but it's still innate.

Tribal hostility is bad enough as even a brief look at Rwanda and African genocides, or those in the Balkans ought to show, but combine that with Islamic manifest destiny and you have a perpetual war.

While the legal fiction that is the international community has kept on pressuring Israel to "resolve" the conflict with territorial concessions, providing the insurgency with dedicated territory has worsened it.

Nor have any of the nations or alliances pressuring Israel to resolve the conflict managed to do it.

The responses have ranged from integration and appeasement in America and Europe, Russia's efforts to convince its Muslims that they have a common enemy in the West, and China's ruthless crackdown. What all these varying efforts have in common is trying to convince or compel a Muslim population to see itself as part of the local nation or empire, to bind its destiny to European liberalism, to the Han Chinese, to Greater Russia, or to American democracy, and not to a global Ummah of which it is a fragmented piece.

Israel's strategy of integrating the Arab Muslim population within randomly defined borders, convincing them to see themselves as part of the Jewish State, while treating those outside those borders as autonomous is even more paradoxical and contradictory than these same failed strategies.

The fragmented Muslim populations of the world are the remnants of an aspiring empire created by centuries of conquests and invasions. Islam convinces them to see themselves as part of that Ummah, a civilizational empire that is meant to encompass the world. Tribalism sharpens the edge of that religious hostility by giving it a personal edge and a familial aspiration.

Critics say that Muslim terrorism kills more Muslims than non-Muslims. That's true, but not much of a defense.

Islamic manifest destiny has traditionally destroyed Muslim societies comprehensively, but then again Roman imperialism and European colonialism destroyed their own societies quite thoroughly. Globalism usually destroys any society arrogant enough to be infected by the fever which is one reason why America is so endangered. It's also why China has survived for thousands of years by xenophobically turning inwards at key moments in its history. That's why China is likely to leave the scene within the next generation, taking its 'prizes' and going home, or will destroy its own society.

Israel doesn't have that option.

The Jewish State isn't suffering from an Islamic insurgency because it wanted to operate on a global scale, but because foreign invading powers, most notably the Syrian-Greeks and the Romans, imposed their dominion using Arab mercenaries. When Byzantium declined and fell, the barbarians they had been using to keep the peace turned on the Eastern Roman Empire, just as the barbarians Goths had turned on the Western Roman Empire, and assembled together a religion from the scraps of Judaism, Christianity, and assorted local pagan faiths based on their imperatives of conquest and domination.

The Islamic conquests failed to assemble any kind of global utopian empire. But then they never had a chance of doing that. They did however destroy countless peoples, eliminate many cultures, and create broken mirror images of the original Mohammedan Jihad with little emirates ruled by little Mohammeds. And they killed countless millions and ushered in a thousand years of tyranny and terror.

The fall of the Ottoman Empire revived Jewish hopes for reclaiming their homeland, but the Zionists had not counted on the endurance of that original war imperative or on the weakness of civilization.

And so the conflict continues.

It continues in Israel, in Europe, and in America, in Russia, and in China, and around the world.

The conflict has been particularly sharp in Israel because where Muslims are a minority in America, China, and (for a limited time before they become a majority) in Europe and Russia, they are a regional majority. And because of the strategic importance of the region, half the world has made it its business to intervene.

Israel's current two major factional antagonists, Fatah and Hamas, are products of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

The Nazis shaped the Muslim Brotherhood and the Soviet Union shaped the PLO with their strategies, tactics, and organizations, so that Israel is fighting both the Communists and the Nazis in its own territory.

But underneath the overlay of Third World liberationism and genocidal nationalist antisemitism familiar from the Soviet and Nazi projects is the old Jihadist manifest destiny and its much older antisemitism.

And while National Socialism has yet to control a major government or play more than a marginal role in America or Europe (though not for a lack of effort by the new generation of 'Hipster Nazis' more familiarly known as the alt-right), Marxism is a major player in American and European politics.

So the campaign against Israel gets plenty of support from the Left. As does Islamic terror in general.

Israel faces a sharper version of the dual crisis of Jihad that the world does.

The first part of the crisis is an internal insurgency while the second part of it is the development of nuclear weapons by Islamic powers like Iran and Pakistan that can destroy civilization (aided and abetted by the familiar Russian, Chinese, and North Korean pipeline for Third World insurgencies).

The Jewish State has adroitly managed to form a temporary alliance through the Abraham Accords with some regional traditional Sunni powers that have become alarmed at the threat of both of Shiite Iran and Islamist transnational ideological groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, but Iran and the Brotherhood have a direct insurgency operating on its soil.

Combine that with the fall of the Trump administration and the rise of a pro-Iran and a pro-Brotherhood Biden regime in Washington D.C. and the current conflict was inevitable.

But it was inevitable anyway.

Iran, Qatar, and various other players have not been investing a fortune in Hamas and other terrorist groups just to have them sit on the money. After a certain number of years they start a war to test Israel's defenses, military and diplomatic, leading to chaos, carnage, and a pressure for more concessions.

This time is no different.

The roots of the crisis are ancient, but they're also more recent. When confronting a civilizational Jihad, it takes only mistake. And a bad Israeli government mad that mistake in the 90s by agreeing to create an autonomous territory for the insurgents. Another bad government made another one a decade ago by withdrawing from Gaza and leaving it as a truly autonomous territory governed by Hamas.

Both moves were based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the resulting consequences.

Modern Islamic governments pursue utopian socialist schemes using a corrupt ruling class, much like the Communists and the Nazis, resulting in corruption, economic disaster, and external conflict.

Hamas and the PLO/Fatah, like ISIS, is no more capable of running a functional government.

Instead humanitarian NGOs, in this case UNRWA, provide some basic services for the population while the Jihad forges onward to kill and kidnap its enemies operating much like organized crime.

(A lot of Democrat inner cities run on the same gang warfare slash welfare state principle.)

Autonomy never does anything other than expand and spread the crisis. Treaties just define the starting point for the next phase of the conflict. Negotiations are a theater for extracting the maximum amount of concessions as a starting point for the next war whether it's with Iran, the PLO, or any Jihadists.

Israel hasn't figured out how to resolve the problem. But neither has anyone else in the world.

And there may be no answer.

The world is facing a 7th century crisis and trying to deal with it through 21st century means.

To be modern means believing that all problems have answers whereas to be postmodern is to believe that the answer is to repent of our past. The modern approach has led to ceaseless negotiations while the postmodern approach has meant endless appeasement and apologies for our past misdeeds.

Neither the modern nor postmodern way has done anything other than play into the hands of the Jihad.

Netanyahu, like other conservative Likud leaders, has appeared modern while eschewing modernity's preference for pat solutions and postmodernity's apologies and appeasement. And so Israel has been living in a premodern moment, adapting rapidly to circumstances as it has in some ways throughout its modern existence. But that's a survival strategy and not a healthy one either.

Israelis tend to take each day as it comes.

Flying El-Al is very different than flying normal airlines. Everything appears unready even minutes before boarding. The orderly process of boarding by class and status in most airlines is present only in theory as everyone rushes to get on board. It seems impossible that this whole thing should work or that the plane should take off in time. And yet it does, more reliably than most airlines, and works out.

That's Israel in a nutshell. And it's a familiar observation for Americans in Israel.

Israelis are always in crisis mode and they take one crisis at a time, and what ought to be a shambles somehow turns around. It's frustrating to the modern mind and many Americans can't take it.

Yet Israel persists.

But that perpetual crisis mode, a legacy of thousands of years of Jewish history, may offer few lessons to the world. Crisis mode works until it doesn't. And then the failure can be catastrophic.

Israel has fought an almost impossible war bravely, gallantly, and dashingly, jumping from one innovation to another, and then being miraculously rescued with that familiar certainty that neither it nor the Jewish people could exist without a G-d who intervenes invisibly at crucial moments so that the survivors of the ashes of the death camps went on to defeat enemy armies and found a nation.

But the world needs a better answer.

The answer may not be simple, but it begins with countries recognizing that they share a common problem and after generations of 'bargaining' with the Jihad, recognizing that we're all facing the same war, and that across cultures and even political affiliations, the West and the East, Right and Left, we may be enemies, but we also share a common enemy. One whose assault civilization may not survive.

We can either unite against the Ummah, that embryonic empire of Sharia and Jihad, whose boundaries are those of the world, or we can cut our separate deals with its separate parts, which will all fail.

And then we will fail and fall with them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Israeli Appeasement and Palestinian Violence

by Professor Hillel Frisch

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 2,036

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: It took only hours for Israel’s conciliatory moves during Jerusalem Day to trigger an avalanche of rockets and missiles from the Gaza Strip and mass rioting by Israeli Arabs against their fellow citizens.

Rarely do politicians have the opportunity to test the implications of their policy within a day.

In Israel, the land of miracles, such an opportunity occurred on May 9-10, when the Israeli government and its more than willing officialdom decided on Jerusalem Day to follow in the footsteps of the 1930s British PM Neville Chamberlain: total appeasement of an implacable enemy.

This began with the acquiescence of the judicial branch – one that famously doesn’t bow to external pressure – in the Attorney General’s request to postpone deliberation of a civil court case on the eviction of Arab residents from unlawfully occupied accommodations in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Then, the Israeli Police decided to change the route of the traditional festive procession in the Old City to avoid hurting Palestinian sensitivities in the tense atmosphere that prevailed. Not content with the decision, it was then changed to abolish the procession altogether.

During the course of the day, it was also decided to passively react to Hamas’ launching of rockets/missiles and incendiary balloons aimed at consolidating its “protection” of “Arab Jerusalem.”

But did this appeasement work?

Judging from the results, the Israeli policy worked just like Chamberlain’s infamous October 1938 “peace for our times” speech with the major difference that it took eleven months to test Chamberlain’s sagacity whereas the foolhardiness of Israel’s statesmen and officialdom transpired within hours.

Rather than being impressed by the Israeli olive branch, Hamas ramped up its demands. “We will launch rockets against Jerusalem should the forces of occupation not withdraw from Damascus Gate,” it warned. As Israel didn’t cower to that particular demand, a few missiles fell in the Judean Hills causing slight material damage and no casualties. But within hours the trickle turned into an avalanche on towns and villages in southern Israel, killing two people and causing material damage.

Nor were Arab rioters on the Temple Mount impressed by the conciliatory Israeli moves, continuing their violent “protests” outside al-Aqsa Mosque.

Far more worrisome was the explosion of violence among Israel’s Arab citizens, ominously reminiscent of the mass rioting of this community upon the outbreak of Arafat’s war of terror in September 2000 (euphemized as the “al-Aqsa Intifada”). In the town of Lod, for example, Arab rampaging was so widespread that some calls to the police by beleaguered Jewish citizens went unanswered for hours. Faced with life threatening situations, some residents fired in the air against fast-approaching Arab mobs, and on one instance fired directly at the chief rioters – resulting in the rare taking of a life by a Jewish citizen.

As one participant in the defense of his family and home put it: “We aspire and indeed achieve good neighborliness with our Arab neighbors, but Lod cannot turn into another Kishinev” – alluding to the notorious 1903 pogrom in which 49 Jews were massacred and countless Jewish properties were damaged. Immortalized in a poem by Haim Nahman Bialik, the “national poet” of the Zionist movement, the pogrom drove tens of thousands of Jews to flee Russia but also prompted the first moves at organized Jewish self-defense.

This provides further proof, if such were at all needed, that for all the fanfare it receives among the politically-correct, appeasement of implacable and callous enemies doesn’t work. Firmness and Fairness does.

Israel’s Arab citizens and Jerusalem’s Arab residents must be forewarned that as a state ruled by law and committed to ensuring its citizens’ wellbeing and safety, including the freedom of worship for all religions, Israel will tolerate no mass undermining of public order and the rule of law. This means above all the arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment of convicted perpetrators of violence against Israeli citizens and the police, and of those who destroyed, ransacked, or damaged public (and private) properties over the past few weeks, and most importantly – publicizing these arrests so as to deter similar mayhem in the future.

As for Israel’s external enemies – Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Fatah, they must meet the full weight of Israel’s military might, and the sooner, the better. The belief that anything short of a crushing defeat will lead to their moderation is as delusional as Chamberlain’s appeasement of Nazi Germany.

Prof. Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

To choose dignity over indignity

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

Friday Night
WE GENERALLY READ Parashas Bamidbar in advance of the holiday of Shavuos. To begin with, Kabbalas Hatorah was a desert experience. We did not receive it in Egypt and we did not receive it in Eretz Canaan. God descended upon a mountain in the Sinai desert, and made it bloom like Gan Aiden before He did. Talk about “atmosphere.”

Furthermore, the Talmud says that if a person wants to learn and keep Torah, they must make themselves into a midbar—desert, a symbol of humility. It is ownerless, trampled by anyone who goes there, and produces little of physical significance. Likewise, a person who sincerely wants to learn Torah has to detach themself from the trappings of this world. Otherwise, their heart will be divided between the eternal world of Torah and the temporal world of materialism, something many a Torah Jew struggles with especially today.

I have also pointed out in the past that the same letters that spell “midbar” also spell the word “medabehr,” which is someone who speaks. Considering that Onkeles says that receiving a soul gave us the power of speech, and the Talmud says that the entire purpose of life is to speak in Torah (Sanhedrin 99b), this is hardly incidental. The Zohar even says that it is a person’s speech that reveals who they truly are.

Speech is one of those things that is so natural that we tend to take it for granted. Until that is, a person loses the ability to speak, God forbid. Taking it for granted makes it very easy to abuse, so that even theoretically “refined” people sometimes resort to foul language to make their point, or to leave their mark. As if this wasn’t bad enough in everyday life, people pay money to watch others speak that way, for no other reason than “entertainment.” It just makes it so much more “lifelike.”

But not if you’re a superhero. Somehow people know that having a superhero use inappropriate language makes them, well, so much less a superhero. And when a more down-to-earth hero seems to accomplish great things without “compensating” with bad words, it seems to make them so much more, well, super.

Many argue that it has nothing to do with anything real. They claim that someone got the idea a long time ago that what they defined as “inappropriate” language was base, and somehow convinced society of this as well. They believe that people’s distaste for such language, and the people who use it, was nurtured, not “natured.” And they are right, sort of.

Shabbos Day
A CHILD HAS no problem with filth. They do not feel any need to run and grab a tissue just because their nose is running. They are okay with torn and messy clothing, even in the fanciest of places. This is why when we see adults behave similarly, we think they are immature if they do not have a “mature” excuse to look so unkempt.

There is something emotionally “cleansing” about being physically clean. We NEED a good shower at the end of a hard day, and we NEED to clean up before eating. Somehow being clean enhances the human experience. I appreciated this even more when watching a cat the other day roll back and forth in a very dusty patch to scratch its back and sides. The cat felt great, but I all of a sudden had a desire for a shower.

We have a word for it: dignity. This is “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” We crave honor. We demand respect, first from ourselves and then from others. Somehow being honorable and respectable validates our existence and makes it more meaningful. Though our bodies may buy into the whole “survival of the fittest” thing, there is also something about being human that demands we tweak our definition of survival “fitness.”

This is what children lack, a sense of dignity. A child will not hesitate to do things that we, as adults, may also want to do, but won’t as a matter of self-dignity. And even many who cannot control their childish tendencies will act in a concealed manner, aware of how they will look to others if caught in the act.

In a sense this is really what “sin” is all about, acting childishly. The Torah emphasizes the need to teach children from a young age how to act in a dignified manner. God however does not hold a child responsible for their behavior until Bar or Bas Mitzvah age. That’s when they are supposed to become a “Bar Da’as,” someone capable of recognizing the need to live in a dignified manner.

The fact that undignified behavior makes exciting news shows us that even secular society considers such behavior to be “sinful,” punishable by public shame. In some cases, the punishment is even more severe. The fact that the Torah calls it a “sin” and makes such behavior punishable in one of a few ways, shows us that undignified behavior is actually a sin against our Creator. It reveals that immaturity is not only disgraceful, but a denial of one’s own godliness.

In fact, life could be defined and gaged by where a person is holding on the continuum between immaturity and maturity. The process of “growing up” is one of moving further away from the former while approaching the latter. It is not merely about learning what the right thing is and then doing it. It is about using the “right” thing to bring us to new levels of maturity…of dignity.

This is the biggest obstacle a person has to receiving Torah, a desire to not grow up. They’ll perform good as much as they have to in order to get by in life, but not more. Children love fun. Adults love pleasure, and though the two can be the same at times they are often not. Fun can often mean a surrender of dignity, if only momentarily. Pleasure often means a surrender of “fun,” and the child inside all of us has a BIG problem with that.

Shalosh Seudot
WHEN GOD MADE the animals, it mentioned nothing about any image of God, even though they too have a spark of life and do really remarkable things. God is the life force within them, but there is nothing godly about them. They belong to God, and must be treated respectfully. However they know nothing about dignity and behave as programmed regardless of what others might think about them.

When man was created, it was a different story:

And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Bereishis 1:27)

Since God is not physical at all, “image” cannot be physical. Since man is physical, “image” cannot be completely spiritual. What’s left? As the Nefesh Hachaim explains, there has to be some aspect of man that is the same as some aspect of God. According to the Sforno, it is our power of reason. But according to this verse, that doesn’t sound so positive:

God said, “Behold man has become like one of us, having the ability of knowing good and evil, and now, lest he stretch forth his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat and live forever…”(Bereishis 3:22)

The answer to these questions came at the end of the previous chapter:

Now they were both naked, the man and his wife, but they were not ashamed. (Bereishis 2:25)

They did not know the way of modesty, to distinguish between good and evil. Even though knowledge was granted him to call [all the creatures] names, he was not imbued with the evil inclination until he ate of the tree, and the evil inclination entered into him, and he knew the difference between good and evil. (Rashi)

They weren’t ashamed, but not because they had chosen to live dignified lives. Prior to the sin of eating from the Aitz Hada’as, they had not known how to live any other way but honorably. And it can’t be called living nobly if living nobly is all you are accustomed to do. To be truly noble, once must have the opportunity to live in an undignified way, and then choose dignity instead.

This is why Adam and Chava had to leave the Garden of Eden. Yes, it was banishment for having sinned. The question is, was that a punishment, or a consequence? If the goal of life is to choose to live a dignified life, the Garden of Eden was not the place for that. The world we live in outside the Garden is. The sin may have activated the yetzer hara and opened the door to sin, but as God told Kayin:

“Is it not so that if you improve, it will be forgiven you? If you do not improve however, sin is lying at the entrance, and to you is its longing, but you can rule over it.” (Bereishis 4:7)

“You,” God told Kayin, “can choose dignity over indignity, and in doing so live up to the image of God in which you were created.” It would be a mistake to think that God was only talking to Kayin. He says the same to each of us every day of our lives.

Melave Malkah
THIS IS THE Torah’s offer to us. It will say later:

This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live… (Devarim 30:19)

Choose life. The words are both profound and obscure. Obviously the Torah is not trying to talk us off a ledge. It is telling us two things. The first is, breathing means you’re only alive. It doesn’t mean you are truly living. The second thing is, living is not something that just happens, only death. Living is a choice you have to make, and make, and keep making the entire time you are alive.

Obviously the Torah has mitzvos in mind, and even says so in the next verse. But even that is a general statement, which is why so many Jews throughout the ages have turned away from Torah and mitzvos for a more “carefree” life. They chose fun over pleasure because they only understood the one and not the other. They thought the Torah was only interested in making them “good.” They didn’t understand that the Torah was trying to give them dignity.

They did not understand how much dignity mattered to their sense of being, and well-being. They assumed, as so many always have, that dignity is just a nice thing to have, at least every once in a while. They did not know, and therefore could not appreciate, that it is our sense of dignity that allows us to confirm our very existence by making life meaningful. It’s just the way we’re made.

We have moved on too quickly from the Lag B’omer tragedy, especially since many families may never be able to. There were, of course, those who chose the undignified route of looking for blame and where to put it. But if you listen to the stories of the people who were there and witnessed the response of so many to what happened, you hear about just how dignified—godly—humans can be. The tragedy brought this to our national attention, but it is Torah’s call to us everyday.

The acceptance of Torah? More like the acceptance that we were made in the image of God, and that like God, we can choose to be noble in spirit and dignified in action. Fortunate is the person who understands this. Great is the person who chooses it as their way of life.

Good Shabbos, and a successful Kabbalas Hatorah.

“Let us Fulfill Gladly all the Torah’s Teachings!”

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

“The Torah is embedded in the Jewish spirit. The abstract spirit of Israel encompasses everything, the light of G-d, the purpose of existence, the spiritual life-source. When the Torah gains a stronger foothold, when its knowledge spreads, when its light shines forth, when its sentiments strike deep roots within every soul, the divine light permeates still more throughout the world, rising in grandeur, and the entire world ascends spiritually” (Rav Kook, Orot HaTorah, 12) 

It is a Jewish custom that when a child reaches the age of speech, his father accustoms him to saying, “Moses prescribed the Torah to us, an eternal heritage for the congregation of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4). Already from earliest childhood, a child hears that the Torah is an inheritance, and that it belongs to the entire Jewish people. The Torah does not belong just to this individual or that, or to this movement or that. Rather, it belongs to the entire Jewish people till the end of time.

Before the Sinai Revelation, the Jewish people repented, abandoning their divisiveness and uniting, as it says, “They had departed from Rephidim and had arrived in the Sinai Desert, camping in the wilderness. Israel camped opposite the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). Rashi comments, “As one man, with one heart.” From their receiving of the Torah, about 3000 years ago, until today, the Jewish people have never ceased to learn, teach, and fulfill our holy Torah. The Torah is a book of life. As it says, “It is a tree of life for those who take hold of it” (Proverbs 3:18).

Today, our generation, the generation of the rebirth and of ingathering of the exiles, is facing spiritual, social, physical and political crises. The means of rectifying this complex situation is to foment a change in culture and education, and to establish Torah learning as a national value of the first order. All Jewish children, and adults as well, should be learning Torah, as was the situation during the time of King Hezekiah, who passed a compulsory education law. If during the dark exile, Torah learning illuminated the Jewish souls, ensuring their survival, all the more so in the Land of Israel and State of Israel, that the Torah learning of myriad Jews should strengthen the spirit of the nation.

Our holy Torah belongs to the entire Jewish people, and to every individual Jew. We shall certainly be the living fulfillment of the blessing, “Our Father! Merciful Father! You, who are ever compassionate! Have pity on us and inspire us to understand and discern, to perceive, learn and teach, to observe, do and fulfill gladly all the teachings of Your Torah” (Blessings of the Shema).

With blessings for a joyous Shavuot holiday,
Looking forward to complete salvation.
Shabbat Shalom.

Why Does Tragedy Strike Us?: The Tragic Events in Meron on Lag B’Omer 5781

Parashat Bamidbar and Shavuot 5781
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

The tragic events in Meron on Lag B’Omer seem so long ago because in HaShem’s “divine little acre” challenge pursues challenge and headache pursues heartache.

That most people suffer in this world is axiomatic, but so too is the reality that HaShem’s chosen people suffer most. Why?

There is a fundamental difference between why humanity as a whole must suffer anguish, and the suffering of Am Yisrael. Gentiles are punished because of their evil ways. The purpose of Jewish suffering is not to punish, but to serve as a warning and a signal from HaShem for us to redirect our failing ways.

I have felt for years that Meron would be the place for a tragedy – one that would grip the nation and hopefully shock us to return to Jewish sanity.

Every year before Rosh HaShana, tens of thousands of Israelis leave the Holy Land in order to re-charge their spiritual batteries in preparation of drawing closer to HaShem in the town of Uman – in that immense Jewish cemetery called Ukraine. And every year, hundreds of thousands of Israelis throng in pilgrimage to the town of Meron in the upper Galil to unite in religious fervor through the kindling of the fire in their souls via the glorious fires of Chassidic rebbes.

Both the trekkers to Uman and the olei regel of Meron share a common flaw – Yerushalayim and the Temple Mount are excluded from their religious equation! Where is Har HaBayit when these pilgrims are being enthralled and enraptured in their religious commitments? The “Mountain of HaShem” is bleak and silent, except for the Islamic heirs of Hitler defiling the holiest precinct of Am Yisrael with their presence.

Then the hatchet fell. On Friday, Lag B’Omer the 18th of Iyar, in the week that we read from the Torah parashat EMOR, 45 Jews were trampled to death in Meron.

The Tragic Earthquake of 5597
In 1837, a tragic earthquake occurred in the north of the country. The towns of Tiveria, Shechem and 30 other villages were affected, with the death of thousands and the destruction of homes and lives. The worst affected was the town of Tzfat.

The illustrious Chatam Sofer (1662-1739) spoke in his bet midrash after the event and recorded his drasha in his commentary on the Torah (Torah Moshe).

The following is an excerpt from his drasha.

רעידת הארץ הוא מקנאת ירושלי’ כי צדיק הוא אלקינו, וקנאת ירושלי’ עשתה זאת, כי שם שער השמים עיר שחוברה לה יחדיו שם הר המורי’ עקידת יצחק שם שכב יעקב וחלם לו סולם שם הר בית ה’ ותל שכל פיות עליו פונים ולא זזה שכינה מכותל מערבי, והנה לגמרי זה מקרוב מאה שנים שמו פניהם לצפת כי שם קבר איש אלקי הרשב”י במירון והאר”י בצפת וכל העולים לא”י לא שמו פניהם אלא לצפת וטברי’ – וירושלי’ נשכחה לגמרי והוא עיר שם ה’ שמה שגם בזה”ז מצוה לעלות לרגל לירושלים… לא שם איש על לב אלא לעלות לצפת להילולא דרשב”י…

The earthquake was the expression of HaShem’s zealousness for the honor of Yerushalayim, for HaShem is righteous in all His ways. Yerushalayim is the “Gateway to Heaven,” the city united with the spiritual world. Therein is the site of Mount Moriah where Avraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Yitzchak. There Ya’akov saw in a dream the ladder connecting the worlds. There is the place of the Bet HaMikdash towards which all Jews face in prayer; the place where the Shechina never abandoned the Western Wall.

Now it has come to pass that for the past one hundred years, people have been making their way to the area of Tzfat where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is interred at Meron and Ha’Ari is buried in Tzfat. All the olim turn only to Tzfat and Tiveria – while Yerushalayim is forgotten. Yerushalayim where HaShem’s name is rooted in the word Yerushalayim. And even in our time there is a mitzva to make a pilgrimage to Yerushalayim.

The Chatam Sofer bemoans the rejection of Yerushalayim in favor of Tzfat and Meron as the cause of the devastating earthquake and records the day he said this drasha:

בבה”כ הקדושה יום א’ ב’ אייר פ’ אמור תקצ”ז לפ”ק המו מעי לו זכור אזכרנו עוד לפ”ק.


The Chatam Sofer made his public declaration on the week of Shabbat Emor, and the tragedy of Lag B’Omer occurred on the week of parashat EMOR.

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Brachot chapter 9 halacha 2) records a discussion between the Prophet Eliyahu and Rabbi Nehorei regarding the causes of earthquakes. Rabbi Nehorei said the cause is the Jews’ transgressions in the matter of separating the various tithes. Eliyahu corrected the Rabbi and said that the reason is that HaShem sees the theaters and arenas in the world built beautifully, while His Holy Temple lays desolate on the Temple Mount.

This is one more of many other sources that place the blame for unnatural events on the Jewish people who continue to reject our responsibility to restore our former glory on the Temple Mount.

Yom Yerushalayim
Before we have to witness another tragedy, I suggest that we place our religious loyalties on Yerushalayim and specifically on the Temple Mount.

Continue to go to Uman if that’s what your neshama craves and to Meron if that is what brings you to a spiritual high. However, the focal point of our yirat shamayim is the Temple Mount. A day must be set aside for hundreds of thousands of our people – more than are counted in Meron and Uman – to celebrate the unprecedented miracle of Am Yisrael being again sovereign over the site where the Bet HaMikdash will stand again. There is no better day than the 28th of Iyar, Yom Yerushalayim, and the yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing away) of the prophet Shmuel. The Gemara (Zevachim 54b) states that Shmuel, together with David, were the authorities who pinpointed the exact site to serve as the Temple Mount.

There is a simple reason why, on this day and on every day, there must be a large presence of Jews on the Mount – If you believe HaShem gave it to you, then take it! If you don’t take it, someone else will, because in this world every vacuum becomes filled.

There is so much more to say about the Temple Mount and the future Bet HaMikdash, but it might be sufficient just to quote the ceasefire order of General Motta Gur to the troops in 1967 when he said:

הר הבית בידינו - The Temple Mount is in our hands.

But I must add an extension:

הר הבית בליבנו - The Temple Mount is in our hearts.

Shabbat Shalom and have a meaningful Chag Shavuot,

JLMM Jewish Lives Matter Most
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5781/2021 Nachman Kahana

Forcing Jewish Students to Malign and Injure Israel at Pomona College

by Richard L. Cravatts 

Yet another vile tactic in the cognitive war against Israel

As more evidence that maligning and seeking to weaken and destroy Israel is still common behavior on American college campuses, the student government of Pomona College successfully pushed through a resolution that would compel student clubs to participate in a boycott of targeted companies doing business with Israel. Claremont Colleges Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Claremont Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) sponsored the odious bill and the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) passed the resolution aimed at “divesting all ASPC funds from companies complicit in the occupation of Palestine, and banning future use of funds towards such companies.”

The resolution, revealingly named “Banning the Use of ASPC Funding to Support the Occupation of Palestine,” was not unique in targeting the Jewish state for divestment and boycott; other campuses have pushed through resolutions that call on their respective university administrations to divest from holdings in companies that do business with Israel or which somehow are “complicit in the occupation of Palestine.” When those student efforts to push for divestment are passed, university administrators have regularly rejected the demands, claiming, rightly, that such boycotts and targeted divestment are inconsistent with university policies and moral behavior by focusing solely on Israel.

The Pomona divestment bill, however, took the novel and troubling step of focusing the divestment on student funds for the college’s various student organizations, thereby sidestepping the inconvenient step of convincing administrators that seeking to punish Israel, and Israel alone, is a sound or reasonable policy in the first place.

This bill put the divestment activities in the hands of the students themselves so that the ASPC “will change its internal spending habits . . . by stopping . . . spending on items that knowingly support the Israeli occupation of Palestine or contributes to any companies on the . . . United Nations list . . . [of] companies involved in the creation of illegal Israeli settlements ‘in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.’”

It is one thing for student governments to vote on and introduce resolutions that concern matters directly related to their college experience—tuition rates, grading, teacher evaluations, policies on guest speakers, confronting on-campus hate crimes and vandalism, even academic freedom and free speech. But when student leaders attempt to deal with matters extraneous to their universities, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and then force only one view of that conflict on all students, and insist that that view is absolute and inviolable, there is a danger that they not only overstep the purpose and intent of student government, but they also enforce a rigid, one-sided policy that is certain to offend and ignore the rights of certain students—in this case, Jewish and other pro-Israel students.

In a press release it issued after the resolution was passed, SJP used the typical mendacious language that animates the anti-Israel crowd, bragging that “Claremont SJP, alongside Claremont Jewish Voice for Peace, introduced this resolution to stand in material and ideological solidarity with Palestinians struggling for their freedom from Israeli apartheid, occupation, and oppression.” The participation of the noxious group Jewish Voice for Peace helps provide cover for other anti-Israel groups like SJP by promoting its seeming Jewish identity, even though its opinions about Israel and the Arab Palestinians mirrors those of Israel’s other ideological foes, and the “peace” they purportedly seek is one in which Israel as a sovereign state ceases to exist, with Israel either dismantled or Jews living as second-class citizens in a new, bi-national state.

SJP and JVP may contend that they are standing in solidarity with the Palestinians who struggle “for their freedom from Israeli apartheid, occupation, and oppression,” but these charges against the Jewish state are habitual untruths and completely ignore the complicity the Palestinians have in creating the circumstances in which they currently live. The apartheid slander, for one, is a lie, even though, for example, it was the primary focus of the recently released and roundly-denounced Human Rights Watch report on Israel, in which this other Israel-hating organization perpetuated the apartheid myth as a way of framing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a matter of race.

The authors of the resolution also suggest that they seek “total divestment from the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” another contortion of fact and history. There is certainly no so-called “occupation of Palestine” currently in place, unless one assumes that the area that now comprises Israel proper is itself occupied, in which case it is clear that the enemies of Israel are not actually seeking a new Palestinian state “living side-by-side Israel in peace,” the phrase promiscuously thrown about, but a sovereign Muslim state that would extirpate Israel completely.

The SJP release also suggested that its resolution “is an important first step in reducing our complicity with a country that maintains an illegal military occupation and regularly commits crimes against humanity against the indigenous Palestinian population,” again propagating a series of untruths that form the basis of their ideology and activism. Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria, the area referred to as the West Bank, is the result of its victory in a defensive war in 1967, so legal experts have repeatedly affirmed that there is nothing illegal about a Jewish presence in territories to which the Jewish state has legal, historical, biblical, and other binding and valid claims.

And in their Manichean view that Israel is a brutal oppressor and the ever-suffering Palestinians are an innocent indigenous people, SJP conveniently ignores the reality of Arab aggression and the unrelenting attempts over decades by homicidal psychopaths to murder Jews with knives, cars, guns, rockets, and explosive suicide vests. Of course, in the BDS campaign, no mention is ever made of Arab terror and incitement against the Jewish state. No suggestions are made to the Palestinians that they recognize Israel and make efforts to build their state without further incitement and repeated rejection of peace offers.

Resolutions like the Pomona one, more relevantly, ignore the fact that by attempting to weaken and destroy firms doing business in Judea and Samaria—either owned by Jews or selling to them—boycotts often have the perverse unintended side-effect of hurting those Palestinians who work in those companies and who often enjoy pay scales and benefits not available to them in Arab-owned businesses.

So, as has been obvious to any sentient observer, the BDS movement is not actually concerned with the well-being of the Palestinians at all. Those who promote boycotts, as was the case when the Arab League instituted a punitive boycott against the nascent Jewish state in 1948, do so with the intent, not of changing Israel’s behavior, but to cripple and weaken Israel with the ultimate goal of destroying it.

That is precisely why the Pomona resolution is so troubling, and why the notion that every student group at the college must accept and support the boycott is so unreasonable. Pomona’s SJP and JVP have no right to appoint themselves the thought police, and they do the college a great disservice by setting themselves up as the arbiters of truth and compelling other student groups to adopt their views, particularly when, in fact, they are toxic extremists with a bigoted, libelous, and often historically and factually inaccurate view of the Middle East.

On April 30th, after facing considerable push-back for the ill-advised resolution, the ASPC conducted a Zoom meeting in which members debated the intent and effect of the resolution, focusing on the final clause of the bill which exposed the malignancy of the resolution. Not content to push this toxic resolution only on its own campus, the radical sponsors stated that “ASPC calls upon the other Claremont Colleges Student Government Associations to follow suit, with the end goal of an ultimate adoption of a Consortium-wide agreement to ban clubs from using student government allocations to invest in or purchase goods or services from companies that contribute to the settlement and occupation of Palestinian occupied territories by the UN-designated companies or the Israeli state.”

And, SJP and JVP instructed, compliance with the boycott would not be optional. “Clubs that fail to divest and/or refrain from such uses of funding,” the resolution demanded, “would face the loss of all Claremont Colleges Student Government Association funds.”

So, Jewish student groups, some of which may well support Israel and would feel discomfort in participating in a boycott against companies doing business with the Jewish state or in the disputed territories, would potentially jeopardize their group’s funding if they refused to become economic enemies of Israel.

This is clearly unreasonable and unjust, just as it would be if a similar resolution were passed by activist students which made it mandatory to denounce and attack the Black Lives Matter organization because of their virulent hatred of law enforcement, their Marxist ideology, their anti-Semitic rhetoric and beliefs, and the violence and civil unrest they caused in American cities after the death of George Floyd. Would black student groups feel comfortable if their funding became contingent upon rejecting the BLM movement? Would it be just if one group of students, those holding the view that BLM was a toxic, unproductive, and dangerous group, mandated for all other students at Pomona that they must withhold support for a group which, although it has detractors, has gained wide support as a central part of the movement for racial justice?

It is obvious that the Pomona resolution is one-sided and is unfairly and inaccurately biased against Israel. And the student groups who would be targeted by the resolution, and who would suffer as a result of their likely non-compliance, are Jewish groups. That reality was made clear by Janie Marcus, a member of the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance, a pro-Israel student group, when she correctly observed that the resolution “marginalizes Jewish students who view Israel as the Jewish homeland and directly targets these Jewish students.”

The sententious activists fueling this ideological bullying may well feel that they have access to all the truth and facts, but even if this were true—which it demonstrably and regularly is not—it certainly does not empower them with the right to have the only voice and to then force their ideology on all other students with a mandatory boycott against Israel. No one individual or group has the moral authority or intellectual might to decide what may and may not be discussed, and especially young, sanctimonious students—whose expertise and knowledge about the Middle East, as noted, is frequently characterized by distortions, lies, lack of context, corrosive bias against Israel, and errors in history and fact.

University officials regularly proclaim that they have a “commitment to the principles of freedom of inquiry, freedom of speech and freedom of association.” But that empty exhortation has shown itself, repeatedly, to be, at best, disingenuous, and, at worst, a masking of the true intention of campus radicals, such as those pushing the Pomona resolution: enabling favored victim groups to utter vitriol and libel against Israel and Jews, with the pretense that they have somehow encouraged intellectual debate and productive political discussion. This is not rigorous debate and dialogue at all; it is Jew-hatred dressed up in academic clothes.

And making Jewish students conform to this bigotry by forcing them to disavow Israel is an unreasonable and unjust tactic in the cognitive war against Israel by the Jewish state’s ideological foes.

Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of "Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews".

Iran's Proxy War Against Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh
  • Last year, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei admitted for the first time that his country was supplying the Palestinian terrorist groups with weapons...."Iran realized Palestinian fighters' only problem was lack of access to weapons" — Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters, May 22, 2020.
  • The [earlier] denial exposes the extent of Iran's scheme to deceive the international community not only regarding its supply of weapons to the Palestinian terrorist groups, but also concerning its plan to acquire a nuclear bomb and bolster its production of nuclear material.
  • Iran... repeatedly violated the terms of the [2015 JCPOA] nuclear deal, according to the UN's nuclear monitoring Atomic Energy Agency.
  • Were it not for Iran's financial and military aid, the Palestinian terrorist groups would not have been able to attack Israel with thousands of rockets and missiles.
  • In the past, Iran used its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, to attack Israel. Iran is now using its Palestinian proxies to achieve its goal of eliminating Israel and killing Jews. This is a war not only between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist groups. Rather, it is a war waged by Iran against Israel.
  • The Western powers that are currently negotiating with Iran about the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal are emboldening the mullahs and allowing them to continue their war of "kill[ing] all the Jews."

Were it not for Iran's financial and military aid, the Palestinian terrorist groups would not have been able to attack Israel with thousands of rockets and missiles. Pictured: A barrage of rockets launched toward towns in Israel by the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations from the Gaza Strip early on May 12, 2021. (Photo by Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)

The Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) organization announced on May 11 that its members fired a burst of "Badr-3" missiles into Israel, killing two women and injuring dozens others. The announcement was made by PIJ's military wing, Al-Quds Brigades, after the group and other terror factions in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, fired hundreds of rockets into Israel within 24 hours.

The "Badr-3" missile is an Iranian-made missile that appeared for the first time on the battlefields of the Middle East in April 2019, when the Iranian-backed Houthi militia used it during the fighting in war-torn Yemen.

The "Badr-3" missile carries an explosive warhead weighing 250 kg, and has a range of more than 160 km, according to Debka, an Israeli website that reports on military issues. "The missile explodes within 20m of target and releases a 1,400-piece shower of shrapnel fragments," the website reported.

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Palestinians: Our True Goal is to Destroy Israel

by Bassam Tawil
  • The Palestinians are upset because Jews are being permitted to tour the Temple Mount. The Palestinians do not want to see Jews visiting their holy site; they do not want to see Jews in Jerusalem, and they do not want to see any Jew at all in the land that stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • No one is disputing the Palestinians' right to protest Israeli policies. Yet when the protests turn into large pro-Hamas demonstrations, with calls for bombing Tel Aviv and killing Jews, they expose the true deadly intention of the protesters.
  • When thousands of Palestinians chant "We are all Mohammed Deif" they are saying that they see themselves as terrorists ready to attack and destroy Israel. They are saying that Deif is their role model because he managed to murder many Jews and remains at large, despite Israeli attempts to apprehend or kill him.
  • Hamas owes its growing popularity to the anti-Israel inflammatory campaign waged in the Palestinian media, especially social media platforms, the mosques and public rhetoric of Palestinian leaders. Hamas also owes its popularity to the ongoing corruption and incompetence of the Palestinian Authority and its autocratic president, Mahmoud Abbas.
  • The demonstrations in favor of Hamas should also sound alarm bells with the Biden administration and serve as an accurate indicator as to Palestinian priorities. The Biden administration is talking about reviving the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of the "two-state solution." Hamas and the thousands of Palestinians who chanted slogans in support of Hamas and Deif, however, have a different solution in mind: the annihilation of Israel and the deaths of Jews -- the more the merrier.

Hamas and the thousands of Palestinians who chanted slogans in support of Hamas and terrorist mastermind Mohammed Deif have a solution in mind: the annihilation of Israel and the deaths of Jews -- the more the merrier. Pictured: An apartment building in Ashkelon, Israel that was damaged by rockets fired from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip during the night of May 10-11, 2021. (Photo by Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

When former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel in 1991, many Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the attacks. Many demonstrations took place in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem even while Palestinians were being issued gas masks by the Israeli authorities to protect them against a possible chemical attack by Iraq against Israel.

The Los Angeles Times reported back then that "several Palestinians expressed joy at last week's [Iraqi] missile assault on Tel Aviv and Haifa."

When the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group launched rocket attacks on Israel from Lebanon in 2015, Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate, holding Hezbollah flags and handing out sweets to drivers and passersby.

For the Palestinians, anyone who attacks Israel or threatens to destroy it is a real "hero."

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