Thursday, December 31, 2015

Moshe Feiglin: Instead of Censoring Books, Let Parents Take Responsibility

“The debate over the Education Ministry’s disqualification of (leftist) Dorit Rabinian’s new book is ridiculous and even scary,” said Moshe Feiglin on Thursday. “Parents should determine the educational content and values that they wish to instill in their children – not the Big Brother Education Ministry,” Feiglin continued. “The State of Israel invests more in education than in security: About 4,500 NIS per month (including the education funds of local municipalities). And the result? Well…”

“Give the money (that you took from Israel’s citizens) to the parents in the form of vouchers worth 4,000 NIS per month per student,” Feiglin proposed.” Let talented teachers compete for those vouchers and earn 35,000 NIS per month for teaching a classroom of ten students. Let ‘boutique’ schools spring up in every corner and compete for the parents’ vouchers (like today’s hospital maternity wards, which are constantly upgrading and competing for ‘business’).”

Feiglin said that parents who want Rabinain should get Rabinian. Those who prefer Uri Tzvi Greenberg should get him. “Languages, math, science, music and Judaism, of course. All as per parental preference,” he added.

“Return the responsibility (and the money) to the parents and get real education for Israeli children,” Feiglin concluded.

Moshe Feiglin Applauds Controller General on Action Against Medical Corruption

Moshe Feiglin applauded the Controller General on Wednesday for taking action against the Sarel Medical Company. “During my Knesset term”, said Feiglin, “my Parliamentary Assistant Michael Fuah and I met with the Controller General and showed her the hard facts that we had amassed on the Sarel Medical Company. Her face fell.”

Feiglin said that he told the Controller General that for over two decades, this entirely private company has been serving as a conduit for Health Ministry funds to be channeled into private pockets. This includes former senior Health Ministry officials.

Feiglin and Fuah began their research on Sarel when it was decided that the company would be the sole firm authorized to distribute medical cannabis. According to their figures, Sarel is behind apparent corruption that adds up to a sum that could cover all the deficits of all of Israel’s government-run hospitals.

Feiglin demanded that Sarel no longer be permanently exempt from participating in hospital tenders. He and Michael Fuah showed the Controller General that Sarel’s prices were higher than market value. Nonetheless, the hospitals were forced to buy from Sarel.

“We brought up the issue time and again,” Feiglin said. “ I merited more than few threats – including from former MK Yehiel Hazan (father of the current MK), who for some reason, showed up at my office in the service of Sarel.”

In a media interview, the Sarel Chairman said that were it not for Feiglin’s parliamentary immunity, he would sue him for slander. On the same day, Feiglin announced that his willingness to forgo his immunity. No suit was filed.

“Yesterday,” Feiglin concluded, “the Controller General announced that Sarel’s permanent exemption from tenders would not be extended. I applaud her for that. Better late than never"

"Jewish Terrorism" – Way out of Proportion

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen 
Dean of the Zomet Institute

It is quite possible that by the time this article is published you will know a lot more about the "affair of Jewish terrorism" than I know now, as I write. At the moment the matter is blurred in terms of the facts, for example about the "torture" to which the arrested people were subjected, about the contents of their confessions (if they will confess at all), and about the main question: Has the Jewish section of the Security Forces actually succeeded in suppressing the revolutionary, antagonistic, anarchist section of the "hilltop youth" or not? From my side of the blurry fog, I want to make two comments about this affair, from two somewhat opposite angles.

No Apologies are Necessary

Let me start with an important declaration: The murderous gangs of ISIS are not the fruits of religious Zionism! Everybody knows very well how to put the blame on us, as a combined and well-defined sector. As in response, possibly as a foundational echo,"They beat me in the house of my lovers" (see: Zecharia 13:6), referring to rabbis and prominent people from the religious Zionist sector who fire from the Bayit Yehudi (the party, the "Jewish Home") straight into our own "armored car." "Ashamnu, bagadnu..." We are guilty, we have sinned, we are wicked. We are skilled at doing this, from the days of the Rabin assassination. I do not accept any responsibility for the actions of the "hilltop youth" (who are suspected of having perpetrated the recent hate crimes), or for the "Shlissels" who are filled with hate (such as the man who murdered a girl in a parade). And we were not responsible for the crucifixion of the "Messiah" either...

Whether we are the collective of "kippa wearers" or the collective of the "politically right ," we have no greater responsibility than the collective of irreligious people who bred other horrible criminals, like Daniel Maoz, who killed his parents in order to inherit their money, or Marie Pizam and Olga Borisov, who drowned their own children in the Yarkon River and in the sea, or other horrifying events which are too gory to be listed in detail here. Does the collective of the "Ethiopian Sector" bear the responsibility for the murders of members of their own community in order to take a cigarette or because of drug-related anger? And what about the "Russian speaking" collective? Or "children of the kibbutzim" who committed gang rape – among other possible groups?

The "sector" which is not clearly defined, at which the barbs of criticism are directed, is called the "hilltop youth" in the media. It is not known who their leaders and rabbis are, or which "guru" they pray to, and in fact there is no way to tell if such figures even exist. This is an anarchist gang, but it has nothing at all to do with religious Zionist or Torah-Zionist education which these people received in any of the institutions of religious Zionism. On the contrary – their entire ideology is anti-Zionist and anti-religion. And, here is a clear sign that the hate criminals are not part of the religious Zionist camp. One of the "main tenets of faith" of religious Zionism is the "sanctity" of the country and its institutions, including an obligation to serve in the IDF. However, these criminals, the "Givonim," deny the state and its authority, and this removes from them any basis for their alleged "Zionism."

I therefore suggest to the important figures of religious Zionism, such as the rabbis and the educators, not to get caught up in a panic of "self-reckoning." (And if quoting my previous articles is a fault, I apologize for repeating in the above three paragraphs what you already read, word for word, in my column of four months ago, for the Torah portion of Re'eih, issue 1587.)

No Symmetry Here

And now let us go on to the issue of the "torture," and the application of draconian emergency laws against the "Givonim," in a supreme effort to overcome their right to silence by using severe investigation procedures the likes of which "have never been applied within Israel." I want to ask myself and you too: What makes these crimes any different than other organized crimes and evil gangs which operate in our country? As far as I know, in the duel between such groups and police investigators, the draconian methods that are being used against the hilltop criminals have not been implemented.

The standard answer to this question is the following: The deviation from standard procedures and the tough style of interrogation, which even borders on illegal methods, is needed because "Jewish terrorism" causes great harm to our foreign relations and to our national security. "The hilltop youth put the country in danger by their incitement of the Palestinians, and they distort our moral and democratic image among other nations whose support we are trying to obtain." I cannot accept such claims of "foreign policy and security," any more than claims against settlement activity or the acts of Jews who want to pray on the Temple Mount. All such attempts bring out antibodies in many countries which attack us and awaken waves of Palestinian incitement. However, we usually do not bow down to such demands but rather we argue that they are unjust. We can also explain and convince our detractors that this tiny and very extreme faction does not represent any community within Israel.

In reality, whoever views the crimes of the hilltops out of all proportion can be accused of creating a false picture of the responsibility of the entire religious Zionist movement, or at least the sector of the settlers. I would ask such a person to look again at the beginning of what I wrote... In brief, we cannot escape the feeling that this affair has been blown up beyond any reasonable proportion. Treating the hilltop youths as "an existential or a security risk" for the country is a false representation, or at the very least a great exaggeration. Do I get the feeling of a hint of a "hate crime" against legitimate rightist groups?

* * * * * *

Here is a completely different subject: "The officers of Bnei Yisrael were struck" [Shemot 5:14]. "The officers were Israelites, and they had pity on their fellow Israelites and didn't want to put pressure on them... And [the Egyptian overseers] would strike them... Those officers therefore were privileged to be appointed to the Sanhedrin." [Rashi].

G-d's Plan will Prevail

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

"And Pharaoh commanded his entire nation, saying: any son that is born shall be thrown into the river" [Shemot 1:22]. The sages taught us that Pharaoh's astrologers predicted that the one sent to help Yisrael would be struck down by water, and therefore their decree referred to "every son that is born," including their own sons. However, "Man has many thoughts in his heart, but G-d's plan will prevail" [Mishlei 19:21].

Not only was there no possibility to thwart G-d's plan, in the end it turned out that what they did to interfere with His goal were important elements in the way it took shape. The very fact that Moshe was thrown into the river led to his being saved and to his being raised and educated in Pharaoh's home, as a way of preparing him for leadership. Out of all the names which Moshe had, the Torah chose to call him by a name given to him by Pharaoh's daughter, related to his rescue from the water. This shows us that the very fact that he was thrown into the water led to his becoming the leader of Yisrael.

The same lesson can be seen from earlier events. Yosef's brothers wanted to thwart his plans, asking, "Will you reign over us?" [Bereisheet 37:8]. They therefore sold him as a slave. And this sale, which was meant to block his dreams, was part of the process by which the dreams came about. Thus, when the brothers bowed down to Yosef in Egypt, sages wrote about the verse, "One man said to his brother, behold, the man of the dreams is coming. Let us kill him... And we will see what comes of his dreams..." The sages interpreted the events as follows: "This is what the holy spirit said: The brothers said, let us kill him, and the verse replies, let us see what comes of his dreams. Let us see which dreams come true, Mine or yours."

We are taught the same lesson in the Megillah of Esther. Whatever Haman thought to do to Mordechai is what happened to him, and whatever he wanted to have done to him he did to Mordechai. This is what King Shlomo meant when he wrote, "One who digs a pit will fall into it, and if one rolls a stone away it will return to strike him" [Mishlei 19:21].

In addition, Shlomo himself lived through an example of this very same principle. He had two royal scribes. One time Shlomo saw that the Angel of Death was sad. When he asked why, the angel explained that he had been sent to take the two scribes. So Shlomo had two demons take the scribes to the area of Luz, where they were saved. The next day Shlomo saw the Angel of Death in a happy mood. When Shlomo asked him to explain, the angel said: You sent them to the very place where I needed them. And Shlomo immediately reacted by saying: A man's feet bring him to the place where he is wanted.

I will end with an incident in which I was personally involved. About fifty years ago, I had two students in a high school where I taught, in Gedeira – Chagai and Ehud Gordon. They were twins from a moshav – an agricultural settlement, Kefar Mordechai. At the beginning of the Yom Kippur War, one of the brothers disappeared from sight. His brother was serving in Sinai, and when his unit was preparing for action the commander asked if anybody had any specific problem. The twin told his commander that his brother was missing, and that he would therefore prefer to remain behind and not take part in the action. The officer understood and let him stay. As soon as the others had left, a powerful missile struck the tent where the boy was and killed him. After the war, his brother's body was also found. They were buried together in Gedeira, in a heart-rending funeral. This was the only time in all of Israel's wars that two twin brothers were killed.

Achieving Physical and Spiritual Wholeness

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

“The king of Egypt spoke to the chief Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shifra and Puah” (Exodus 1:15). 

Rashi explains: “‘Shifra’ -- This is Yocheved, called Shifra because she would put the newborn into good physical condition [meshaperet]. ‘Puah’ -- This is Miriam, called Puah because she would call aloud [po’ah] and speak and croon to the newborn just as women do when soothing a crying baby.”

In other words, Shifra would tend to the newborn’s physician needs, and Puah would tend to the newborn’s spirit, ensuring that it receive warmth and love. 

Not just infants need both their physical and spiritual needs to be met. Rather, all people, just because they are human beings, need to watch their health and simultaneously to illuminate their souls and to strengthen their spirits -- a healthy spirit in a healthy body. 

Today, not just the individual must strengthen his body and spirit, but the whole Jewish People. It is true that in our generation, with the ingathering of the exiles and national rebirth, the main preoccupation of the generation has been on “rebuilding the national body,” i.e., a state that is economically and militarily strong. Even so, let us not neglect the nation’s spiritual side. Surely it was through that spiritual side that our nation survived for thousands of years, through hard times when there seemed to be no hope, and surely it is through its spiritual side that our nation will survive forever. Thus, education towards Jewish values must be strengthened on both the individual and the national level, so that all can benefit from those timeless axioms of the Torah which were passed down through the generations. Likewise, we are duty-bound to increase love and faith, for these as well are essential to our flourishing. 

Through these efforts, we shall merit to see with out own eyes the realization of Ezekiel’s word (36:25-26): “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean.... A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” 

Looking forward to complete salvation, 
Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Moshe Feiglin: War or Peace – no More Terror

“There are two basic states in which a country finds itself:” Feiglin continued.  “War and peace. Each of those states has its own laws,” he explained.  “There are laws of war, in which you kill the enemy or punish him collectively.  There is also a state of peace with its own laws.”
Feiglin noted that in the aftermath of the Six Day War, Israel chose not to declare sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. “We have turned ourselves into occupiers in our own Land,” said Feiglin, “and created the swamp that we call terror with our very own hands. If you are not able to identify your enemy, you will never be able to defeat him. If you call your enemy ‘terror’, you will never win the war.”
“Israel must end the Occupation, declare sovereignty over all parts of the Land of Israel and will then deal only with war and peace. No more terror,” Feiglin concluded.

Dark Days

By Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

At the beginning of Parshat Vayigash, Yehuda mounted a spirited defense of his youngest brother Binyamin, accused by the mercurial monarch of Egypt of stealing the royal goblet. Yehuda, certainly, assumed Binyamin’s innocence and that the stolen merchandise had been planted in Binyamin’s sack, but could not know for sure. Indeed, other brothers, in the language of the Midrash (Breisheet Raba 92:8), castigated Binyamin as “a thief the son of a thief,” for he was the youngest child of Rachel who had stolen her father’s idols. Apparently, Yehuda felt that even a potential thief, with a pedigree of crime, deserved a defense and the proper administration of justice.

These are dark days in the land of Israel, and not just because the daily spate of Arab terror against Jews – stabbings, ramming, with the occasional shootings – shows no signs of abating. The government has settled in to its typical response of defensive measures, more barriers, more speeches, and calling for vigilance and perseverance by the population, and, of course, insisting that the rule of law be maintained. Yes, the rule of law.

It is painful to write what follows, and for some they will violate the unwritten rule that support for the State of Israel, whatever it does, must be instinctive, complete and unwavering. Perhaps it is the attorney in me that feels the need to raise awareness of these matters.

The recent allegations that the Shabak has engaged in torture against Jewish suspects in order to extract from them confessions are disgraceful, humiliating, a desecration of G-d’s Name and an embarrassment to the State of Israel. It must be conceded that they are only allegations, but so are accusations of criminal conduct. Four attorneys representing the accused – but deprived access to them for several weeks – last week detailed the alleged abuse: physical torture, beatings, burning and prodding of various parts of the body (including sensitive and private areas), sleep deprivation (in one case, three days), sexual abuse and other forms of debasement. True, even these are just allegations, but allegations grounded in physical evidence and first-person reports. The one adult arrested, released after three weeks of such maltreatment, returned to his yishuv after his interrogators admitted they had no evidence against him. His rabbi reported that he returned a broken man, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and dysfunctional. The parents of a minor (most of those in custody are minors) were interviewed on Israeli television on Monday and claimed that their child – after three weeks of enduring such brutality – tried to commit suicide. He showed his parents the slash marks on his wrists, which weighs slightly more than the Shabak’s denial of the attempted suicide.

The predicate for these arrests was the arson-murder of an Arab family – parents and an infant child – in the village of Duma last summer. The crime, whoever committed it, Jew or Arab, was heinous, horrific, unthinkable and deserves to be prosecuted. The guilty should be arrested, tried, convicted, and incarcerated. But “Justice, justice, you shall pursue” (Devarim 16:20) – justice must be pursued but only through means that are also just.

The secular Israeli civil and human rights groups have been noticeably silent, along with American Jewish organizations (including some Orthodox ones) who are quick to condemn Israel for any mistreatment of Arabs. Of course, those civil and human rights organizations are less interested in civil and human rights than they are in defaming Israel on the world stage and bringing about its speedy demise. The suffering of Jews – whether at the hands of the Arab terrorists they coddle and defend or at the hands of the Shabak – is less interesting to them.

PM Netanyahu, and others in government, have denied the allegations of torture, decried the attacks on the Shabak, and asserted that the interrogations have been “lawful.”

That is not the most encouraging statement, if only because “lawful” in Israel is not identical to what is “lawful” in, say, the United States. Israel routinely, and the United States, sporadically, have used “enhanced interrogation techniques” on any number of Arab terrorist suspects over the years. But fair-minded, reasonable people should be able to distinguish between physical force used to extract information from terrorists about imminent or pending terrorist threats – and physical force used to extract confessions. The former saves lives. The latter? The latter ruins lives and debases the society that engages in those medieval practices.

As one of the Israeli attorneys put it last week, and notwithstanding the protestations of government officials, Israel has allegedly crossed the line that separates civilized countries from countries (he put it mildly) “that we would never want to be.”

Soon after the attack on the Arab family in Duma, Defense Minister Yaalon claimed that “we know who did it, we just don’t yet have the evidence.” That statement alone is jarring, as the only way the authorities could know who did it is with “evidence,” even the testimony provided by informants, either Jewish or Arab, or DNA evidence, or sightings of the criminals on the ubiquitous cameras in Israel. That, too, is evidence; whispered suspicions are not. And despite some indications that the crime might not have been committed by Jews – and it very well might have – the accusations against Jews do fit the narrative that sees right-wing settlers as homicidal, racist maniacs and Israel as an enlightened society that prosecutes its own when there is wrongdoing and is not reluctant to release convicted Arab terrorists to flaunt its “morality.”

If the first contention is false and disgraceful, the second is embarrassingly naïve if the motivation behind it is an attempt to win favorable plaudits from the “world community.” That is part of Israel’s persistent and futile effort to score world “public relations” points by mollifying Arabs and, in this case, persecuting Jews. But the only thing the “world” actually cares less about than Jews killing Arabs is Arabs killing Jews, and the effort to placate world opinion by finding Jews to scapegoat , by extracting confessions through torture, or by easing restrictions on Arab movements that have facilitated the most recent wave of terror is a fools’ errand and unworthy of a civilized society.

MK Betzalel Smotrich (Bayit Hayehudi) caused a stir last week, and was repudiated by his party leader, when he asserted that Jews in the current context cannot be “terrorists.” It’s a subtle, nuanced point that has much to commend it. Jews, r”l, can be murderers, thieves, and scoundrels but not “terrorists,” because terror transcends the immediate act and aims to engender fear – terror – among all potential victims. Thus, we must ask ourselves basic questions: are Arabs terrorized in the State of Israel? Are Arabs living in fear that their homes will be burnt or invaded and their families killed, or that their cars will be shot at on the roads? Are Arabs afraid to hire Jewish workers, lest their employees suddenly turn on them one fine day and try to murder them? Are Arabs afraid to walk the streets of Israel lest a random Jew stab them in the neck? Are Arabs afraid to stand at a bus stop or street corner lest a Jew ram them with his car?

The answer is “no,” to all of the above. Let’s get real: in the land of Israel today, only Jews are terrorized, not Arabs. The only fear Arabs have is that they will be killed trying to murder Jews, and I’m not even sure they fear that.

Those who have claimed that persecuting and then prosecuting the Duma suspects will save lives because otherwise Arab terror will be emboldened are… well, they are not really paying attention to current events. Anyone who believes that Arab terror – in Israel or anywhere in the world – can be “provoked” should not be allowed anywhere near the reins of power or influence. It is a risible notion.

Even worse, this case could be pronounced “solved” as a result of confessions allegedly extracted under torture. This is exactly what happened to Jews during the Middle Ages and thereafter, in the Inquisition and during other dark periods of our history: Jews forced to confess to crimes to which they did not commit. No confession extracted through torture should have any credibility, and every civilized judicial system deems those confessions inadmissible. No civilized society should extract confessions or otherwise fabricate evidence even to convict the guilty. It should be noted that Jewish law bars the use of any confession, period. And the ignominy is exacerbated by the reality that the suspects allegedly tortured were primarily minors – children, teenagers.

Despite all the protestations, this episode has tarnished Israel’s image, and the brutality alleged has been so shocking that it has stunned most Jews into an embarrassed silence. That too is shameful.

If indeed Jews are responsible, r”l, then it is a low point in modern Jewish history, and highlights, among other things, the detrimental consequences of growing up in an environment in which terrorist attacks, sudden death, and grievous injury are daily realities. That is not normal, and a failure of successive governments. Of course, even if that were true, the Torah still prohibits acting upon those aggressive impulses, and nothing excuses the wanton murder of innocent people. It cannot be emphasized enough that the murder in Duma was a dastardly crime, and whoever committed it should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and punished accordingly, Jew or Arab.

But prosecutions require evidence lawfully obtained, and the epitome of tainted evidence is the forced confession. The preservation of a civilized society depends on the execution of civilized laws, and on judges who will enforce those civilized laws, not judges who will whitewash the alleged criminal misbehavior of the authorities and turned a blind eye to alleged abuse of minors.

And here’s something that we all know. As sad as it is for the victims, and as frustrating as it is for the society of good and decent people, sometimes the guilty get away with their crimes. Famously, OJ Simpson beat two murder raps; certainly LAPD would have built an even stronger case had he “confessed.” Sometimes murderers are not caught. It happens more often than people think. Sometimes those who are guilty as sin are acquitted by juries. Nazis by and large got away with the unspeakable atrocities they committed against the Jewish people. And, sometimes murderers are caught and then – is it really possible? – released in a prisoner exchange to taunt the families of their victims and plot new terrorist acts.

It is immensely frustrating, but that is when the “rule of law” as a concept and value – not as a hackneyed cliché – must be actualized. To state that “we know who did it but we have no evidence,” so we will then go about and fabricate evidence, is the stock-in-trade of third world dictatorships and totalitarian societies. To beat confessions out of people (allegedly) is vigilante justice, not real justice.

Fortunately, there is a G-d, and that G-d finds ways to punish those who commit crimes without witnesses or evidence. So we are taught. That principle applies to alleged criminals as much as to those who allegedly torture people they suspect are criminals.

May G-d have mercy that no innocent people have to suffer because of the dishonorable conduct of the few. I hope the allegations against the incarcerated are untrue and the allegations against the Shabak are untrue. And may we merit living in an era in which the security forces of Israel fight their real enemies, that those enemies are finally subdued, and that all Jews return to service of G-d, love of Torah, fulfillment of mitzvot, and love ofAm Yisrael.

Why Palestinians Love Baby-Killers

Translations of this item:
  • Samir Kuntar murdered four Israelis. One of his victims was a four-year-old girl, Einat Haran. Kuntar smashed her skull. Kuntar was killed this week in Syria while helping President Bashar Assad commit war crimes against his own citizens.
  • Senior Palestinian official Sultan Abu Al-Einein evidently believes that murdering Jews is not a "despicable crime," but killing an arch-terrorist such as Kuntar is a "despicable crime."
  • When the Western-backed Palestinian Authority openly endorses terrorists and names streets, squares and schools after them, Palestinian leaders are sending a message to their people that murdering Jews is a noble and dignified act. This show of solidarity with a baby-killer is the direct result of ongoing incitement against Israel and Jews in mosques, the press and social media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • In this sick, twisted society that the Europeans have bought and paid for, anyone who murders Jews is considered a role model. Anyone who supports peace with Israel is denounced as a "traitor."
Samir Kuntar was a terrorist who committed one of the most brutal terrorist attacks one can imagine. On April 22, 1979, Kuntar, who was then 16 years old, murdered four Israelis in the Israeli city of Nahariya. One of his victims was a four-year-old girl, Einat Haran. Kuntar smashed her skull after murdering her 31-year-old father, Danny.

This week, Kuntar was killed in an explosion that destroyed his apartment south of the Syrian capital, Damascus. He had been in Syria helping President Bashar Assad commit war crimes against his own Syrian citizens. Kuntar had been sent to Syria also as part of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, to plan major terror attacks against Israel from Syria.

Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar (left) was killed this week in Syria. Kuntar murdered four Israelis in 1979, including Einat, Danny and Yael Haran (right). Kuntar's murderous résumé turned him into a hero in the eyes of many prominent Palestinians.

Kuntar was not a Palestinian. He was Lebanese Druze. This irregularity still has not stopped Palestinians from adoring him for murdering Jews. Palestinians will worship anyone who carries out a terror attack against Israel or Jews -- such as the Japanese terrorist, Kozo Okamoto, who led the 1972 massacre at Israel's Lod Airport, in which 24 people were murdered and more than 70 wounded.

In the eyes of many Palestinians, Kuntar's murderous résumé, like Okamoto's, has turned him into a "martyr" and a "hero." The arch-terrorist is now being mourned in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a "national hero and fighter" who sacrificed his life for the sake of the Palestinians. This is who many Palestinians consider their role model: the only requirement is that they try to destroy Israel and murder Jews. It is as if all the Muslims in France idolized the men who committed the November 13 massacres at Paris's football stadium and the Bataclan Theater, and committed themselves to being just like them.

The love affair between Kuntar and the Palestinians began many years ago, while the terrorist was serving time in Israeli prison. Palestinian prisoners such as Fatah's Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sa'dat, Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), proudly posted photos of themselves posing with Kuntar. Barghouti is now serving five life sentences for his role in deadly terror attacks against Jews between 2000 and 2006. Sa'dat is in prison for his role in gunning down Israel's Minister of Tourism, Rehavam Ze'evi, in a hotel in 2001.

Upon learning of Kuntar's death, Barghouti, who is a senior official with the "moderate" and Western-backed Fatah faction, published the following eulogy: "One thousand greetings to your soul. We shall meet."

Although the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has so far refrained from commenting on the assassination of the Lebanese Druze terrorist, Fatah websites have been mourning andpraising Kuntar as a "hero" and "martyr."
Sultan Abu Al-Einein, a senior Fatah official who is close to President Mahmoud Abbas, and apparently does not favor terrorists being killed, denounced the assassination as a "despicable Israeli crime." Abu Al-Einein went on to praise Kuntar as a "martyr" who had contributed to the Palestinian cause from the age of 16. Not surprisingly, the Fatah official failed to mention that Kuntar had brutally murdered four Israelis, including a little girl. Evidently, Abu Al-Einein believes that murdering Jews is not a "despicable crime," but killing an arch-terrorist is a "despicable crime" -- one that requires the entire international community to punish those responsible!

In the Gaza Strip, only hours after the terrorist was killed in Syria, a Palestinian father, Maher Huthut, announced that he has named his newborn baby after Samir Kuntar. The announcement was presumably meant to express Palestinian "gratitude" for Kuntar's "sacrifices" on behalf of the Palestinians. In yet another sign of affection for Kuntar, various Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip set up a large tent to receive condolences over his death. Hundreds of Palestinians visited the tent to express their deep condolences over his death, and many pledged to follow in Kuntar's footsteps.

Palestinian factions are now planning a similar move in Ramallah, only a few hundred meters away from the office and residence of President Mahmoud Abbas.

This outpouring of sympathy and affection from the Palestinians for Kuntar should not surprise anyone. Palestinians have long been glorifying terrorists and jihadis who attack and kill any Jew, whether soldier or civilian. When Palestinian leaders -- the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, not even Hamas -- openly endorse terrorists and name streets, squares and schools after them, they are sending a message to their people that murdering Jews is a noble and dignified undertaking, and that it is virtuous to do more of it!

It is frankly disgusting, even as a Palestinian, to see so many of my countrymen mourning and heaping praise on a man who murders babies. This show of solidarity with a baby-killer and arch-terrorist is the direct result of the ongoing incitement against Israel and Jews that takes place each day in mosques, the press and social media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is precisely this non-stop incitement and indoctrination that is driving young Palestinians to take knives, run out, and stab the first Jew they meet.

Despite what the European politicians funding them wish to think, Palestinian leaders are not educating their people for tolerance, non-violence and peace. Instead, with the money they are given by these dreamy northerners who seem to imagine the world is one big loving day-care center, they continue to poison the hearts and minds of their people through incendiary lies and the most bigoted rhetoric.

The Europeans, who are largely bankrolling this venom, should be made to know that this is what their generosity is used for. And that this is precisely why no peace process with Israel will ever work. Thanks mainly to the largesse of European funding that keeps most Palestinians from thinking of other ways to earn a living, Palestinian terrorism is now a big business! The gullible Europeans have enabled an entire generation to be raised on the glorification of terrorists such as Kuntar. I do hope this makes the Europeans feel very good about themselves.

In this sick, twisted society that the Europeans have bought and paid for, anyone who murders Jews is considered a role model. But anyone who supports peace with Israel is instantly denounced as a "traitor." It is high time for the Europeans and others in the West to wake up.

What Makes Trump Tick (so far)?

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Notwithstanding international and domestic criticism, and irrespective of his crude and rude style, Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Republican nomination has gained momentum, in part, due to his proposal for a temporary moratorium on Muslim immigration, until the introduction of an effective counter-terrorist vetting process. According to a December 10, 2015 Rasmussen poll, his proposal is favored by a majority of GOP voters (66%:24%) and a plurality of all voters (46%:40%).
Trump is leveraging, not shaping, the current US state of mind - and especially that of Republican voters - which reflects frustration with the federal, state and local political and non-political establishment/elites, as well as with political-correctness in the areas of the economy, crime, immigration, foreign policy, the war on Islamic terrorism, and homeland security.
Trump benefits from the drastic erosion in the stature of conventional wisdom/orthodoxy, and, therefore in the stature of conventional/orthodox candidacy.
Trump is aware of the yearning to resurrect the ethos of the American Dream, which featured the USA – until the 2007-2009 Great Recession - as the only moral, economic and military super-power. He attempts to echo the eagerness to stop the slippery slope of the American state of mind from boundless optimism to pessimism, from patriotism to skepticism, from faith and confidence in American exceptionalism to national and personal uncertainty and anxiety, from expected upward mobility to feared downward mobility.
Did the celebrity status of Trump catapult the number of viewers of the GOP debates to 24 million – three times higher than the debates in 2011? Or, has it been the longing for the rejuvenation of the (Declaration of Independence’s) inalienable “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”?
Trump understands the significance of the findings of the December 9 and 15, 2015 NBC/Wall Street Journal polls respectively: a staggering majority of 70%:20% of the public believe that the US is on the wrong track (similar to a report by the Pew Research Center); 73% want a change. While the call for a course correction is typical at the end of a second-term presidency, a call for a staggering course correction was issued by US voters at the end of Carter’s, G.H.W. Bush and G.W. Bush’s (second) terms.   
Notwithstanding the lack of depth in Trump’s reference to foreign and national and homeland security issues, Trump has managed to leverage the escalating concern about homeland and national security, and growing disapproval of President Obama on foreign policy and national security, as documented by a December 14, Gallup poll and a December 15, 2015 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll respectively. In fact, the lack of confidence in the government’s counter-terrorism policy is starker than it was following 9/11, Ft. Hood (2009) and the Boston Marathon (2013). In recent months, homeland and national security have become the top issues on the public’s mind, overtaking the concern for jobs, government spending, health, climate, immigration and religion. According to the December 9, 2015 Rasmussen Report and a November 16, 2015 Reuters’ poll, the American public assumes that the US is involved in a failed war on Islamic terrorism, that suicide bombings are expected on the US mainland and that the US war on terrorism must be reinforced.
Trump is aware that President Obama has not convinced the American public that “Islam has always been a part of America’s story…,” that “America and Islam overlap and share the principles of justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings,” that Islamic terrorism is an oxymoron, that “Jihad is a process which purifies the soul” and that ‘ISIS is not Islamic.”
While Trump is aware that the state of the US economy is much healthier than European economies, he responds to the public discontent with the economic uncertainty, job insecurity, wage stagnation (the median household income is below the pre-recession and 1999 levels), the widening gap between disposable income and the cost of living, inflated college tuition and the related mounting debt burden, the perception of bloated entitlements, etc.  According to a December 20, 2015 Gallup poll, the index of consumer confidence is trending downward: 38% expect the economy to improve, while 57% expect a persistent slowdown.
Public frustration has been fueled by the increasing crime/murders in metropolitan America, as documented by an October 29, 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service: a 16% rise in crime/murders in metropolitan America, compared with 2014, following the contraction of crime in recent years.
Trump is, currently, perceived by GOP voters to be an attractive, non-orthodox (outsider) candidate. He benefits from Republican voters’ frustration with the Republican Party, which has failed to clip Obama’s political wings, in spite of the Republican majority in the House, Senate and Governors’ mansions.
The identity of the Republican presidential candidate will not be determined by public opinion polls, but by a process of primaries and caucuses, which begin in February, 2016.  This process will determine whether Trump’s blunt and unapologetic – sometimes rustic - attitude and bombast have struck a chord with Republican voters. Moreover, global unpredictability and volatility – in terms of terrorism, conventional military and the economy – may produce dramatic events, which will weigh heavily in determining the US presidency.

Inventing the Palestinian People

Friday, December 25, 2015

Teach Your Children Well

A Torah Thought for Parashat Vayechi
By Moshe Feiglin
 "And the brothers of Joseph saw that their father had died and they said: Perhaps Joseph will hate us and desire to pay us back for all the evil that we did to him." (From this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, Genesis 50:15)
It seems a bit strange. After the emotional reunion, the public display of forgiveness, the shared lives - suddenly the brothers fear that it was all just a show? That Joseph was nice to them only superficially and was just waiting for their father to die?
We are not usually aware of the power of parents' influence on their children. We think that after the children get older and leave their parents' nest, they are already completely independent. But children have a natural need to look back and get the parental ok for their path in life. Children study and integrate all of a parent's actions. Always. Even the most rebellious of children. Even when the parents are very old. One never knows how much influence he has on his descendants and how much influence he will continue to have - even after he is no longer living among them in this world. 

Joseph's brothers apparently feared a deep change in Joseph after their father's death. But what does Joseph answer them? Do not worry; my relationship with you is not dependant on changing moods or proper education. Our brotherhood is solidly based on faith and fear of G-d.

"And Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, am I instead of G-d? You thought to do evil to me, G-d thought to do good in order to do as this day, to give life to a vast people." (Genesis 19, 20)

Shabbat Shalom.

The Leader Nobody Knew

By Shmuel Sackett

The book of B’reisheit ends this Shabbat and the Egyptian slavery is set to begin. Our grandparents are about to endure over 200 years of intense slavery. Their baby boys will be killed and entire generations will experience bondage, pain and fear. It is crucial for us to understand when this all started. The simple answer is written right in the Torah: “And a new king arose in Egypt who did not know Yoseph”. Immediately after that, we read about the slavery and all of the problems. I must admit, however, that even though it says it clearly in the Torah, I never fully understood it. Pharoah didn’t know Yoseph? It doesn’t matter to me if it was a new Pharoah or a revival of some old one, I simply never understood what that meant.

Think about it. Yoseph saved Egypt and the entire world! He single-handedly turned Egypt into the greatest superpower on Planet Earth and Pharoah; new, old or in-between didn’t know who he was? Ridiculous and simply impossible… yet that is what the Torah says! Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that it means something completely different and it wasn’t until I became active in politics that I finally figured it out.

As you know, the Torah is not a story book so if we are commanded to read these stories every year it is because Hashem wants us to learn the concepts that are behind them. Yoseph – the man – is not important. As great as he was, he came and went. We need to focus on something far greater; Yoseph the idea, Yoseph the dreamer and Yoseph the leader. Every person who became famous throughout history became that way because of their actions and Yoseph is at the top of the list. Yoseph is a legend and we yearn for his offspring – Moshiach ben Yoseph – to redeem us.

Allow me to focus this article on Yoseph the leader, since that is what answers the riddle above. When talking about Yoseph we tend to overlook his incredible leadership abilities. A tremendous amount of time is spent on his dreams and his colorful coat. We hear about his time in prison and his sudden rise to power yet we very rarely hear, read or learn about his Jewish leadership skills. It is those skills that must be analyzed and taught to every Jew in the world for it is precisely those rare skills that we desperately need today.

Yoseph excelled in four areas: Let’s first begin with what he did not do. This innocent man who spent 12 years in an Egyptian prison did not apologize. As we know, Yoseph was wrongfully accused yet all the way through he maintained his dignity and respect. I am certain that many of his prison buddies tried convincing him to simply apologize to Potiphar for the attempted rape of his wife. The Midrash states quite clearly that Potiphar knew Yoseph was innocent yet he threw him into the dungeon because he felt he had no choice. Had Yoseph simply apologized, Potiphar might have accepted him back. It was a win-win situation: The bad boy Hebrew slave was punished and the Egyptian minister showed he was tough. Now that the lowly slave had shamed himself, everyone could go on with life. That simple apology – even though it was untrue – was Yoseph’s ticket to freedom yet he chose not to do it. He preferred to sit behind bars in horrific conditions rather than admit to something he did not do. That “no-apology” attitude is Jewish leadership lesson #1.

The next thing Yoseph taught us is that we don’t move a muscle without Hashem’s guidance and direction. All, leaders today boast about one thing… themselves. Yoseph was not that way at all. He recognized the miracles he experienced and never forgot where he came from. Over and over again we read examples of Yoseph clearly focusing on Hashem, even though he lived in a land replete with idol worship. To make matters more amazing, Yoseph said these things directly to Pharoah who considered himself to be a god. That is not just called “chutzpah”, it’s called “a slap in the face” and could have easily landed Yoseph right back in the slammer, his 15 minutes of fame would have been over with a “thank you note” for interpreting the dreams. Who told him to start complimenting a Heavenly force which went against everything Egypt stood for? Yet, Yoseph stood strong and in front of the most powerful people in the world taught them a lesson about the true G-d in heaven. That is Jewish leadership lesson #2.

I often asked myself why Yoseph didn’t immediately contact Yaakov as soon as he could. When Pharoah appointed him Viceroy, he had the entire Egyptian army and population under his control. He could have easily sent a message to his father, yet he chose not to. And then, when the brothers came down to Egypt – seven years later – he did not jump in their arms and scream, “Hey guys, it’s me, Yoseph!!” Rather, he orchestrated an entire story that could have been a great mini-series on TV. Why did he do this? Why did he put his own family through these trials and tribulations? Simple… because of Jewish leadership lesson #3: A Jewish leader needs a vision and does not just deal with the present. Yoseph knew that what was unfolding was far more important than reconnecting with his father. I am certain that this pained him greatly because he had the tools necessary to quickly end this saga yet he chose to continue the temporary anguish in pursuit of the greater picture. How many leaders today have a vision like Yoseph? How many see the greater picture? The ability to postpone personal gratification for the betterment of society is quite rare. As much as Yoseph wanted to jump into his brother’s arms, he had to wait for the right moment, which had nothing to do with his personal desires. There was a master plan in place and he recognized that. Oh’ what a rare thing that is!!

Finally, if you want a PHD in YLT (Yosef Leadership Training) you must master the final piece of the puzzle. While this may have started out as a one-man show, Yoseph knew that the only way to succeed would be to work together with his brothers. All commentaries agree that the brothers were very nervous when Yaakov died. They felt that Yoseph would now take his revenge yet he quickly extinguished their fears. He assured them that, not only would he do them no harm, he needed them to be together as one strong family unit. Jewish unity was central to Yoseph and he had no intention of doing this alone. Each of the 12 tribes serve a very important purpose and we need all 12 to reach our goals. Yoseph taught us that in order to lead the Jewish nation one needs Jewish leadership lesson #4 which is Jewish unity!

Now, we can finally understand what Pharoah meant when he said, “he did not know Yoseph”. After Yoseph and his brothers died, a new generation arose, one that – unfortunately – did not incorporate any of the 4 leadership lessons stated above. Allow me to fast-forward and use examples from today: The new generation of Jewish leadership apologizes for winning defensive wars (Jews are supposed to die and then build memorials and museums), never mention Hashem in any public setting, have absolutely no vision of where they are going and cause more in-fighting and baseless hatred than anyone else in society. The Pharoah of 3,500 years ago and the Pharoahs of today have no idea who that “Yoseph” is. Yoseph is a concept – the concept of the strong and proud Jewish leader who does not apologize, brings Hashem into every equation, has a vision for the future including the Bet Ha’Mikdash and one which unites the entire Jewish world together.

Who is the Yoseph of today? Do YOU recognize him? What complaints can we have for an Egyptian Pharoah if we ourselves look at our modern day Yoseph and see something completely different? I too “do not know Yoseph”, although I look very closely. The good news is that in the same parsha where we read about Jewish slavery, torture and mass murder, we also read about a new leader being born who very quickly mastered Yoseph’s skills and actually added a few more of his own. I am convinced that the same thing is happening today. New leadership is coming to Israel – and I am proud to be part of this excitement! New leadership that will never apologize for living, building and growing. New leadership that will proudly declare that we are servants of our Father and King in heaven. New leadership that has a beautiful vision, ideology and path for Israel’s future and finally, new leadership that will unite Jews from all backgrounds and all levels of observance into the one beautiful Nation we were destined to be!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Compassion and Justice: HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Parashat Vayechi 5776

Parashat Vayechi 5776
Rabbi Nachman Kahana

Why did Ya’akov cross his hands?

In his parting moments, Ya’akov blesses his sons and their families. Yosef brings his two sons, the first born Menashe and the younger Efrayim. He places the older Menashe near Ya’akov’s right hand and Efraim near Ya’akov’s left, because the right represents a higher sanctity than the left, so that the elder Menashe would receive the preferred bracha.
Yaakov crosses his hands, so that his right is now over the head of Erayim and his left over Menashe. Yosef points out his father’s “mistake,” and Yaakov replies that what he is doing is deliberate, since Efraim will be more dominant in Jewish history and therefore is in need of superior guidance of HaShem.
What is behind Ya’akov’s thinking?
In Tehillim 137,1-6
(א) על נהרות בבל שם ישבנו גם בכינו בזכרנו את ציון:
(ב) על ערבים בתוכה תלינו כנרותינו:
(ג) כי שם שאלונו שובינו דברי שיר ותוללינו שמחה שירו לנו משיר ציון:
(ד) איך נשיר את שיר ה’ על אדמת נכר:
(ה) אם אשכחך ירושלם תשכח ימיני:
(ו) תדבק לשוני לחכי אם לא אזכרכי אם לא אעלה את ירושלם על ראש שמחתי:

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion (The first Bet Hamikdash).
2 There on the poplars we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.
Why are the consequences for forgetting Yerushalayim the right hand’s inability to function and loss of speech?
I submit:
Halacha prefers right handedness over left, requiring many mitzva activities to be performed only with the right hand.
In Kabbalistic terms the “right” represents the quality of compassion, charity and goodness which are preferred qualities in this revealed world of human beings. Whereas the “left” represents the quality of precise, exact justice which is the preferred quality in the unperceived (to us) next world of absolute truth.
Similarly, every human being has a perceived aspect – the body which represents the material world, and the non-perceived intellect and conscience, both of which rest in the encapsulated brain and represent the spiritual next world.
The brain, as the seat of spirituality, is composed of a right and a left hemisphere. As stated above, the right represents the quality of compassion, charity and goodness which are preferred in this world, and the left represents the quality of absolute truth of the next world.
At the base of the brain, the nerves cross over on their way to the body, with the nerves of the right hemisphere going the left and the nerves of the left hemisphere going to the right, resulting in the brain’s right hemisphere controlling the left part of the body and the brain’s left hemisphere controlling the right part of the body.
HaShem’s intention upon creation was to link the primary to the primary and the secondary to the secondary, meaning the preferred left hemisphere of the non-revealed spiritual world links with the “this world’s” preferred right side of the visible body, and the secondary right hemisphere of the non-revealed spiritual world links with the secondary left side of the visible body.
King David the Psalmist, is informing us that if one is indifferent, aloof, and apathetic with regard to Yerushalayim, his spiritual left brain hemisphere is weak, which is expressed in paralysis of the right arm and the inability to speak – all which are controlled by the brain’s left hemisphere.
Ya’akov crossed his hands in order that his right hand would be on the head of Efrayim in order to emanate the preferred bracha to Efrayim and the secondary bracha to Menashe through his left hand.

Compassion and Justice

Today, Tuesday, is the tenth of Tevet, when through prayers and fasting we bring to the forefront of our consciousness the beginning of Nevuchadnetzer’s siege of Yerushalayim, which eventually led to the destruction of the first Bet HaMikdash and the Babylonian exile.
The tenth of Tevet has also been declared by the Chief Rabbinate as Yom HaKaddish HaKellali, the day when kaddish is to be said for the martyred Jews in the Shoah whose day of death is uncertain.
In defiance of all religious and historic logic, there are still millions of Jews who prefer to remain in the galut despite what we experienced at the hands of our goyishe hosts.
I can explain it in terms of what appears above.
Decrees emanate from the spiritual world of the compassionate right and stern justice of the left. And as they leave Shamayim for this world, just as when the nerves leave the brain they cross over, where the compassionate right often creates difficulties and the stern hand of justice often creates pleasantries.
HaShem is angry at His children who ignore His call to come home. So the stern left of the Shamayim sends its decrees to the Jews in the galut in the form of wealth and security and false spiritual leaders, guaranteeing that they will never have the merit to live in the Holy Land.
Conversely, the compassionate right in the Shamayim sends its decrees to the Jews in Eretz Yisrael which express themselves in struggle and difficulties in order to increase the merit of His loyal children.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5776/2015 Nachman Kahana

Let us be Strong and of Good Courage in Settling the Land and in Learning Torah

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

“Israel reached out with his right hand and placed it on Ephraim’s head, even though he was the younger son. He placed his left hand on Manasseh’s head. He deliberately crossed his hands, even though Manasseh was the firstborn” (Genesis 48:14). 

 “‘That’s not the way it should be done, Father,’ said Joseph. ‘The other one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on HIS head.’ His father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know. The older one will also become a nation. he too will attain greatness. But his younger brother will become even greater...’” (verses 18-19). 

Rashi explains: “Jacob placed his hands with wisdom and intelligence.” He knew that Manasseh was the firstborn, and still did not place his right hand on him. His reasoning was that from Ephraim would emerge Joshua, son of Nun, who would distribute the tribal portions and would teach Torah to Israel. By virtue of this, Ephraim merited more greatness than Manasseh. 

Today, our generation parallels that of Joshua son of Nun, who came up to the Land and conquered it after forty years in the wilderness. We, in turn, are coming up to the Land and settling it after two thousand years of exile in the wilderness of the nations. 

In Joshua’s generation, the two most important national missions were to conquer the Land and to learn Torah, as G-d told him, “Be strong and of good courage, for unto this people shall you divide the land for an inheritance, which I swore unto their fathers to give them. Only be strong and of good courage, that you may observe to practice this whole Torah which Moses My servant commanded you” (Joshua 1:6-7). 

In our own generation as well, the two most important missions that we face are (1) moving to Israel and settling the Land, and (2) learning Torah and returning to our Jewish roots. In fact, the two are interdependent. The more rooted we become in our holy Torah, the more our connection and affinity to Eretz Yisrael will be strengthened, and the more Jews who move to the Land and take root in it, the greater the Torah’s glory will be. 

Through all such efforts, may we merit to see with our own eyes G-d’s granting strength to His people and blessing them with peace. 

Looking forward to complete salvation, 
Shabbat Shalom.

"The Days of Our Years... Are Cut Off Swiftly"

By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

The above verse reads in Hebrew, "Gaz chish" – Tehillim 90:10. This is reminiscent of the English word "gas," a very current topic in today's news.

The Natural Gas Deal

During the last few days, the "Gas Deal" has begun its implementation, while the Supreme Court is still lying in ambush. This is a huge franchise deal for an American company (Noble Energy) together with an Israeli company (Delek Energy) to produce and sell natural gas from off the coast of Israel. The deal involves very significant gas reserves which were discovered during the last few years. It is predicted that these fields will produce enough gas to satisfy the energy needs of our country for decades to come.

Very few people understand the full details of this deal. Many more, but still a very small number, know unclear details and have a blurred understanding of the two sides of the dispute between the Prime Minister and his colleague the Energy Minister, who follows the Prime Minister's lead, and opponents from the political opposition and from the coalition who disagree about the value and the legality of this deal. And many more, who are still a very tiny fraction of everybody who is concerned about the issue, have strong opinions and feel that one side or the other of the controversy is absolutely right while the other side is making a huge mistake. However, it is clear that everybody – every single person – is aware that this matter involves a dramatic economic undertaking which will have a great impact on the future of the Israeli economy . In addition, everybody knows that the Prime Minister claims that the matter touches on Israel's foreign policy and security, because of issues of dependence or independence in future energy supplies and because the subject is linked to our relationships with enemy nations in the present and in the future (including the Palestinians).

In addition to the strong dispute between the coalition and the opposition, the subject is related to a harsh argument among economists at the macro level and economic forecasters, since the "deal" gives an explicit price for gas that will be developed, establishes tax rates, and allows some of the gas to be exported to foreign countries, without any way for Israel to change the conditions for the next decade or more. Another loud focus of the opposition stems from the fact that the deal sets up a monopoly, something that is normally illegal and has only been bypassed by claiming that the plans are a matter of "national security and foreign policy issues." Another colorful issue is related to the behavior of the Prime Minister, who was forced to take on an additional role as the Minister of Economics in order to overcome those who opposed or were unsure about the deal.

The Viewpoint of One who is not an Expert

I will allow myself to describe my feelings about the gas deal, as one whose economic knowledge is very rudimentary but who has well-developed ideas about the proper behavior of a Jewish nation.

There is one thing that I do know about economics – it is not an exact science, certainly not for any stretch of time as long as a decade. This is absolutely clear in Israel, a land whose status is exclusively subject to Divine predictions: "A land with the eyes of G-d upon it, from the beginning of the year until the year's end" [Devarim 11:12]. No science has yet been invented that can predict the economic future of a country surrounded by enemies, existing in a world filled with other countries that have plans to destroy it, and with an internal leftist faction which promotes boycotts against its own land. The entire multitude of learned papers presented to the many committees which opposed the gas deal are balanced out by estimates which reached the opposite conclusions, and they were all filled with many questions of their own.

This being the case, from my humble position I accept the recommendation of the Prime Minister, just as I accept the recommendations of my advisor in the bank – on condition that there are no claims that he has a personal interest in the matter. And that is a claim that has not been made! We can all remember the Prime Minister who was accused of initiating a political move (the "Disengagement") because of personal, family, economic, and legal needs – in order to save himself from prosecution. Some people made similar claims about his successor, Ehud Olmert, who went to trial and was convicted of corruption. I venture to suggest that with respect to the current Prime Minister, even with all the waves of criticism that surround him, we have not heard any accusations of self-interest. And I therefore conclude that we should accept his proposal. In fact, it seems to me that the current Prime Minister has a proven record of economic successes and the ability to keep our heads "above water" even when the world was in the throes of a serious economic crisis.

And, with respect to bypassing the monopoly laws and the possibility that the security issue is being used in vain: This would seem to be the only legal means for closing this deal. The regular readers of this column know my position about the "sanctity of the law" and "the rule of the Supreme Court." If there is a need to bypass the legal measures, then that is the way to go!

The Jewish Viewpoint

I am always of the opinion that "the Torah has something to say on every subject," and let the thirty-five volumes of Techumin published by Zomet Institute, be the proof of this approach. In volume 32 (5772 – 2012), we published an article by Rabbi Yaacov Ariel on the subject of gas royalties and taxes, in the wake of the recommendations of the Shushinsky Committee on that subject. In an appendix to the article we also brought articles by two editors of Techumin, Rabbi Dr. Itamar Warhaftig and Yitzchak Bart, a lawyer, who disagreed with Rabbi Ariel. In spite of this, my approach is that this is not a matter for a halachic ruling. There is also room for decisions that go beyond the halacha! (The discussion in Techumin centered on the question of breaching the contract, and it is not relevant for the current gas deal.)

I looked for a hint of oil exploration in this week's Torah portion, and I found the verse, "The blessings... of the eternal hills" [Bereishit 49:26]. This reminded me of the company named "Givat Olam" which is involved in producing oil in the area of Shoham, based on a mystical-economic vision which the Rebbe of Lubavitch passed on to his disciples, stemming from a similar verse in the blessing of Yosef in the portion Vezot Haberacha: "The abundance of the eternal hills" [Devarim 33:15]. The "abundance" is the petroleum of Givat Olam, which was located through the hidden meanings of Rashi on this verse!