Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hilarious. Not.

By Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

Hillary Clinton remains the odds-on favorite to win the presidency, and a more depressing opening to a column is difficult to conceive. She is front and center in the decline and fall of the American political system and a prominent exhibit in how the bar for presidents has been reduced almost to ground level. Consider the following.

Go and watch the movie “13 Hours” about the heroism of the US Special Forces team who saved dozens of Americans from certain death in Benghazi. If you can overlook the earthy language typical of militaries, one thought emerges from the aftermath of this diplomatic debacle: the utter irrelevance of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the assault on the American compounds there. The American President and the Secretary of State, the two individuals primarily responsible for the safety and security of American diplomatic personnel abroad, were simply AWOL.

When the phone rang with the emergency at 3:00 AM, Hillary Clinton didn’t answer, turned over, pulled the blanket and pillow over her head and went back to sleep.

One can debate whether this was incompetence or venality. Both politicians are completely unmentioned in the movie, and the only indirect reference to subsequent events is when, almost eight hours into the assault, an American television feed reported that in the US officials were saying the attack was a “street protest,” one of those under assault said: “Street protests? There are no street protests. What are they talking about?” The Clintonian explanation falls short; there wasn’t the fog of war as much as there was the murk of mendacity.

There were two main failures. The first was the refusal by Clinton to bolster security at these compounds despite intelligence warnings – and prior and repeated pleas from the Ambassador –that such was needed, and long before the Arab terrorist strike occurred. The second was the refusal by Obama and his underlings to order American Special Forces stationed in Italy – just four hours away, and fueled and ready to go – into Benghazi on a rescue mission. Of the four Americans who were murdered, three were killed more than ten hours after the assault began. Repeated radio requests for assistance were simply turned down without explanation.

It is easy to understand how Obama’s dream of becoming the first President in almost a century not to send American forces into combat on his own accord has cost and will cost American lives. It is even easier to understand the price the United States has paid across the globe for such fecklessness, and it underscores the bravery of the troops who fought and fight without the support of the ruling political establishment but for love of country and their brothers in arms, honor and duty.

Some of these points were raised in the risible Benghazi hearings in Congress, a spectacle that did not do justice to the men who fought and the politicians who let them down. To the mass media, Hillary Clinton emerged the victor, presumably because she didn’t break down on the witness stand and confess her guilt. The fact that she lied repeatedly (classic takeaway: the email to her daughter blaming the attack on Al-Qaeda elements at the very same time she’s peddling to the public the lie about the Mohammed-mocking video as the proximate cause of the attack) was willfully ignored, perhaps because Hillary Clinton lying is not exactly breaking news. (I met her in 1992, sat three feet from her across a table, and asked her two questions. Both answers were lies. This was four years before the late Bill Safire labeled her “a congenital liar.” Today, even provable lies are ignored because they are so commonplace.)

But the hearings were designed to fail. Rather than have one or two lawyers ask questions, the

sessions were a merry-go-round, with too many preening politicians and others simply fawning for the camera. There were too many participants with too little time to accomplish anything substantive, much like the current Republican debates.

A number of Republican representatives asked probing, uncomfortable questions, but even those questions took far longer than necessary considering the limited time each questioner had. All Hillary had to do was obfuscate for three or four minutes, even under tough questioning, and the session was over. Well, not quite over, because the microphone then shifted to the Democrats who pummeled her with brutal questions such as: “On a scale of 1-10, how great are you, 20 or 100?” Or, “These hearings are terrible. Will you ever be able to forgive us?” Vicious, nasty questions that somehow she was able to parry…

There was none of the momentum that examiners seek to develop when a hostile witness is being questioned, no continuity in the interrogation, and too much opportunity given to her to ramble and kill time. First-year law students would know to frame questions that required just a yes/no answer, and first year associates would know how to follow up and focus on points when she was caught dissembling, rather than abruptly shift the line of questioning.

There were inconsistencies, ineptitude, lies, and policy failures all exposed but they were lost in the sea of befuddlement and bewilderment that did a disservice to the country and the victims.

It is clear that both Obama and Clinton prioritized saving their necks and developing cover stories rather than explain what they did or didn’t do, why assistance was not sent, and why people were left to die, all in order to protect a political narrative. Few will remember how, for almost two months after September 11, 2012, CBS hid an interview with Obama at the time in which he declined to label the attack “terrorism,” and even fewer will remember how Candy Crowley – the “moderator” in the CNN debate between Obama and Romney – leaped to Obama’s defense with an utter falsehood.

It is outrageous that Hillary is never asked about this matter but even to be asked about it at this point would not make a difference. The Obama team has perfected the two-step dodge. When they are asked about something nefarious or corrupt that has happened, they say they cannot answer because the matter is under investigation. That investigation then takes months. If the investigation is ever finished, and the results are even detrimental, they then say that “this is old news that has already been investigated,” or “you should ask the Justice Department.” If only Nixon had been this clever; well, even that might not have saved him, because at the time there were Republicans in Congress who actually had a functioning conscience. If there is a Democrat in Congress who has a conscience and is not a partisan hack, please identify yourself.

Even the Clinton email scandal has been buried under an avalanche of falsities, prevarications and sheer corruption. It is obvious that she broke the law multiple times through the mishandling of classified information. It is unconscionable that she will likely get away with it. Even if the FBI recommends an indictment, the US Attorney need not prosecute, and even if she is indicted, Obama can always issue a complete pardon. And even if she was indicted and not pardoned, the Democrat electorate today is such that they would vote for her anyway.

She has evaded real scrutiny by claiming to have made a “mistake” out of a desire for convenience, and that has so far successfully concealed the real scandal: not the server itself but the reason why the private server, walled off from the prying eyes of the public, the media and prosecutors, was used in the first place. My guess is – and this has been reported without much publicity - that the private server was necessary to monitor and delete at will proprietary information relating to the management and activities of the Clinton Foundation, one of the biggest pay-for-play entities in the world. Bill and Hill created this lucrative organization as a money-producing machine, hidden from the public eye, in which, under the guise of doing “good works” (apparently, barely 10% of their intake of hundreds of millions of dollars annually is spent on anything productive) they use the machinery of government to assist their donors with contracts and contacts. They rake in tens of millions of dollars every single year, and it seems there are numerous people just out of government on their payroll.

It is interesting how the latest reports revealed that all the revenue is funneled to a Canadian charity, which then subsidizes the Clinton Foundation with its largesse, all benefiting from Canadian law that shields the identities of donors to charitable organizations – unlike US law.

And the whole scam depends on Hillary Clinton being elected to the White House – a windfall to all their donors if she wins and a great misfortune to them if she loses. There is a lot more riding on this election than the future of this country and the free world.

Only someone counting on the ignorance of the electorate could proclaim herself a “proven fighter” (for what? Against who or what?) and a “proven leader” (for who and for what?) and get away with it.

As New York Senator, she accomplished nothing – no major initiatives, no legislation, no ideas – although I have heard she did provide good constituent service. And as Secretary of State? Forget for a moment that the world is in a shambles, and that the situation in every area of the world has deteriorated. Forget that the Middle East is aflame, that she has open disdain for Israel’s Prime Minister and a blind spot when it comes to Israel’s true interests, that relations with Russia have been “reset” to the Cold War, that Europe is being overrun by Muslims and their terror, that traditional US allies are dismayed or dejected at their treatment from this administration, that the United States on her watch ceased being a world leader, that nuclear proliferation among evildoers is the real legacy of this administration, and that the forces of malevolence across the world are on the march.

Forget all that and ask a simple question: is there one place on the globe where Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was able to advance a single American foreign policy interest – the very task of the office she held? I can think of none. And that qualifies her for … a promotion? Only in America.

The current disarray in the Republican Party –some of it natural to the primary process, some of it sidetracked by side shows – does not bode well for the election or the country. The media will protect Hillary like an etrog, even in the unlikely event that she is indicted. They have that much invested in her election.

But not as much as Hillary and her donors have invested. And there is nothing hilarious about that.

Global confidence in Israel’s economy

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
1.  In 2015, Israel’s high tech raised $4.43 BN, 30% over 2014. According to KPMG-Israel, Israel’s 2015 4th quarter economic performance ran contrary to – and was more positive than – the rest of the world. The value of exits through mergers and acquisitions and IPOs climbed to over $9 BN in 2015. The number of investment rounds of over $20 MN grew by 2/3 in 2015.  During the first three weeks of January 2016, twenty Israeli high tech startups raised almost $500 MN, mostly from institutional and private investors from the US, as well as from Asia, Europe and Israel (Economist Intelligence Unit, January 27, 2016).

2.  Israeli high tech companies “were sucking up a growing share of the world’s venture capital funding in the cyber area”: about 20% of global investment in cyber security, a 100% increase over 2014 and second only to the USA.  NY-based PrivoCo contends that Israel’s share (about $500 MN) was 12% of global cyber investments, but still up 100% over 2014 (Financial Times, January 26). Israel’s cyber technology startup, TowerSec, was sold to the Stamford, CT-based US giant, Harman, for $70 MN (Globes, January 7).

3. Unprecedented Chinese investments in Israel reflect China’s aim to shift from a highly manufacturing – to a high-tech – economy, and China’s assessment that Israel is indeed “The Startup Nation” (a best seller among Chinese movers & shakers; The Marker, January 1). Chinese investments in Israel surged from $70 MN in 2010 to $2.7 BN in 2015.  The China-Israel trade balance grew from $6 BN in 2009 to $11 BN in 2015.  During the first week of January, 2,000 Chinese and Israeli venture capital funds, businessmen, bureaucrats and political leaders participated in the largest-ever Chinese-Israeli conference held in Beijing. It highlighted Israel’s high tech cutting-edge technologies in the areas of biomed, biotech, health, cellular, clean-tech and computers at-large.

4.  According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, January 15, “Israel’s goods trade deficit shrank for the third successive year in 2015, declining by 43%.... Most of Israel’s exports are high technology and other goods that have not so far been adversely affected overall by the general decline in global trade and in commodity prices.”

5. Israel’s public debt-to-GDP ratio persists in its trend of reduction (Bloomberg, January 13): 64.9% in 2015, compared to 98.3% in 1995.  Israel’s government debt-to-GDP ratio was reduced to 63.4%. The budget deficit was 2.1%.  Between 2008 and 2015, Israel’s public debt-to-GDP ratio was reduced by 8%, compared with an increased ratio by the US (32%), Britain (37%), Japan (54%), South Korea (10%%), the Euro Bloc (25%) and the average advanced economies (26%).

6.  Dr. Adam Reuter, founder and CEO of Israel’s Financial Immunities Consulting and the Chairman of Reuter-Maydan Investment House, highlighted (January 12) Israel’s competitive edge in the global market:

*Unlike Israel, other advanced economies have exhausted their engines of growth, experience the crisis of the commodities and the burden of rapidly aging societies, which requires larger immigration of (mostly uneducated) populations which may pose a threat to homeland security and – in the long run - further burden social welfare services.

*Israel, a high tech powerhouse, has been sought by the emerging markets, which possess a high potential of growth and seek modern technologies.

*Israel stands to benefit from the high potential of growth – game changing innovations - in the areas of genetics, biotech, biomed, robotics, and nanotech, which has enabled Israel to defy the classic economic law of diminishing returns.

*Israel leads the advanced economies in the most critical area of growth projection: the size/trend/education of the 20-34 year old population, the prime innovator, risk taker, hard working, consumer, producer and defender (militarily). This age group, which is responsible for 40% of the economic growth, is shrinking in Europe and other advanced economies, but expanding in Israel. The fertility rate of those advanced economies – other than Israel – is less than 2.1 babies per woman, required to sustain the number of people, while the Jewish fertility rate in Israel is in excess of 3, trending toward 3.5 babies per woman.

*Israel’s exports have survived the recent global slowdown, by developing unique niches, which are essential to most countries in the areas of security, medicine, health, clean-tech, cyber, agriculture, irrigation, etc.

The new Zionists: Ultra-Orthodoxy has effectively surrendered to the Zionist idea

Print Edition
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party sits with other ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government during a Knesset session, November 23.(Photo by: Courtesy)

One hundred and twenty years after declaring it Judaism’s ‘Enemy No. 1,’ ultra-Orthodoxy has effectively surrendered to the Zionist idea.

WITH ORGANS installed in synagogues, German inserted into prayer books, Jewish scholars disowning the messiah, and Jewish schools teaching history, philosophy and math, a flabbergasted Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1839) ruled: “All that is novel is forbidden from the Torah.”

Two centuries on, ultra-Orthodoxy’s resistance of religious change remains as fierce as it was when its revered founder consecrated the slogan that still remains its emblem, rallying cry and mission statement. However, in the war that his successors initiated generations later – the war on Zionism – ultra-Orthodoxy is in the throes of a grand retreat.

The ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) war was declared the morning after Zionist prophet Theodor Herzl published in 1896 his own mission statement, “The Jewish State,” the platform for the Jews’ political resurrection, which most rabbis rejected as blasphemy.

On the Hasidic end, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Schneersohn (1860-1920) ruled that even if the Zionists had been observant, and “even if there had been room to believe they will achieve their aim,” observant Jews “should not listen to them” because the Talmud forbade the Jews to undo their exile, and a Jew’s hope is that “our redemption will be brought about by God himself.”

Anti-Hasidic sages went a step further and ordered their followers to boycott Zionism.

Jews must avoid “connecting with what amounts to religion’s destruction and an obstacle to the house of Israel,” wrote Lithuanian sage Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, while the chief rabbi of Lodz, Eliyahu Meisel, wrote that “anyone with God’s fear in his heart shall distance himself from them [the Zionists], will not walk with them, and will keep his legs from their paths.”

One hundred and twenty years on, a Hasid is a minister in the Zionist government; thousands of ultra-Orthodox men serve in the Zionist army and a plethora of ultra-Orthodox colleges lead thousands into the Zionist state’s economic beehive and social mainstream.

Reform Judaism, which also originally opposed Zionism claiming the Jews had already been redeemed when Europe emancipated them, humbly changed its mind after Hitler’s rise to power, and in 1937 formally adopted the Zionist idea.

Ultra-Orthodoxy delivered no such note of surrender; not after Hitler’s rise to power, not after the Holocaust, not after Israel’s establishment, and not even after the 1967 Six Day War, which other religious Jews interpreted as proof that Zionism was God’s will.

Addressing his followers in the summer of 1967, Lithuanian-born and Bnei Brak-based Haredi leader Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach (1899-2001) accused a victory-drunk Israel of having “completely deviated from the manner and the course in which we have walked throughout our exile.”

Like the rabbis of Herzl’s time, he still saw in Zionism a reincarnation of Judaism’s great messianic trauma, the Shabtai Tzvi affair, when most rabbis accepted a 17th century Ottoman Jew as the messiah only to eventually see him convert to Islam.

Moreover, Shach resented the very marriage of Jews and power. Recalling longingly the days when the Jews were “one sheep among 70 wolves,” the Haredi sage claimed that the newly warring Jews had suddenly emerged as “the arbiter between the wolves.”

Alarmed by the euphoria about him, Shach reiterated ultra-Orthodoxy’s original dismissal of the Zionist quest to transform the Jews into an active nation. “Things have turned around,” he said lamentingly, “and the people of Israel enters a situation whereby it is a factor among the nations, and who knows what this situation’s results might be.”

Unimpressed with Israel’s military victory, he preached, “There is neither redemption nor the beginning of redemption here… we remain in exile, which remains as bitter as it ever was.” The Torah, he noted on another occasion, was given in the desert. “We didn’t have the Land of Israel then, or ‘territories,’ yet we were an eternal nation.”

That, in brief, was the mindset with which a bloodied, minuscule and humbled Haredi community struggled to build itself in the shadows of the Zionist enterprise that its founders derided as heresy.

The result would be an improbable journey into a joint future, a political voyage and social odyssey during which Israeli ultra- Orthodoxy grew in numbers, space and sway until its formula of accommodation with the Jewish state became the victim of its own success.

Numbering hardly 30,000 in 1948, the young Jewish state’s Haredi community was on the defensive – ideologically, socially and politically.

Ideologically, it had to explain its thinkers’ failure to see the approach of calamity, a rabbinical blindness that contrasted Zionism’s foresight and was morbidly symbolized in the Warsaw Ghetto’s last Seder. Held with the Zionist-led uprising’s fire exchanges already audible outside, the Seder was led by Rabbi Eliezer Meisel, one of the ghetto’s last deportees to Auschwitz and grandson of Rabbi Eliyahu Meisel, who had boycotted Zionism.

In addition to this moral burden, Israel Orthodoxy had to rehabilitate from the Holocaust’s blow to its demographics and reach an accord with the Jewish state that would somehow help its restoration in the shadows of Zionism’s victory and demands.

THE HOLOCAUST was explained away as God’s will. “There is an account in all this,” said Shach in a sermon titled “And a Storm Rages.” God, he explained, “conducted a one-on-one account, a long account spanning centuries until the account accumulated to six million Jews, and that is how the Holocaust happened. That is what a Jew should believe, and if a Jew is not wholesome in this faith then he is a heretic.”

While Zionists, both secular and observant, dismissed this narrative of guilt as escapist and denialist, all ended up saluting ultra-Orthodoxy’s political maneuvering opposite the Jewish state. Launched unassumingly in 1948, it was based on the formula that was revolutionized in 1977 and is now coming undone.

The undeclared aim was to restore the proverbial ghetto, where thick and tall social walls would keep rabbinical authority unquestioned and modernity’s temptations at bay.

The key to such social resignation lay in the Jewish state’s leading social welder – the army. If Haredi men joined the army, they might cease to be ultra-Orthodox. If exempted, their distinctiveness would be preserved and, in fact, deepened.

Haredi rabbis, therefore, met with David Ben-Gurion while the War of Independence was still raging and requested that the IDF not conscript their young men. Hitler, they said, burned Europe’s network of Talmudic academies and they were out to rebuild it. Though himself a deeply secular man, Ben-Gurion was moved by the argument and agreed to grant deferments from military service. He had, however, some conditions.

First, he extended only 400 deferments, which even in 1948 was but a fraction of one percent of the newborn IDF’s 115,000 conscripts. Second, Ben-Gurion demanded that the undrafted indeed study Torah, as the rabbis said they would.

It was a modest beginning, memorably animated by Ben-Gurion’s meeting four years later with the ultra-Orthodox leader of the time, Avraham Karelitz, better known as “the Hazon Ish,” or “a man’s vision,” as he titled one of his books of Talmudic exegesis.

Unlike subsequent meetings between secular and Haredi leaders, that one was not about political horse trading. Initiated by the intellectually curious Ben-Gurion, it was about ideas. “If two camels meet on a narrow path,” said the rabbi, “one burdened with a cargo and the other carrying no cargo, the one without cargo is supposed to make way for the one with the cargo.”

Borrowed from a Talmudic ruling, the parable’s moral was that those not burdened by the demands of Jewish law should make way for those who choose to bear this burden.

Though insulted by the comparison, and though later noting that the rabbi had no recipe for a Jewish state’s attitude toward freedom of conscience, Ben-Gurion left intact his deal with the ultra-Orthodox. The ghetto’s slow but steady construction now proceeded unopposed. By 1968, the 400- man quota had doubled, and by 1977, an aggregate 25,000 Haredi men had already avoided full military service since Israel’s establishment.

This social nucleus of the emerging ghetto incubated in the secluded neighborhoods where the ultra-Orthodox lived with their rabbis close to their schools, yeshivas and shops. This self-segregation was further cemented by the men’s failure to acquire vocations, in line with their commitment to spend their time studying Torah, all of which reduced to a minimum their daily contact with the rest of society.

Economically, since breadwinning was left to the women, who in turn worked mostly as underpaid teachers, ultra- Orthodox households soon counted among the country’s poorest.

This formula, of maximum piety alongside minimum livelihood, service and social integration, allowed ultra-Orthodoxy’s growth during the early years. By the Six Day War, major Hasidic groups like Gur and Belz, which were decimated in the Holocaust, were back on their feet, while Shach’s Ponevezh Yeshiva, the Harvard of ultra- Orthodoxy, had already produced a generation of Israel-born Talmudic scholars.

By the mid-70s, there already were some 200,000 ultra-Orthodox Israelis, representing a more confident community, but still one on the social margins where it might have remained but for a political earthquake that rattled the outside world, and whose many aftershocks included an offer that ultra-Orthodoxy’s politicians could not refuse.

The earthquake was Labor’s loss of power in 1977, and the offer that came from the winner of that seminal election, the Likud’s Menachem Begin, was as simple as it was sincere: unlimited draft deferments, generous budgets and senior government positions in return for a long-term alliance between ultra-Orthodoxy and the right.

Ultra-Orthodoxy embraced the deal that became a pillar of the political order, unaware that from the viewpoint of its founders’ war on Zionism it would prove a Faustian bargain.

The upside, from the Haredi viewpoint, was that what began with an annual 400 draft deferments quickly mushroomed to thousands, while government funds flowed directly into the budgets of yeshivas, seminaries, elementary schools and kindergartens, and assorted tax breaks and incentives helped ultra-Orthodox households increase their available income.

MOREOVER, THE deal included unprecedented power, highlighted by an ultra- Orthodox politician’s appointment as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee.

Hoping to stick to its guns in its war on Zionism, ultra-Orthodoxy avoided taking cabinet positions ‒ benefitting from the Zionist enterprise was one thing; legitimizing and accepting responsibility for its actions was another. And so, the original formula of minimum service for maximum piety made way for what critics now derided as maximum authority for minimum responsibility.

At the same time, Haredi women were bearing more than twice as many babies as secular women while their households were developing a dependency on the state’s child allowances, which, thanks to formulas concocted by ultra-Orthodox politicians, could reach a monthly $2,000 for a family with 10 kids. This was besides a plethora of budget transfers and tax breaks custom-tailored for Haredi beneficiaries.

By the turn of the century, the annual number of ultra-Orthodox men avoiding full IDF service had crossed 7,000 ‒ enough to man two combat brigades.

Besides provoking the middle class, where many felt they were financing a celebration of draft-dodging and voluntary unemployment, this arrangement also perverted the Jewish tradition that, while cherishing lifelong study, had never financed it for more than a select few.

It was an anomaly that had to explode, and it did.

The first setback to the formula of 1977 came in 1999, when ultra-Orthodoxy’s political deal fueled the rise of a political party dedicated to this formula’s eradication.

Led by outspoken journalist Tommy Lapid, it won six Knesset seats that year, and 15 four years later.

Lapid’s electoral success both expressed and fanned popular anger in the middle class that serves in the army, fuels the economy, pays taxes and feeds the budget that, in his view, ultra-Orthodoxy abused.

While this electoral dynamic pressured the ghetto walls from outside, economics would pressure them from within following new legislation in 2002.

With the Treasury fearing that the budget would soon be unable to finance the growing number of non-working Haredi men, a bill written by a public panel allowed ultra-Orthodox men to go to work at age 23 in return for shortened military service.

On the face of it, this acceptance of reduced service further bolstered Haredi privilege, as Lapid indeed charged and the Supreme Court later agreed, prompting the Knesset to rewrite what is known as the “Tal Law,” named after its formulator, Justice Tzvi Tal. Yet, this legislation signaled to ultra-Orthodoxy that its deal had exhausted itself: if their community were to survive, its men would have to work.

The following year, the 1977 deal was dealt its most devastating blow when Ariel Sharon left the ultra-Orthodox out of his coalition ‒ the first time the right had done such a thing. The long-term deal signed with Begin proved to have an expiration date, and it had arrived.

Faced with a harsh recession, Sharon and his finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, cut in half the child allowances that had become central in many ultra-Orthodox families’ livelihoods. Prodded by Lapid, who was now deputy prime minister, they also trimmed government funding for yeshivas and other Haredi causes.

Ultra-Orthodox politicians felt choked.

With 65 percent of ultra-Orthodox males unemployed and their average income less than half that of the rest of the population, Haredi rabbis realized they needed a new deal with the Jewish state.

The ideal of non-work was, therefore, quietly abandoned. Ultra-Orthodox vocational schools began to sprout in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, initially training plumbers, mechanics, electricians and nurses, and then spreading to computer engineering, accounting and law.

A decade after the passage of the Tal Law, 12 mainstream universities and colleges were offering special programs in which 7,000 students were enrolled and 8,000 had already graduated. It has since become a groundswell. Last year, the Council for Higher Education reported that 9,000 ultra-Orthodox students were studying for an undergraduate degree, following the previous year’s 8,300.

At the same time, the IDF opened special units for ultra-Orthodox men, who increasingly realize that proper military service is the best entry ticket into the workplace.

What began with a lone infantry battalion, soon became three, and then spread to the air force and navy where former yeshiva students are now mechanics; to intelligence, where they became analysts; to computers, where they became programmers; and to human resources, where they became personnel clerks.

Last year, a record 2,400 ultra-Orthodox men enlisted out of 8,000 called, and the numbers keep rising. Meanwhile, the Israel Police last year trained and hired 15 ultra- Orthodox criminal investigators. This is besides the hundreds who are doing National Service at first aid stations, old age homes, hospitals and charities.

Most symbolically, following a Supreme Court ruling that deputy ministers cannot function as de facto ministers, ultra- Orthodoxy’s Council of Sages approved its senior politician, Yaakov Litzman’s acceptance of a full cabinet membership as Health Minister.

The rabbis’ longstanding refusal to let their representative swear allegiance to the Zionist government and to become responsible for its deeds – was thus abandoned, reflecting the steady retreat from the historic formula of maximum authority and minimum responsibility.

This is not to say, however, that the previous reality is now history.

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis still live in separate neighborhoods; most Haredi men still don’t serve, work or study to acquire a profession; some in the units the IDF opened for them are not fully ultra-Orthodox; the laws that ease Haredi men into the workforce are still unfair to the rest of the population and remain a political bone of contention; ultra-Orthodox schools still refuse to teach a core curriculum of secular studies; and a hard core of diehard fanatics is fighting to uphold ultra-Orthodoxy’s seclusion.

Still, the walls of the ultra-Orthodox ghetto have been breached and thousands are pouring out, much the way the Jews of Germany, Austria and Hungary did when their own ghetto walls fell between the times of Moshe Sofer and Herzl.

Back then, it took hardly two generations before the newly freed Jews became lawyers, doctors, dentists, scientists, publishers, journalists, bankers, and tycoons.

The same process is underway in Israel – the Zionist creation where more than half a million ultra-Orthodox Jews now speak no language other than the Hebrew that Zionism revived; the Jewish state where thousands of ultra-Orthodox men now hold rifles and swear on the Bible that they are prepared to die in its defense; the Jewish state where Haredi young adults increasingly mesh daily in the workplace with the secular majority; the Jewish state where every Sunday morning a broad-bearded Gur Hasid removes his fedora while taking his seat around the cabinet table and joining the business of realizing what started off as Theodore Herzl’s dream and most rabbis’ nightmare. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Service of G-d or Bondage to Man?

A Torah Thought for Parashat Yitro 

By Moshe Feiglin

(From this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, Exodus 20:2)
Values always come on a ladder. They have no significance if they are not set out in the proper order of preference; what is more important, what comes first and what is the foundation for all the rest.
The first commandment of the Ten Commandments in this week’s Torah portion is the starting point and the foundation for the entire structure of values that follows. There is a G-d Who redeemed us from slavery to humans. We serve Him and Him only. Throughout history, despots who desired to rule the entire world have found themselves in serious conflict with the Nation of Israel. From Pharaoh to Ahashverosh, from Hitler to Stalin – these despots concluded that they must destroy the Jews, simply because the Jews cannot be enslaved: They already have a King, “I am Hashem, your G-d.”
Many values are held aloft in our world: Equality, liberty, liberalism and more. They are all fine and good. But usually, they are not founded on the first of the Ten Commandments. “My (Nile) River is mine and I created myself,” said Pharaoh, just one example of a king who thought he was a god. The more that a leader puts himself at the focal point, the more he diminishes G-d and attempts to “replace” Him, the more that slavery takes root until the entire state becomes one large concentration camp: a “house of bondage”.
The danger of enslavement has greatly increased in modern times. The state’s ability to control and revoke its citizen’s liberty is very enticing to a regime that has no G-d. The excuse will always – always- be security. “We must revoke your liberty so that we can protect you.”
Do we really need to be biometrically marked like animals just to counter the plague of forged identity cards? Is there no technological solution better than a simple photograph that can easily be removed and replaced? Of course there is. (Smart chips are already in place in all sorts of identity cards, and they are extremely difficult to forge.) But the prime motivation for the Orwellian biometric law is the abrogation of liberty; to entice us all into a house of bondage – in the name of security, of course.
Wherever G-d has been completely removed from the picture – in atheist or communist regimes – human life and honor have no value at all. In China they raise people in locked farms so that they can sell their organs for transplants.
So when you hear someone talking about lofty values, be sure to check his entire message. Who is his G-d? Who works for whom? Does he work for G-d, or vice versa?
Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Isn't he Cute for a Murderer?"

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

"What is the meaning of 'Mount Sinai'? It is the place where 'hatred' by the nations descended to the world" [Shabbat 89a]. ("Sinai" has a sound similar to "sinah" – hatred.) 
The above title is not a direct quote, but it is the gist of the declaration by Michal Froman, who was stabbed by an Arab terrorist at her home in Tekoa. (Thank heaven, she was hospitalized after a "moderate" injury and has since been released.) "He was a boy about fifteen years old, with a nice-looking face... I felt close to him... He gave the impression that he had come to give a quick stab and then run away, to achieve some goal. He would be able to mark the deed with a 'check mark,' but he was not interested in killing me... Just stab-and-run. It enhanced my impression that he appeared to be lost." Michal's mother-in-law, Hadassa, said this about her daughter-in-law: "Michal tried to hug him and to help him..." 
Michal is the daughter-in-law of my unforgettable friend (who could refuse to be his friend?), the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, the rabbi of Tekoa. He was unique in all his behavior, thoughts, and actions. (In this case, the adjective "unique" is a synonym for "different.") Rabbi Froman constantly preached about the need for understanding and coexistence between Jews and Palestinians, with great emphasis on the populatino of the settlements and nearby Palestinian villagers. His ideological political approach was to hold discussions between rabbis and Moslem religious leaders, out of a belief and faith that they would be able to find solutions to the problems. In this matter he not only preached his ideas, he was very active. He met, he arranged meetings, he embraced, he explained, he listened, and he wrote, and he raised his hands to the sky in a Tanachic-Messianic pose (which was not faked but real for him). In my eyes and in the eyes of many others like me, his was a "voice in the Arab wilderness," which did not generate any return echo. We argued on various occasions, including a long television broadcast where we discussed his vision, at a time that was close to the expulsion from Gush Katif. 
The reactions by the battered-stabbed woman which appeared in the press correspond to the approach of Rabbi Menachem, who had an excessive measure of "love for mankind." The rule "a person should not be held responsible at a time that he is suffering" [Bava Batra 16a] refers in the original to expressions of anger and rage. I would also apply this statement to delusional declarations of love and embracing as a result of traumatic incidents. This would include a scene of a battered creature which kisses the end of the whip that is stretched out in front of it. I would expand this to a slightly different aspect and say, a person should not be held responsible at a time that he is being struck, both for the bad and for the good. To round out the family picture, I will quote the son-husband, Shivi Froman, who spoke in a more balanced manner: "What we need is an unyielding struggle against these agents of death, and we should expel their families to Azza. On the other hand, we will enhance the lives on our side and for the Palestinians. Life will triumph over death." I agree with every word he said, but I say that the context is warped by a very strong leftist affinity – we must show understanding for the other side, in any situation, at any price. As far as I am concerned, this type of statement can follow a (crooked) solid line to the traitorous acts of some leftist activists, who have recently been exposed taking part in deep dark activity. These people understand the hearts of the enemy, who is right – and even nice. 
The Use of Religion to Enhance a Dispute
And here we have an opportunity to look at Rabbi Froman's vision about the role of religious leaders in the current struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. He believed that religious leaders from both sides, are in a position that can lead to more restraint and a closer approach, and that they (alone) have the power to bring calm and to achieve dual existence in this land. Who will remove the earth that covers your eyes, my brother and colleague Rabbi Menachem, so that you will see how humanity as a whole has reached a state of danger of self-destruction just because of the religion of Islam. World terrorism, flowing with blood, is fed by heightened levels of religion, and their wars against infidels, Israel, and the Western World are waged in the name of "Allah the merciful." Unimaginable atrocities are performed in the shadow of the Moslem half crescent, and the enthusiasm of the suicide murderers grows on a bed of religious incitement. And the false premise of dragging the El-Aktza Mosque into the focus of the struggle shows how the focus has purposely been moved in the direction of ecstatic Islam. 
And we must also admit the truth on our side. Rabbis, and religion in general, are not elements that add to restraint. Sometimes the opposite is true. Transferring the Israeli-Palestinian struggle from the realm of nationalism and Zionism to the realm of Torah and religion does not help to decrease the intensity of the flames. The Torah itself, which is part of the basis for the settlement activity in Yehuda and the Shomron, provides added texture to general Zionism, but in no way does it call for violent and bloody actions. The anarchistic hilltop youths do not represent any segment of religious Judaism. Islam and only Islam is forcing on the world a culture of religious wars and jihadi destruction, following the direct orders of murderous religious leaders. Rabbi Menachem Froman found a number of "liberal" Islamic religious leaders at the margins of the camp, who spoke of peace and who were "nice." They are a mirror image of rabbis-for-peace-at-any-price who are at the margins of the Jewish camp. On both sides of the struggle, these people are not significant at all! 
I am not an expert in the approach of the late Rabbi Shagar, who was a modern Torah thinker in our Torah-Zionist camp. I have been told by one of his followers that he used to say that the slogan "we will triumph by love" is flawed at its very basis. Love is not a weapon used to obtain victory but rather a tool for surrender... 

With All your Heart and with all your Soul: HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Yitro 5776

Parashat Yitro 5776
Rabbi Nachman Kahana

With all your heart and with all your soul

In his final address to the nation, Moshe says (Dvarim 10,12):
ועתה ישראל מה ה’ אלהיך שאל מעמך כי אם ליראה את ה’ אלהיך ללכת בכל דרכיו ולאהבה אתו ולעבד את ה’ אלהיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך:
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to be in awe of the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
Awe, obedience, love, to serve, with all your heart and with all your soul. When taken together, these feelings comprise the most profound emotions of which we as human beings are capable. However, they remain devoid of meaning when not predicated on the one overriding feeling – TRUST.
What would we say to a young woman who has received a marriage proposal and willingly accepts the conditions of “awe, obedience, love, service, with all her heart and with all her soul” but does not trust the man’s word nor his promises?

A story

Four chassidim wanted to see their Rebbe in a faraway city. However, they had neither money nor food for the journey.
Then one of them came up with a plan. Mendel was to play the role of a Rebbe and the other three his ardent chassidim. They would go to a small Jewish town and spread the word that a great tzaddik would be arriving the following day, and everyone could ask their questions and bring their problems to the Rebbe. And when the “Rebbe” blessed the people, they would shower him with enough money and food for the four chassidim to journey to their own Rebbe.
They arrived at the shul, where Mendel took his seat at the front of the table. The town’s people began arriving to speak with the “Rebbe,” and every one left a gift of money or food, as was the custom. The four renegades decided that, right after havdala on the close of Shabbat, they would escape from the town before their true identities were be revealed.
On Shabbat afternoon, a man came to the Rebbe Mendel and told him with tears in his eyes that his son was deathly ill and the doctors said that only a miracle could save him. He begged the “Rebbe” to come to the boy and bless him with full recovery. The four scoundrels had no choice but to go with the man to his house. The father brought the “Rebbe” to the boy’s room and left the two alone. Fifteen minutes later, the “Rebbe” came out of the room and returned to the shul. After Havdala was recited, the four escaped from the town with their new found money and food.
Six months later, the four chassidim were walking on the road and saw the boy’s father approaching. They turned around to flee, but the father soon overtook them. He ran to the “Rebbe” and in tearful embrace and kisses thanked him for saving his son who, immediately after Havdala, had jumped out of bed totally healthy.
After the father departed, the three chassidim pleaded with Mendel to tell them what he had done in the room alone with the boy? He replied: “I fell on the floor with tears streaming down my face. I beat the floor with my fists and cried to Hashem, ‘I am a lowlife. The worst of the Jewish people. A liar, a scoundrel and thief. But Father in Heaven, I beg of You, do not let me be guilty of extinguishing this man’s pure and total TRUST in You and in Your rabbis. Please heal the boy for the sake of Your holy name and Your holy rabbis’.”

Trusting Hashem in the Desert

The Creator demands basic requirements from gentiles but vastly different ones from the Jewish nation.
The highest ideals of the Seven Noachide mitzvot are intended to imbue gentiles with honesty and integrity. No to murder. No to theft. No to idolatry and sexual impropriety. Their requirements are intended to make them upright and honest (albeit with little or no expectations).
Hashem’s requirements and expectations for His chosen nation of Yisrael are on a totally different quantitative level. While gentiles are required to be upright and straight, the Jewish nation with 613 mitzvot are required to be HOLY. The point where gentiles achieve their required goals is where the requirements of the Jewish nation just begin.
For a Jew to acknowledge the oneness and infinity of Hashem and the fulfillment of all His mitzvot is indeed admirable. However, it is devoid of true religious meaning when not accompanied by the ultimate requirement of TRUSTING Hashem.
During our desert experience, Hashem could have provided continuous sustenance for the millions of Jews in those forty years; but He chose to provide for us through the daily Mahn (manna). The fresh Mahn was collected every morning anew, but spoiled at the following dawn.
The result was that for 365 days times 40 years (14,600 days), millions of Jews retired for the night not knowing if the Mahn would reappear in the morning. It was Hashem’s way of training the Jewish nation not only to believe in Him but, even more, to TRUST Him.

Trusting Hashem Today

The number of Torah observant Jews in the Galut are estimated to be a little over one million. There is Torah learning and mitzvot observance. There are many rabbis, roshei yeshiva, chassidic grand rabbis, day school principals, teachers and daf hayomi learners.
They all believe in Hashem and His Torah as the absolute universal truth. They believe, but only on their own terms because very few TRUST Hashem.
By remaining in galut when the gates of the Holy Land are open to our return, their testimony speaks that they do not trust that Hashem will provide for their sustenance. It is a tacit admission that they doubt if Hashem will protect His people in the face of so many enemies. It is an acknowledgment of doubt in the legitimacy of the word of our prophets that Hashem will return us to the Holy Land.
At this time, when there are close to seven million Jews in Eretz Yisrael, they still question if we are in the process of the final redemption.
Where is the one eminent rabbi in the galut who will call out to his people to TRUST Hashem and leave the galut behind to return home?

Ultimate Trust and Reward

David, son of Yishai, who was to become the King of Israel, wrote in his Tehilim (Psalm 91)
ישב בסתר עליון בצל שדי יתלונן:
אמר לה’ מחסי ומצודתי אלהי אבטח בו:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, and resides in the shadow of the Almighty
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust
Here are some impossible scenarios where authentic Jews trusted Hashem.
Gideon, the Judge, defeated the entire Midianite army with only 300 soldiers (Shoftim chapter 7).
Yehonatan, son of King Shaul, with only his shield bearer with him vanquished the entire Philistine army (Shmuel 1, chapter 14).
David, the young shepherd, vanquished Galyat, the Philistine human war machine, with one well-placed stone from his slingshot.
The Macabim drove out the Greeks from Eretz Yisrael despite the enemy’s awesome numbers and military might.
In our times, the degree of trust did not wane.
Miracles occurred in our own time, which rank among the most impressive that Hashem has ever wrought for His people. To name only two – the War of Independence and the Six Day War.
If you were there, the memories will never be forgotten. If you were not there, you will never know!
In 1967, the Medina was a mere shadow of what we are today. The army was small, the economy stagnant, the population unprepared for war.
Tensions began to rise three weeks before the beginning of armed conflict, when President Nasser of Egypt ordered the UN peace-keeping troops to evacuate the Sinai Peninsula. Nasser blocked the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s gateway from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, which is considered in international law to be casus belli (justification for war).
Nasser led a coalition of four Arab States (Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq), and the scoreboard at the opening of the 1967 hostilities looked like this:
  • Soldiers: Israel 275,000 / Arabs 456,000
  • Tanks: Israel 1093 / Arabs 2,750
  • Cannons: Israel 681 / Arabs 2,084
  • Warships: Israel 15 / Arabs 118
  • Fighter planes: Israel 228 / Arabs 488
  • Bombers: Israel 19  / Arabs  80
  • Helicopters: Israel 45 / Arabs 101
The situation at the time of the War of Independence was even more desperate.
In both wars, the world waited impatiently to see the demise of the impossible Jewish state.
However, our Father in Heaven had other plans. Our enemies were defeated in shame and dishonor, and the fledgling Jewish State was catapulted to a higher quantum level within the community of nations. Because the Jews in Eretz Yisrael TRUSTED Hashem.
On a personal note: At the time of the Six Day War, we were living in Kiryat Sanz, near Netanya. During the three weeks prior to the outbreak of hostilities, many people ran away from the country, including families from Kiryat Sanz. I was told of a yeshiva (not religious Zionist) that went to Switzerland, because the tension was disturbing their concentration.
Our home became the hub for many activities in the Kirya. Feiga was the postmistress and was involved in many other matters. I volunteered for Tzahal and was told to wait for a call up. It came, but only after the war’s end because the military bureaucracy could not keep up with the troops who had defeated the enemy in six days.
The reward for trusting Hashem was not long in coming. At the war’s end, we had increased the land area of the Medina three times over and the greatest prize of all – the Jewish nation was now sovereign over holy Yerushalayim for the first time in over 2000 years.
Those who trusted Hashem breathed in the exhilaration of His greatest miracles. Those who cowered in fear would have to live with themselves.

One more short story:
A man was climbing a high mountain, when night fell and the pouring rain created zero visibility. He slipped and began falling to certain death. Suddenly, he put out his hand and grabbed a branch jutting out of the mountainside, and found himself suspended between heaven and earth.
He began to pray. A thunderous voice emerged from nowhere. “Do you trust me?” the voice asked. The poor fellow cried out, “With all my heart and soul, I trust You.”
“In that case,” thundered the voice, “LET GO!”
The following morning, they found the man hanging on to the branch, dead from hypothermia, when between him and solid ground was a distance of ten centimeters.
Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5776/2016 Nachman Kahana

The Jewish People -- As One Man and Of One Mind

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

It says, “Israel camped opposite the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). Rashi explains, “As one man and of one mind, but all their other encampments were made in a spirit of resentment and dissension.” The precondition for Israel’s being ready for the Sinai Revelation was their all being as one man and of one mind, without resentment or dissension. 

We can derive a lesson from precise analysis of Rashi’s wording: “As one man.” Every individual has numerous limbs and organs and diverse attributes. Yet they all add up to one person, with each limb and organ and every attribute supplementing what is lacking in the others. It is the same with the Jewish People. Every Jew is different, “for neither in mind or appearance do they resemble one another” (Berachot 58). All the same, we are one people marching up through history to our divine destiny, to serve as a light unto the nations. 

Why was it necessary for Rashi to add “and of one mind”? Rashi was hinting that it is not enough that the Jewish people possess one “body,” one national framework. That national framework needs a heart -- a human heart -- a center in which the whole Jewish People can be united and draw strength. Indeed, from time immemorial the Jewish People have always had one center, one heart. In the Desert, the Mishkan [tabernacle] was that heart, and in the Land, it was the First and Second Temples. They were the source from which the nation drew its psychological and spiritual strength. When we went into exile for two thousand years, the synagogues and study houses constituted a miniature Temple, and from them the nation drew strength to survive the dark exile. 

Now, on our return to our land and to Jerusalem our capital, on the way to building the Third Temple -- may it be soon in our day -- the centrality of the State of Israel for the Jewish People and for all of mankind is being revealed more and more. Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem are becoming the center of Torah on earth, leading to fulfillment of Isaiah’s words: “For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). 

Right now, despite all of the political struggles, we must remember and imbue in our hearts that when all is said and done, we are one nation -- as one man, of one mind -- whose purpose is to publicize that the L-rd G-d of Israel is One and His kingdom rules over all. 

Looking forward to complete redemption,
Shabbat Shalom.

The Deep Freeze of Liberty

By Moshe Feiglin

There are no proofs. But what are human rights in the face of the collective, personified by the media?
Suddenly, it is fine to arrest citizens for no apparent reason, with no trial, no attorney and ultimately – no indictment.
It would be easy for us to think that they know what they are doing. After all, it cannot be that in the State of Israel people will be arrested for no apparent reason…
The Defense Minister clearly knew that the detainees had no connection to the Duma crime but at least it looked like he was doing something. And so, two Jews were put into administrative detention. Of course, the investigation made no progress, so they arrested a few more suspects.
This time, they were minors. This time, not only did they not allow them to meet with an attorney, but they tortured them, as well. And they tortured, and tortured and tortured. Until they confessed and reenacted the ‘crime’ – as is accepted practice in ‘enlightened’ regimes.
How could such a thing take place in a democratic state?
Perhaps because they had those frightening side locks. Democracy does not apply to those extremists. And if you think that the elected representatives of the arrested boys would speak out in their defense, you can think again.
Every two hours and thirty three minutes, on average, an attempt to murder a Jew because of his Jewishness is made in Israel. “We are strong,” the Prime Minister explains. “This will not break us.”
But the foolish murder of an Arab family; a murder that nobody knows – and nobody will ever know – by whom it was perpetrated, will “destroy the entire State.”  It will “bring the roof down on our heads,” in the words of the elected leader of the Religious Zionists. And in the name of the State, it is good that they are torturing the minors…
That is how the media personalities, the witch hunters, the leftist DNA of the Defense Minister and the pseudo-fascist deviation of the Religious Zionist minister, who exchanged, “I am G-d” for “I am the State” –  joined together to negate any semblance of human rights from minors. This was done not only to prevent them from meeting with an attorney and to justify their torture and every other despicable act committed against them, but to completely ostracize them from any possible public support, as well. Who will come to their defense now, when their political father stands against them?
Half of the detainees who were tortured were released with no indictment. These boys, abducted by the State and afforded no rights or trial, were severely tortured. Their souls were crushed. And then they were released. They are walking indictments of the Israeli justice system.
Did you think that it would stop with the Right? In no time, it spread to the Left.  Channel 2 did an expose’ on “human rights activist” Ezra Nawi, who bragged about delivering Arabs who sold homes or land to Jews to their Arab executioners.
Not that the Police or the GSS were not aware of his activities before the television broadcast. They were. But once again, we see that the Police and the GSS work for the media. They scurried to arrest radical Nawi and wonder of wonders – also prevented him from meeting with an attorney. Was he a ‘ticking bomb’? Why didn’t they allow him to meet with an attorney? Because now they can.
When we allow the State to steal a bit of our liberty, it will always – always – do it. Why? Because it can. And it will always be in the interest of ‘security’.
They have to take all of our fingerprints and keep them in order to produce biometric identity cards. For security reasons. It makes no difference that the same results can be achieved without a biometric database. But you are a law abiding citizen and will never have a brush with the law, so what difference does it make to you?
And they arrest tens of thousands of marijuana consumers who don’t hurt anyone. For security reasons, of course. For no reason, really. Just because they can. But you don’t smoke marijuana, so what difference does it make to you?
And they have to put Arabs into administrative detention. For security reasons, of course. Because we really are in a war with them. But it does not concern you, because it will never happen to you.
And Zadarov, accused of murdering a school girl, has been in jail for ten years. But no matter that there is substantial evidence that points to his innocence. Because it will never happen to you, anyway.
And through this small hole and that tiny gap, which never seem to threaten you – the icy winds enter. And before you even notice it, the deep freeze of liberty reaches you. If not today, then tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if you are a rightist or a leftist.
When a police officer will beat you or simply subject you to a humiliating body search…
When you hear the knock on the door and are taken off to interrogation…
And you don’t understand how it happened to you…
And then you remember that yes, you did have unkind words for the prime minister while waiting at the grocery check-out.
And somebody thought that it would be patriotic to snitch on you. So that the roof does not cave in on us all…
When more political parties will not be allowed to run in the elections. Not just from the Right. It will be because you remained silent now.
Next week, the half year of administrative detention for Meir Ettinger and Evyatar Slonim, arrested after the murders in Duma, will be up. Of course, they were never indicted. Nobody even attempted to claim that they were connected to the murders in Duma. It is reasonable to assume that the Defense Minister will pressure the justice system to leave them in jail.
Why? Because now it is possible.
After all, if they are released, people will ask some hard questions. Why were they arrested in the first place? And after the “State above all” speech of the head of the Religious Zionists, no real opposition to their continued detention can be expected.
So why not?
Because when you open the window for the icy wind, it enters. Simply because it can.
It’s time to wake up and let the sun of liberty shine in.

Land for Peace in the Middle East?

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro believes in “Land for Peace” and echoes the US Administration pressure on Israel to retreat to the pre-1967 ceasefire lines: an 8-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, towered over by the mountain ridges of Judea & Samaria. Thus, the US Administration – unlike the US public and Congress - ignores the centrality of Judea & Samaria in Jewish history, religion, culture and nationalism, and provides another victory to wishful-thinking over the 1,400-year-old reality of inherent Mideast/Arab violence, unpredictability, tyranny, doublespeak and hate-education.

If Israel would have caved under US pressure to retreat from the Golan Heights – a site of Jewish battles against the Roman Empire - ISIS and other terrorists would be there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, traumatizing northern Israel and beyond.

Israel’s former, dovish, Foreign Minister, Abba Eban stated (Der Spiegel, Nov. 5, 1969): “The map will never be the same as on June 4, 1967… [which is] for us something of a memory of Auschwitz….”

Mideast peace agreements are as durable as are Arab regimes, policies and accords, which have been - since the 7th century - the globe’s most shifty, intolerant, violent, volatile and treacherous, as currently reflected by the Arab Tsunami (gullibly known as the Arab Spring). The latter yielded abrupt power and ideological shifts in Egypt and Tunisia, transformed Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen into chaotic terror platforms, and lethally threatens all moderate Arab regimes. A regime change in Jordan would transform Israel’s most peaceful – to the most threatening - border.

Pressuring Israel to accept “Land for Peace” assumes that an Israeli withdrawal from Judea & Samaria would convince Arabs to accord the “infidel” Jew that which Muslim “believers” have denied one another for 1,400 years: peaceful coexistence and systematic compliance with agreements.

“Land for Peace" urges Israel to concede land in return for peace, while not allowing Israel to retrieve land after if/when peace is violated in the violent, non-compliant Mideast.

“Land for Peace” enhances security when the parties display long term adherence to agreements, which is a Mideast rarity. However, it undermines the security of the land-conceding party, once agreements are violated. For example, the 1993 (Oslo Accord) and 2005 (uprooting all Jews from Gaza) “Land for Peace” agreements were summarily violated, intensifying terrorism dramatically.

“Land for Peace” would usher the Arab Tsunami into Judea & Samaria, which towers over 80% of Israel’s population and infrastructure, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s only international airport. It also overlooks the Jordan Valley, Israel’s longest border.

The width of pre-1967 Israel (8-15 miles) is equal to the length of DFW Airport in Texas, the distance between JFK and La Guardia Airports, Wall Street and Columbia University, the Kennedy Center and RFK Stadium, less than the distance between downtown London and Heathrow Airport. The area of Israel (0.2% of the Arab World) is smaller than the gunnery range at Nellis Air Force Base, NV. While pressuring Israel to retreat to an 8-15 mile “straight jacket”, the US declared a 15 mile radius area in Bosnia, as a "killing zone," in order to ensure the safety of its soldiers.

Israel’s vulnerable dimensions, in the endemically unstable, unreliable, violent Mideast, provide Israel with a minimal margin of error, requiring a uniquely high threshold of security in the face of reality-driven worst case scenarios.

Former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the late General Earl Wheeler told President Lyndon Johnson: “The minimum requirements for Israel's defense include most of the West Bank, the whole of Gaza and the Golan Heights.” 100 retired US Generals and Admirals cautioned Israel against withdrawing from Judea & Samaria, stating that is would be impossible to demilitarize the area effectively. The late Admiral Bud Nance :” The eastern mountain ridge of the West Bank is one of the world's best tank barriers…. The western mountain ridge constitutes a dream platform of invasion to Israel's narrow [8-15 miles] coastal plain. Control of the West Bank provides Israel the time [50 hours] to mobilize reservists [75% of Israel’s military], which are critical to Israel’s survival during a surprise Arab attack.” Most reservists reside in the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv-Haifa area, which is dominated by the Judea & Samaria mountain ridge.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, ground barriers are critical in the era of sophisticated missiles. According to the US Army Institute of Land Warfare: "Land force [is] the cornerstone of deterrence.... Ground units can both destroy and occupy.... During the Afghan campaign of 2002, precision air strikes were critical, but they neither annihilated opposition nor finished the enemy....” General (ret.) Al Gray, former Commandant, US Marine Corps: “Military success requires more than a few hundred missiles. To defeat Israel would require the Arabs to deploy armor, infantry and artillery into Israel and destroy the IDF on the ground.”

In 1973, the Sinai, the Golan and Judea & Samaria were the cushion, which enabled Israel to overcome technological, intelligence and operational fallibility, sparing Israel from oblivion. Military high tech today will be low tech tomorrow, but high ground always remains high ground. Moreover, any technology can be jammed, but one cannot jam the mountainous topography of Judea & Samaria.

Should the Sinai concession to Egypt apply to Judea & Samaria? The Sinai borders the Negev, which is topographically similar to the Sinai, sparsely populated, a platform for much of Israel’s military. In contrast, Judea & Samaria borders topographically inferior, densely populated and most vulnerable coastal plain. 50 hours are required to violate Sinai’s demilitarization (22,000 sq mi), only 10 hours in Judea & Samaria (2,200 sq mi). The Sinai concession was a calculated risk; a Judea & Samaria concession would be a lethal gamble. The geographic depth of Judea & Samaria, the Golan Heights and the Sinai enabled Israel to survive the 1973 surprise Arab offensive.

“Land for Peace” is actually “Land for Appease,” rewarding serial Arab aggressors and punishing the intended Israeli victim. It fuels belligerence, undermines stability and the pursuit of peace, demolishing Israel’s posture of deterrence, which is an irreplaceable life insurance policy in the most violent region in the world, which has never tolerated “infidel” entities, especially those which succumb to pressure.