Friday, March 31, 2017

The Liberty Index

By Moshe Feiglin

Passover, the Festival of Freedom, is rapidly approaching. This is a perfect time to take stock of the status of our national liberty. Have we really progressed this year from enslavement to liberty? Or has our situation deteriorated from liberty to enslavement?

In the year that has passed since Passover 5776, Israeli liberty has suffered some severe blows. Liberty is fickle. It is like the air that we breathe; you don’t feel it until you don’t have enough of it. It is very easy to rob a person of his liberty without his really noticing it. And when he understands what has happened, he may no longer be able to restore his liberty. Even worse, he may not even wish to restore it.

Our liberty is generally negated by one of two methods: The security excuse or the comfort excuse.

We deposit vast tracts of our liberty in the hands of the State. In exchange, we are supposed to receive security. Internal security (justice and police) and security from external forces. The State will always –always – attempt to control more and more tracts of our liberty with the excuse that it needs to safeguard our security. Perhaps the most distinct example of this is the biometric bill, which will become law in a few months. This law is an extreme example of loss of liberty by means of the security excuse. The State could provide Israelis with the same level of security with smart ID cards (which cannot be forged) and simple means of comparison between the citizen and the card he carries, with no need for a biometric database. Israel’s lawmakers chose the solution that no other free country dares propose to its citizens. It is a solution that does not solve any real need. It is a solution that will undoubtedly become a severe security problem as soon as the database will be hacked (and it will be hacked).

In this way, with almost no public opposition, Israel dealt a severe blow to the honor and liberty of its citizens. It didn’t happen because the State needed a database. It happened simply because the powers-that-be correctly assumed that Israel’s culture of liberty is not well-developed and that its citizens will not show any real opposition to the database. The biometric database fiasco is perhaps the most widespread blow to liberty in Israel, but not necessarily the most severe. There were other, worse violations of Israel’s liberty this year.

Over the past year, we watched in horror as former Defense Minister Ya’alon caved in to media pressure and, with the encouragement of Education Minister Bennett and Justice Minister Shaked, ordered the administrative detention and torture of tens of teenagers. We witnessed how the justice system, which is supposed to protect the liberty of the citizen, so easily negated human rights from those teenagers, torturing them for many long weeks without offering them any real legal rights. No ticking bomb was revealed as a result of the Duma episode arrests. (The Arab residents of the village continue to burn each other’s homes, but investigating the possibility that perhaps an Arab neighbor burned down the Dawabshe home did not sit right with those who make the policies). No significant indictment has been served, almost all the teenagers have already been released – but nobody has to account for the deep scar that was carved into the image of human rights in Israel. The precedent has been set: It is fine to arrest people in Israel without trial, to torture them, to negate all their rights and to act like a third world dictatorship – as long as the media is with you and the agenda that you are promoting resonates with the justice system.

Once again, the Defense Minister correctly assumed that the voice of the champions of human rights would not be heard, simply because in Israel’s “culture” of liberty, human rights are flexible and subordinate to ideology. In Israel, liberty is strictly a matter of politics.

We still have not mentioned that in the year that has passed, Israel’s leaders destroyed an entire Jewish village – Amona – and another nine homes in the heart of Ofra for no real reason. There were no real claimants to the property. In the public debate on the choice between the Broadcasting Authority and the Broadcasting Corporation, the most important question has not been raised: Why is the State broadcasting to its citizens? Where else in the free world is there a military station that broadcasts to the public?

Apparently, Israel’s “culture” of liberty presumes that the State is supposed to determine the borders of public discourse and Big Brother is supposed to create our content and control our information sources and transfer.

What is public broadcast? Who is the public who has chosen this broadcast? Who has decided that he is the public? The Broadcasting Authority and the Broadcasting Corporation are the “public” just like the Institute for Democracy is the “Israeli” Institute. Somebody has decided for you that he represents you, your values and your culture – without asking you. Israel’s economic liberty has also suffered this year. The bank clerks have become state detectives, reporting citizens’ assets to the state.

Many chains were placed on human liberty in Israel this year. But Israeli society also enjoyed some positive liberty developments: Just before the Festival of Freedom, the Zehut party publicized its very comprehensive platform and vision. It is a detailed manifesto that illuminates Israel’s path to human liberty in all facets of life.

The Zehut party will nullify the biometric database. With Zehut, administrative detentions will be a thing of the past. Instead, there will be war captives and criminal detainees, with no area of gray in the middle. With Zehut, every citizen will be able to broadcast as he pleases and the State will stay out of individual’s lives and pockets.

Happy Festival of Freedom and Identity.

Two state solution equals final solution

By Jack Engelhard

How Trump got elected remains a mystery to me. Everywhere I go there’s nothing but Liberals. I have yet to meet a Conservative or anyone who voted for Trump. At least I never meet them face to face out in the open. Nothing but Liberals and they…no they are not afraid to speak up. Like at the drug store this morning where I went to pick up my prescriptions. This couple, man and wife recognized me. They had complaints.

My picture appears in Arutz Sheva and on my books and it’s not my picture that bothers Liberals so much, it’s what I’m thinking and saying. I’m saying that Trump is right about the wrong people getting here and the entire world is wrong about a two state solution for Israel.

This couple, turns out, are machers (big doers) in the synagogue, which partners with the church next door, all of the same Liberal mind, and they have discussed my columns and books and are all in for the style of writing but all out for my style of politics.

“Love how you say it but not what you say,” said the man. He was trying to be friendly. Not so his wife.

“We think you’re a danger,” she said. “The only road to peace is a two state solution, which is giving back to the Palestinians the land that was taken from them.”

Oy vey. How can I explain in talking what I can’t get across in writing? Where to begin?

In Montreal we used say – are you pretending or are you really… a fool, that is. It comes out better in Yiddish. How can I explain standing on one leg that a two state solution is a (G-d forbid) final solution…that in a Land that already has nearly two million Arabs living as free citizens…in a Land that already has a de facto Palestinian state in Gaza and along the 'West Bank'…that to introduce yet again millions more of these Arabs into the heart of Israel means kaput.

I went into that briefly…briefly because I knew they weren’t listening.

“Why can’t we Jews get along with our cousins, so to speak?” she asked – her husband nodding vigorously.

“What cousins?” I asked.

“The Arabs,” said the husband. “Don’t you know?”

“Enlighten me.”

Husband and wife busily explained that we all come from the same father – Abraham. In fact we are brothers – so to speak. Or to speak genetically. I was stunned to hear this news (or rather pretended to be). “From where,” I asked, “do we know about Abraham?”

“The Bible,” she said, and “the Torah,” he said proud of his wisdom and both marveling at my ignorance.

“So you do believe in the Torah,” I said – and yes they did, certainly about Abraham. The whole world believes in Abraham. Then what about Isaac and Jacob?

Of course they knew about Abraham -- and Isaac and Jacob. How silly of me to ask.

“Well, then, the Torah is your source?”

“Isn’t it yours?”

“Yes it is,” I said, “and therefore, since we agree on the source, we agree that G-d promised the Land of Israel to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. Right?”

Apparently, wrong.

“Wait a minute,” said the husband, now confused and angry. “We’re talking political realities.”

I explained that any sort of reality begins with the source; upon which everyone agrees. Yet the world that remembers Abraham as the father of two peoples, forgets that through him the entire Land was given entirely to the Jews. So from out of nowhere the world demands a two state solution and to find Jews buying into such suicidal lunacy is pathetic. We’re supposed to be smart.

“There’s no talking to people like you,” she said, and I agreed, there’s no talking. They left in a huff.

It was Sunday. They were going next door to pick up their Sunday bagels for their Sunday Brunch.

First they will stand for Morning Prayer. They will follow the cantor as he recites verses of praise – how “The Lord has chosen Zion; Israel as his beloved treasure.”

Then they will say Amen, move to another room, there to discuss political realities.

Moshe Feiglin: General Elections in Israel Likely Before Year's End

​In my estimation, it is likely that there will be general elections in Israel before the end of the year. True, both the planned broadcasting corporation and the current broadcasting authority must disappear and be replaced with media that is truly free of all state interference. The broadcasting brouhaha, however, has no real connection to the government crisis. Apparently, Netanyahu wants to delay proceedings against him and to renew the legitimacy for his continued incumbency by holding elections - "The nation has spoken". His adversary on the broadcasting issue, Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon, understands that he will not succeed in reducing the cost of apartments as he had promised and that he will lose popularity as a result. It can certainly work for him to go to elections as the person who stood up against Netanyahu's quarrel mongering.

The recent Zehut convention has prepared our party well for the upcoming challenge. In the coming elections, Israeli voters will have a real alternative. They will no longer have to vote against their better judgement for the same despair. 

Finally, Israeli voters will be able to be enjoy true liberty. 

Finally, Israel will be able to vote for Zehut.

Parashat Vayikra: Obedience

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

The world of sacrificial offerings is a new, different and foreign world. As readers, we get lost in the strangeness of the entire subject, and do not pause to think about what we have read, to understand and internalize. The basic premise of sacrifice creates a world of responsibility, in which the individual bears responsibility not only for conscious behavior, for deliberate action - as is the case in the “normal” world - but also for accidental transgressions, for what happens when we lose focus, act absentmindedly or allow ourselves to be led astray by shallow thinking. In this strange parallel universe, even unintended outcomes become the individual’s responsibility, and must be atoned for.

This being so, we tend not to look for a system, for a method in the litany of offerings that comprise the bulk of the book of Vayikra. Have we ever attempted to discern common threads among the various types of sin offerings, or to create categories that would enlighten or inform? Is there something to be learned from the type of animal each sin offering involves? Which offerings are of large animals, and which of small animals? What obligations can be met by sacrificing fowl, and which by grain? Which offerings are comprised of male animals and which of females? Which transgressions are clustered together, and why? What can we learn from the implications of these groupings?

Leaving the micro analysis for a moment and turning to the macro, to the broad mechanics of Temple service, we are able to discern the objective of offerings in general: The Hebrew word for all ritual offerings is “korban,” a derivative form of the root krv– to come near, to approach. Sacrificial offerings afford the individual who has become estranged from God the means to return, to rebuild intimacy.

This objective is described time and time again in the verses of Vayikra as “a pleasant smell for God.” The commentaries are quick to note that this is, at best, an anthropomorphism: God has neither a nose nor a sense of smell, nor does He sit in heaven waiting to be placated by the smell of an earthly BBQ. One of our greatest commentaries, Rashi, explained this concept in a very different way, based on comments found in the Sifri, an ancient Midrash: Sacrificial offerings are not some type of magical divination, voodoo or “hocus pocus;” rather, the key to the korban’s efficacy is obedience.

Nichoach: [This word implies]Nahat ruah, pleasure of spirit, for I spoke and you fulfilled My will. (Rashi, Vayikra 1:9)

Man has sinned by neglecting, ignoring, or forgetting the word of God, but God allows man to correct this mistake by giving us a second chance to obey His command, thus making reconciliation possible. By bringing the precise offering in the precise fashion prescribed, in adherence to the Word of God - even when it bears no intrinsic logic - man is allowed to make amends. Rashi seems to be implying that the main consideration, the element in which God “takes delight,” is not the “pleasing smell” but rather that the Divine spirit is uplifted by man’s adherence to God’s command. The earlier failure to obey is healed by this new opportunity. Thus, the offering itself is almost irrelevant; it bears no intrinsic meaning, other than as an opportunity to exhibit submission to God’s Will and adherence to God’s command. The procedure is the offering; the precise attention to the details is what transforms the sinner and heals the rupture in the relationship.

In his commentary to Psalm 40:7, Rashi is even more emphatic:

You did not desire slaughter or meal-offerings; … You did not request burnt-offerings and sin-offerings. (Tehillim 40:7)

“Slaughter or meal-offerings:” [This refers to] the day the Torah was given, as it states (Shmot 19): “If you listen to the voice of God.” Similarly, [God] said (Yermiyahu 7:22), ‘For I did not speak to your fathers, nor did I command them on the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices;’ I wanted to bring you close, and I had no need to burden you with daily or holiday (offerings). The only pleasure I derived was that I commanded and you adhered to My request, which is a small gesture. (Rashi, Tehillim 40:7)

The verse from the prophecy of Yirmiyahu cited by Rashi is a small part of an entire chapter that laments the behavior of the Jewish community. The Temple had become a place that did not celebrate man’s adherence to the will of God. Quite the opposite: The chapter tells the tale of a city, of an entire society, in which strangers were oppressed, the weak and disenfranchised exploited, and justice trampled. Stealing, murder, adultery, and false witness had become the norm; decency was nowhere to be found. In that society, people deluded themselves into thinking that the Temple service would excuse their behavior. They believed that they could bribe God with offerings and save themselves through the merit of their sacrifices. Yirmiyahu attempted to open their eyes, to dispel their illusions by describing the gruesome fate that awaited their generation, and the Temple they had misused.

Sacrificial offerings are not magic; they are, however, a means through which man may come closer to God. They do not take the place of decent behavior, nor are they generally a remedy for deliberate transgressions. Sacrificial offerings bring about rapprochement only in conjunction with general adherence to the word of God. There is no magic involved. Unlike primitive cultures who believed they could force God’s hand or sway God from meting out punishment, Jewish sacrifice is a method of re-attuning an estranged individual to the Voice of God. This is the source of pleasure, the nachat ruach that God draws from the offering: A person who has become estranged, has taken the relationship for granted and become negligent in the service of God, now seeks a way back to intimacy. The precise adherence to the korban’s rituals reaffirms the human desire to adhere to God’s commandments. Sacrifices brought in this spirit are a step toward perfecting the world, not a fig leaf for moral decay.

A Tale of Two Cities – Worlds Apart

Parashat Vayikra 5777
HaRav Nachman Kahana

A Tale of Two Cities – Worlds Apart

Picture a frum (observant) family at the Seder night, living in any one of the great Torah centers in the galut – Flatbush, Boro Park, Lakewood, Los Angeles or southern Florida.

The home of Reb Sender and Mrs. Rayza is impeccable; the result of the great time and energy, not to speak of the huge outlay of money which the expeditious and skillful ba’alat ha’bayit (woman of the house) has devoted to it.

The sofas and arm chairs in the sitting room that look so inviting, were it not for the thick plastic covers which insure that the upholstery retains its “new” look.

The five-meter-long dining room table is covered with the finest Irish linen table cloth. In the middle of the table stands the imposing sterling silver candle sticks handed down from mother to daughter for generations. The china is the finest Rosenthal, with each plate delicately rounded off with a band of gold. The silverware has been put away in favor of goldware in honor of the great night.

On the table, under a hand embroidered silk cloth, lay the matzot. On the insistence of the two sons learning in the recently opened Yeshiva Taharas Ha’Torah (purity of Torah) in Las Vegas, in order to bring the voice of Torah even to the entrance of Gehennom, the matzot are from the first 18-minute batch, guaranteeing that no naughty piece of dough would be hiding in any of the rollers. The hand matzot were personally chosen by the rebbe of the shteibel (home synagogue) where the family now davens after leaving the central shul which was costing too much. The rebbe assured the boys that the matzot were bubble-free, with no overturned edges.

The wall-to-wall carpet is as deep as the grass in the beautiful garden. Above the table hangs the family’s pride and joy — a multi-faceted crystal chandelier, personally chosen by Rayza on the family’s last visit to Prague.

Reb Sender is wearing his new bekeshe (silk robe), the one with the swirls of blue, with a gold-buckled gartel (belt). Rayza has just said the shehechiyanu blessing (gratitude for seeing this day) over the $3000 dress imported from Paris. The boys are handsome in their wide-brimmed black hats and the two girls will make beautiful brides when the time comes, dressed in their very expensive imported from Paris dresses.

The seder goes better than expected. There are words of Torah, beginning with an invitation to the hungry to join with them in the meal, despite the fact that there is not a needy person within 50 miles. A lively discussion develops on the characters of the “four sons.” The main course of Turkey and cranberry sauce is served, in the finest American tradition of giving thanks to the Almighty for all His abundance. The afikomen (ritual dessert matza) is “stolen” by the youngest daughter who, for its return, has succeeded in extorting from Tattie a vacation in Hawaii.

Songs of thanks to HaShem for freeing the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt are recited. For it is a mitzva on this night for each person to undergo a deja vue experience as if he or she were slaves in Mitzrayim.

Birkat Hamazon (grace after meals) is said, as is the second part of Hallel. Chad Gadya puts the final touch on the mitzvot of the night. Now, just as HaShem destroys the “Angel of Death” in the song, father jumps up and gathering the family in a circle, they all break out in a frenzy of song — L’shana ha’ba’a Be’Yerushalayim — “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Again and again around the table L’shana ha’ba’a Be’Yerushalayim is sounded. Louder and louder until their song merges with the same melody resounding from the neighbors’ homes, cutting a path into the highest realms of heaven.

Suddenly Mama collapses into a chair, crying hysterically. The singing stops. Father runs over and asks why she is crying just at the apex of the beautiful sacred night?

“What do you mean next year in Yerushalayim? What about the table, the chandelier, the deep carpet, the Rosenthal china, the garden! How can we leave all this?”

Father approaches Mama and taking her hand while gently dabbing her tears away, in a voice full of compassion, says to his beloved Rayza, “Darling, don’t cry, IT’S ONLY A SONG!”

On the other side of the world…

Ten thousand kilometers to the east, in Eretz Yisrael, lives Reb Sender’s brother Kalman. Kalman moved to Eretz Yisrael many years ago, and was blessed with a beautiful family and an adequate apartment. His son, Yossi, will not be home for the Seder night, since he is doing his army service within the Hesder yeshiva system.

But the parents are not overly worried, because Yossi himself told them that he is in a safe place in the north and that next year they will all be together for the Seder.

At 12 noon, on the 14th of Nisan, erev Pesach (day before Pesach), Yossi and three other soldiers from the same yeshiva were called to the company commander’s room, where he informed them that they had been chosen to fill an assignment that evening, on the Seder night. They were to cross the border into Hezbollah territory in Southern Lebanon and man the outpost bunker on hill 432.

Yossi knew the hill well; he had been there several times in the past year. It was sarcastically called a “bunker,” but in reality it was nothing more than a foxhole large enough for four soldiers. Their assignment was to track terrorist movements and destroy them on contact. It was tolerable except when it rained, which caused the bottom of the hole to be soggy and muddy. But today, the four hoped that it would rain, even though chances were small since it was late in the season. On the 14th of every Hebrew month when the moon is full, crossing into enemy territory presents a greater danger; so rain would be a mixed blessing.

At 5:00 PM, they were given the necessary arms and ammunition. In addition, the army rabbinate provided them with 4 plastic containers – each holding 3 matzot and all the ingredients necessary for a Seder – as well as 4 plastic bottles of wine, sufficient for 4 cups, and of course four Haggadot (ritual text).

At 6:00 PM, they waited at the fence for the electricity to be turned off in order to cross into hostile territory. Yossi held a map of the minefield they would have to cross. “It was so strange,” Yossi thought. “This is the area assigned to the tribe of Naftali, and we have to enter it crawling on our stomachs.”

At 6:15 PM, the small aperture in the gate opened and they passed through. As they had hoped, it was raining and the thick fog was to their advantage.

At that moment, 10,000 kilometers to the west, it was 11:15 AM and Yossi’s two cousins in New York were just entering the warm soothing mikva (ritual bath) to prepare for the Pesach holiday.

The 4 soldiers reached hill 432 after walking double-time for 5 kilometers. They removed the camouflage and settled in, pulling the grassy cover over them.

Each soldier was assigned a direction. Talking was forbidden. If any murderers were sighted, a light tap on the shoulder would bring them all to the proper direction. After settling in, they prayed Ma’ariv and began the Seder. It was finished within a half hour, and they were happy that the 4 cups of “wine” had no detrimental effect on their senses.

At 6:00 PM in NY, the family returned from shul to begin their Seder. At 11:00 P.M. the family was dancing around the table singing the song of hope that they will be in Yerushalayim in the following year.

It was then 6:00 A.M. in Eretz Yisrael, and the 4 soldiers were waging a heroic battle against boredom and sleep. The minutes crawled by, and at the first approach of light, they exited their outpost and returned through the minefield and electric fence to the base. After reporting to the officer in charge, the four entered their tent and collapsed on their cots without removing clothing or shoes, because in an hour they would have to join the minyan for the Shacharit service.

That night, the angels of Yossi and of his friends were draped in flowing, golden robes while sharing the heavenly Seder with the righteous of all the generations.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag kasher vesamai’ach
Nachman Kahana

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Two Netanyahus Meet Two Trumps

By Rael Jean Isaac

One of the most widely accepted misconceptions concerning the Arab-Israel conflict (a subject awash in misconceptions) is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a “hard-core right-winger.” There is nothing in his behavior as prime minister from his first years in that office (1997-99) or in his more recent period in that office, beginning in 2009, to support this belief. On the contrary, like his predecessors, he has made repeated dramatic territorial and other concessions, including acceptance of the so-called “two-state solution.”

In Jan. 1997, still in the first year of his first term, he signed the Hebron Protocol with the Palestine Authority, turning over most of Hebron, after Jerusalem the most important city in Jewish history, to the PA. Netanyahu did so little to change Labor’s disastrous post-Oslo policy that erstwhile supporter Benny Begin (Menachem’s son) derided him at a Likud Party meeting in March of that year. “Arafat releases terrorists and so does Israel. Arafat smuggles in weapons and we give him assault rifles to round off his stores… We have government offices in Jerusalem [supposedly the unified capital of Israel] and so do they.” The following year, under President Clinton’s prodding, Netanyahu signed the Wye River Memorandum in which he promised to turn over 40% of Judea and Samaria to Arafat, a safe corridor between these areas and Gaza, even an airport in Gaza. It’s true Wye was not implemented, but that’s only because (predictably) Arafat promptly reneged on his commitments under the agreement.

That same year, Netanyahu embarked on secret negotiations with Syria in which he offered to return the Golan Heights. Was Netanyahu prepared to go back to the 1967 border (which Clinton and Dennis Ross assert in their respective memoirs) or did Netanyahu, according to other reports, hold out for several kilometers beyond the international border line? Although Assad backed out, according to widespread reports in the Israeli press, in 2010 Netanyahu tried again, this time with Bashar Assad, offering to return to the June 4, 1967 lines. Fortunately, the negotiations collapsed with the onset of the rebellion against the Syrian ruler. (One shudders to think what “success” would have meant for Israel, with Hizb’allah and/or ISIS embedded on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.)

That near miss with disaster has not prevented Netanyahu from continuing to offer major concessions. In the wake of Obama’s Cairo speech, Netanyahu agreed to adopt the “two-state solution” as his government’s policy. Moreover, retired Brigadier General Michael Herzog (brother of Israeli Labor Party head Yitzhak Herzog), who has participated in almost all Israel’s peace negotiations since Oslo in 1993, writes in The American Interest that Netanyahu in the Obama years offered such large withdrawals that he could not admit their scale to the Israeli public or his coalition partners.

And contrary to the widespread perception, fostered by the media, that Netanyahu has peppered the landscape of Judea and Samaria with Jewish settlements, Israel has not built a new settlement in 25 years. The much publicized on and off settlement freezes to which Netanyahu has agreed applied to existing communities, the “freezes” meaning there was no building even to accommodate natural population growth within them.

So what accounts for Netanyahu’s reputation as an unbudging hawk? The reason is that he knows better than he acts, with the result that his rhetoric differs from his policies far more than has been the case with other Israeli leaders. Prime Minister Shimon Peres seems clearly to have believed in the mirage he concocted of a New Middle East. Prime Minister Olmert appears to have genuinely felt the emotions which in 2005 (in a speech to the Israel Policy Forum) he attributed to the people of Israel as a whole: “We are tired to fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning; we are tired of defeating our enemies.”

But Netanyahu sounds very different. He has a long history of realism about the Arab-Israel conflict. As far back as 1978, fifteen years before Oslo, Netanyahu went to what remains the heart of the matter: “The real cause of the conflict is the Arab refusal to accept the state of Israel.” In a January 28, 1985 interview with the New York Post, Netanyahu, then Israel’s UN ambassador, said of Judea and Samaria: “We’re not going to survive if we get out of that territory -- we’ll die.” In September 1993, as Oslo was being celebrated by a country dizzy with the hopes for peace Rabin and Peres had promised, Netanyahu addressed Peres in the Knesset: “You are much worse than [British Prime Minister Neville] Chamberlain, because Chamberlain threatened the security and freedom of another nation, while you are threatening the security and freedom of your own.” One could go on and on quoting from Netanyahu’s eloquent speeches, articles, books, and interviews focusing on the delusory premises and devastating consequences of the so-called “peace process.” Obama’s betrayal at the UN, orchestrating Resolution 2334 in the last days of his administration, provoked Netanyahu into a fresh burst of honesty as he declared that the PA had no intention of living beside Israel but was determined to replace it.

The fact that Netanyahu obviously comprehends and is able to articulate Israel’s situation so well -- along with his genuine success in pushing through economic reforms that have propelled Israel from socialist basket case to technological powerhouse -- have won him considerable wiggle room with those who might normally be expected to sharply criticize his policies. But even his long-time staunch defender Caroline Glick has balked at Netanyahu’s most recent failure of political courage and resolve, arguing that if you refuse to act on your knowledge of the enemy, you will lose your war against him. Glick observes that “it is deeply destructive for Israel to continue paying lip service to the fake peace process. And yet, that is precisely what Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing.” In Glick’s view the advent of Trump, well-disposed toward Israel and the first president in decades not wedded to the delusory two-state solution, offered Netanyahu an opportunity to explain why it could not succeed and an alternative approach was essential -- and he had squandered it.

If there are two Netanyahus, complicating matters further, there are also two President Trumps. In striking contrast to Obama, the first Trump, in word and deed, is strongly supportive of Israel. Early on, Trump departed from precedent in stating that he did not think Israeli settlements were a barrier to peace. In the transition period before taking the oath of office, at Netanyahu’s request, Trump sought to derail Obama’s farewell assault on Israel at the UN by persuading Egypt’s al Sisi, who had officially proposed the anti-Israel resolution, to withdraw it. (Obama promptly found other sponsors for his knife in Israel’s back Resolution 2334, so it passed anyway.) Trump promised to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and although he has not fulfilled the promise thus far, he seems to have genuinely wanted to do so. When Trump met with Netanyahu on February 15 at the White House, he suggested he would not be bound by the past sacrosanct allegiance to the two-state solution: “I’m looking at two state and one state formulations.”

Newly appointed ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley blew such a breath of fresh air into its see-no-evil-but-Israel culture that the New York Sun dubbed her Haley’s Comet. She denounced the obsession with attacking Israel and declared the U.S. would cease any participation in the UN Human Rights Council until it cleaned up its act. The Washington Free Beacon quotes a senior administration official calling the Human Rights Council “morally bankrupt” and saying “We’ve wasted enough time and money on it.”

Trump appointed two strong supporters of Israel (including the much-maligned settlements) to prominent positions, David Friedman as ambassador to Israel and Jason Greenblatt as Special Envoy for International Negotiations. Indeed, Friedman was such a strong supporter that he set off a strong effort among such anti-Israel Jewish groups as J Street to block his appointment in Congress.

However, there are worrisome signs of a second Donald Trump. On Nov. 22, 2016, not long after his election, in an interview with New York Times editors, he said “I would love to be the one who made peace with Israel and the Palestinians. That would be such a great achievement.” He proposed sending his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner to lay the groundwork. And on Feb. 15, at the White House, after the words quoted above “I’m looking at two state and one state formulations” he added “I’m very happy with the one both parties like.” All this suggests a dangerous ignorance about the nature of the Arab-Israel conflict. There is no conceivable formulation Kushner or anyone else can come up that “both sides like” because Abbas and the PA want to replace Israel, not live in peace beside it.

Trump’s willingness to live with expanded Israeli building activities in Judea and Samaria seems to be evaporating as well. He sent Greenblatt to Jerusalem to inform Netanyahu that Trump would support construction in Jerusalem but wanted a quota on new building inside major Jewish communities beyond the old Green Line and no new construction in “isolated West Bank settlements.” This would force Netanyahu to renege on his promise to build a new settlement for the evacuees of the now destroyed (thanks to a ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court) community of Amona. According to Daniel Horowitz in Conservative Review, the pressure is so strong Netanyahu has held off on his plans to fully annex Ma’ale Adumim, the largest suburb of Jerusalem.

Trump has also “balanced” his pro-Israel appointments with anti-Israel officials. He has retained Yael Lempert, regarded as one of the most radically anti-Israel individuals in the anti-Israel Obama administration, as the person responsible for Israeli-Palestinian issues on the National Security Council. He has retained Michael Ratney, former U.S. consul in Jerusalem, to head the Israeli-Palestinian desk at the State Department. Ratney, according to the Times of Israel, oversaw a program “in effect setting up an armed Palestinian militia in the consulate.” Typifying this “balanced” approach, Trump sent Lempert to accompany Greenblatt in meeting with Abbas and pressuring Israel.

It’s too early to know how the multifaceted collision between the two Netanyahus and two Trumps will turn out. But one thing is certain: no genuine peace lies at the end of the road.

The Shamrak Report: The Masochistic Nature of Israel

By Elyakim Haetzni
IDF soldiers in the Gaza Envelope refused to eat vegetables “made in Gaza” that were served to them by the army. I assume that they would have gladly accepted a proposal to replace “quiet, they are shooting us” with “quiet, they are selling us tomatoes,” but they were protesting the policy of “quiet, we are being hit with mortar shells and, in return, buying cucumbers from them.” 
The vegetable story is just one example in a pattern of behaviour bordering on a mental disorder. Take, for example, the hospital affair. We still have “the old woman in the corridor” and long queues, yet in 2015 Israeli hospitals treated more than 97,000 Arab patients from Judea and Samaria and 31,787 from the Gaza Strip, including relatives of terror leaders—like Ismail Haniyeh, for example. 
A normal country that repays its enemies that way would have demanded a diplomatic return, or at least public gratitude. That’s not how Palestinian logic works. In return, it denounces the Israelis as “the new Nazis” and their country - where Palestinian patients and Jewish citizens lie side-by-side, bed-by-bed, receiving equal, loyal and devoted treatment from Jewish and Arab doctors - as an apartheid state. Biting the hand that feeds you is evil, but how would you call those who willingly extend their hand to be bitten?
Yiftah Ron-Tal, the director of the Israel Electric Corporation, shared the following complaint about the Palestinians: “An entire public is enjoying electricity in its home without paying for it… If these were Israeli citizens, we would have cut off their power.” The Palestinian Authority owes us NIS 1 billion -the value of the free electricity it has consumed - yet it’s unclear why Ron-Tal is complaining about the Palestinian consumer and has not said a single word of criticism against his own government, which is responsible for this scandal. And the financial aspect is not the main point here, but rather the political and diplomatic insanity. 
After all, this is the same Palestinian Authority that instead of being grateful for the help and aid it receives from Israel in every area, pays salaries and pensions to terrorist murderers, spreads anti-Semitic propaganda around the world, undermines us at the United Nations and preaches jihad. This anomaly is something Ron-Tal isn’t dealing with...

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FOOD for THOUGHT by Steven Shamrak
During the two years war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, with military help and support from the Obama administration, has bombed 115 schools and hospitals in Yemen! Have you seen any resolution of condemnation adopted by the ‘Ugly Nazi’ and its so-called Human Rights organization? There is just one country they are pre-occupied with – Israel!
After UNHRC adopts 5 anti-Israel resolutions, UK vows to oppose all future such moves, London supports 2 of the votes, but slams bias and ‘selective focus’ on Israel, puts council ‘on notice’ that it had better change
For the first time in 30 years, not a single Israeli was killed by terror attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip in 2016, the head of the Shin Bet security service said Monday, noting that this was due largely to Israeli vigilance and not to a lack of desire by Palestinian terror groups. 
The Syrian SA5 missile with a warhead carrying 200 kilograms of explosives was supposed to hit the Jordan Valley. The crew that activated the Arrow 2 defense system reached the decision to intercept in less than a minute. (So far, Israel has attacked Hezbollah targets in Syria only. By firing the missile toward Israel Assad made the Syrian missile defence system a legitimate target!)
Israel Threatens to Destroy Syria's Air Defence
Israel's Defence minister has threatened to destroy Syria's air defence systems if they are used to target Israeli fighter jets again. Israeli military shot down one of several anti-aircraft rockets fired at its warplanes by Syria a week ago. 
The world football body will soon have to resolve the status of six Israeli football teams based in Judea and Samaria. The Israeli government has argued that the settlements in question were built in Area C of the occupied West Bank, where Israel has full security and administrative control under the Oslo Accords. (They should argue that land is Jewish, but is disputed at the moment. If Arabs allowed membership so should Jews. Otherwise this is another proof that the PA is planning to build an apartheid state on Jewish land without Jews!)
In what is the most expensive acquisition of an Israeli high-tech company, the US chip giant Intel purchases Israeli company Mobileye for around $15 billion, paving its entry into the autonomous driving technology market. (Israel will receive about $3B in taxes!)
Israel signed an agreement on foreign workers with China, as part of a bouquet of economic deals that were signed. The two leaders held a working meeting that both termed a “breakthrough” in bilateral relations. (Better than bringing in Arab workers - the Chinese workers don’t care about politics)
A senior government official claimed that reports circulating regarding alleged demands made by the Trump administration of Israel are false. The left-leaning Haaretz daily reported that according to an unnamed official privy that the Trump administration had called on Israel to freeze all construction in Judea and Samaria outside of the major “settlement blocs”. (Self-Hating Jewish left is using fake news to promote its Anti-Zionist agenda!)
Quote of the Week:
“For 50 years, those lands that are ours, our God-given Biblical heartland, were put under a question mark because Israel never applied sovereignty. That’s why the world started calling us ‘occupiers’. Now that we have a friendly president in the United States, when the Palestinian Authority is completely breaking down, when we are celebrating 50 years since the victory and the renewal of Jewish life in Judea and Samaria, when Europe is waking up – everything in the world is changing. Now, Prime Minister Netanyahu, is the time for you to forget about the two-state solution and do what the majority of the Jewish people want you to do: The application of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.” - Nadia Matar, Women in Green organization.
Thursday, March 16, the Trump envoy returns to Jerusalem for a summing up of his mission with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
A report reveals here the substance of the tough terms presented to Mahmoud Abbas for the US to consent to broker negotiations for a resolution of the decades-long conflict:
1. The Palestinians must return to the negotiating table without pre-conditions – an immovable sticking point until now.
2. Over and above US intervention in the peace process, the Palestinians must also accept a role for leading Arab governments - specifically, Egypt, Saudi, Arabia, Jordan and Arab oil emirates. This is a bitter pill for Abbas to swallow, since none of the four leaders can tolerate him.
On the same day as the Trump envoy’s visit to Ramallah, a conference of the Palestinian leader’s opponents took place in Paris. It was set up by Abu Mazen’s arch-foe, the exiled Fatah activist Muhammad Dahlan. Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah accused Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyran of putting up the one-million euros to pay for the event.
3. Abbas must forget about a moratorium on Jewish settlements on the West Bank – although a former Netanyahu government accepted a 10-month freeze. At most, Israel would hold back from establishing new communities in Judea and Samaria during the course of the negotiations.
4. The Trump administration will not be satisfied with verbal statements by Palestinian leaders condemning acts of terror, but insists on aggressive practical steps: Palestinian media must stop broadcasting anti-Israel materials, Palestinian school curricula must be purged of hate Israel propaganda, and the PA must give up naming streets and squares after dead terrorists, thereby treating them as martyrs to a holy cause.
5. The revolving door for captured terrorist suspects must be replaced with proper investigations. Suspects must be held and closely questioned to discover who gave them their orders, name their accomplices and reveal the source of their weapons and explosives, before going on trial.
6. The Palestinian authority must discontinue the custom of remittances to the families of terrorists who were killed or imprisoned, a practice that confers honor on their deeds.
7. Palestinian security forces must be radically overhauled, mainly to end the pervasive practice of moonlighting, whereby uniformed members hold down two jobs and draw two salaries.
8. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah must stop transferring funds to the Gaza Strip, which serve to bolster the regime of the extremist Hamas rulers. The sums transferred draw off 52 percent of the PA’s total budget.
9. The Trump administration supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  (So do I, but not on Jewish land!)

The Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation: An Existential Dilemma?

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

“This is Achashverosh – who killed his wife because of his lover... and who killed his lover because of his wife...” [Esther Rabba 1].

A Vital Moment in the Life of a Nation...

The “Israeli Public Broadcasting Law,” which was passed in 2014 and (as of now) will take effect right before Yom Haatzmaut this year, will occupy my readers during the entire week between when I write this article and when it is published. It must be admitted (with a smidgen of cynicism thrown in for good measure) that this is indeed a fateful and almost existential issue for the State of Israel. Everything that came “before” will no longer exist “afterwards.” This involves a dilemma at a level similar to the one that David Ben Gurion presented to the Provisional State Council: Should a Jewish state be established or not? Clearly, there were weighty considerations on each side of this question. And now, in our generation, once in seventy years, we are once again faced with a world-shattering dilemma , this time with respect to the IPBC – the Israel Public Broadcasting Company (also known by its Hebrew nickname, “Kan” – meaning “here”). There is no doubt in my mind that a referendum is the best way to solve this question (including gathering opinions from Diaspora Jewry). However, for many citizens of our country, even those who are most savvy, the questions to be asked in such a referendum are not obvious. Let me take this opportunity to clarify the matter.

A number of committees actively studied the behavior of the old Israel Broadcasting Authority as a result of a general lack of satisfaction because of very high costs, outdated equipment, missing or virtually crippled media outlets, refusal to give expression to all sectors of the population, inefficient management, and more. The government agreed, and this was written into a Knesset law, that the only possible alternative would be to destroy the existing edifice and to replace it with a new structure. A process was formulated that included retirement for some of the workers and rehiring some of the veteran staff in the new framework. We should note that our country has had its share of labor disputes based on economic, personal, and logistic factors (electricity, the ports, El-Al Airlines, public transportation, hospitals, national and municipal government workers, teachers, and garbage collectors, to name a few examples). In general we can say that we have managed to contain the problems, we have not yet been forced to establish a new country, and we have not yet resorted to holding a nationwide referendum. But in this case we must admit that we have moved into an entirely different realm. This involves the communications media, which is as important as the air we breathe. This is the real thing, it is exalted and no less than divine. This time, it is imperative that we make a choice: To be or not to be!

Media = Leftist

And now we come to an open secret, which is well-known to everybody in the know with any sense of feeling. The problem is the political and nationalist agenda.Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is also the Communications Minister, signed this into law in 2016. He is the one who at first supported the law with all his might but who is now rejecting it “with his other hand” while he waggles his finger, warning of new elections. This can best be described as Achshverosh-type inconsistency (see the Midrash quoted above), an example of action which has danced around before my eyes ever since Purim of this year.

Well, we can reveal a great secret now: No new law will ever have any effect in this matter! The communications media will retain its leftist stance, as part of its very definition, whether it is called a “corporation” or an “authority.” Our country has competitive channels, and they provide a broad platform for balance. The only possible alternative for “leftist media” is a nongovernmental “nationalistic media.” I do not support a third alternative of establishing “dedicated media” which will be mandated to support the current government. This is not necessarily for reasons that are ideological and based on important principles, rather I am sure that such an effort will fail – Who would listen to such uninteresting material?

The law of the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation was born out of the need to nurse national broadcasting to better health and not in order to “reeducate” it. Section 7 of the law is very clear: “The contents that will be supplied by the Israel Public Broadcast Corporation will reflect and will document the fact that the State of Israel is both Jewish and democratic, it will present the values and the heritage of Israel, and it will give a fair, equal, and balanced expression to the entire spectrum of viewpoints and opinions that are extant within the Israeli public. It will provide news... that is free from distortion and that is reliable and faithful to true facts and to the obligation of reporting to the public.” These are only some of the beautiful words of the law. None of this will happen, but what can we lose if the new body is more efficient and will save us some money?

Reject Petty Settling of a Grudge!

If in the end we will be forced to hold new elections because of this wishy-washy law, every rational person must refuse to support a Prime Minister who acts in a petty way and who is looking for revenge (“Who will be the anchor of the news broadcasts?”), and who is patently indecisive. We have heard about his obsessive addictions and his media schemes, which were recorded in secret meetings with the manager of competing media. Even if such dealings do not cross over the border into illegal dealings, they can teach us something about the value system of the man and in which “movie” he is living.

Why Do Children Start With Vayikra?

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

For many generations there has been a custom to begin a child’s learning of Chumash with Sefer Vayikra, which Chazal call Torat Kohanim. The explanation is found as far back as the midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Tzav 479): "Why do young children start with Torat Kohanim? Let them start with Bereisheet? Since the korbanot (sacrifices) are pure and the children are pure, let the pure come and deal with the pure." 

Vayikra is not a book whose purpose is just to provide practical instructions on the way to bring sacrifices. Rather, it deals, on a fundamental basis, with Bnei Yisrael as a mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh (kingdom of priests and a holy nation). There is no more appropriate time to inculcate these values into children as when they have the freshness and purity of young age. 

The bringing of korbanot is the essence of avoda (service of Hashem), which along with Torah and gemilut chasadim (acts of kindness) are the pillars that keep the world standing (Avot 1:2). The Torah represents the thought-related element of Judaism; gemilut chasadim is the active part between man and his fellow man. However, these two are insufficient without avoda, the active part of our proper connection with Hashem, which also must exist in order that the proper behavior between man and man will have its full meaning. We need to use the hand (action) and the heart (thought) in making our relationship with Hashem complete. The avoda must come from within a person, as korbanot should not be offered as some sort of external donation but as a gift from one’s essence The prophets (see Yeshaya 43:23, for one example) spoke very strongly against the phenomenon of people offering korbanot without the correct frame of mind or actions, which Hashem said He has no interest in.
On the other hand, we must reject that which some say that since the main thing is what is in a person’s heart, it is enough to serve Hashem with one’s heart. This reminds us of the gemara (Yevamot 109b) that says that whoever says that he has only Torah does not even have Torah. The heart does not have real value if it is in a manner that is disconnected from action.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said that the pasuk, "This is the Torah of the olah sacrifice" refers to the atonement for the thoughts to sin (Vayikra Rabba 7:3). This is because the heart itself needs protection. Therefore, actions are needed to protect the heart from going into morally dangerous thoughts. On one hand, the korbanot are given as if from our very essence, by means of the thought process. In practice, though, they are brought from the cattle and the flock of sheep.

This matter of avoda has to be learned well and from an expert teacher. That is why Moshe, who thought he had finished his leadership role after the Exodus and the giving of the Torah, was told that he had a greater role still ahead of him: to teach Israel the laws of purity and of korbanot (Tanchuma, Vayikra 4).

Listening To God

By Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

With the beginning of the reading of the book of Vayikra this Shabat in the synagogue services the title of the book itself calls out to us for understanding what is meant when the Torah tells us that God called out to Moshe. Moshe experiences a special and unique method of Godly revelation. The Torah itself testifies to this by describing that God so to speak talks to Moshe 'face to face.' The prophets of Israel received Godly communuication while in a dreamlike trance state. But the thrust of Jewish tradition is that even though there is no longer any type of Godly prophecy present in our world and society God still communicates with humans. But He does so in very subtle means, in reflections of human behavior and world events themselves. Free will allows humans to behave as they will, yet there is visible to those who wish to see it a guiding heavenly hand in world affairs. A few decades ago two scientists won a Nobel Prize for being able to hear yet the echo of the sounds of the original birth of the universe at the moment of its creation. We all know that human hearing is possible only within a limited range of hearing wave frequencies. Judaism preaches that good deeds and moral behavior, Torah observance and loyalty to traditional Jewish values help attune and expand our hearing ability to now listen to heavenly sound frequencies which were originally blocked to us. And that is the auxiliary message of Vayikra - that God called out to Moshe and Moshe's hearing is so perfectly attuned to heavenly communication he is always 'face to face' with his Creator. That is the true indication of the greatness of Moshe, it is what makes him the most unique of all the world's prophets, teachers and leaders.

The word Vayikra as written in the Torah contains a miniature letter 'aleph.' This indicates to us that God's message to us is subtle, quiet, easy to ignore temporarily but nevertheless persistent and ongoing. As the Lord told the prophet Elijah 'I do not appear in the great wind or in earthquakes or other terrifying natural phenomena but rather in a small, still voice.' Listening to a still, small voice requires good hearing acumen and intense concentration. Casual hearing will never do it anymore. Therefore in our times the small 'alef' requires us to really listen and pay attention to what transpires in our personal and national lives. Oftentimes we, like the prophet Yonah, attempt to flee from the still small voice that continually echoes within us. But it remains persistently within us and it patiently awaits our ability to improve our hearing to the extent that it truly is listened to in our everyday lives.The Bible teaches us that Shimshon began his career as the savior and Judge of Israel when he was able to hear the spirit of the Lord beating within his heart and person. In our busy and noisy lives, with so much incessant sound exploding all around us constantly, we really have little time or ability to listen to our true selves that are always speaking to us. That inner voice of ourselves is the medium that Judaism teaches us that the Lord uses to speak to us, to call out for our attention and to give us moral guidance and courageous guidance. But it can only be of value to us if we listen to that inner voice and that requires concentration, thought and committment.

A great sage once remarked that when a Jew prays to God he or she is talking to God. But when a Jew studies Torah than God so to speak is talking to him or her. That is one of the reasons that Judaism places such a great emphasis on Torah study. As the Talmud puts it: 'The study of Torah outweighs all other commandments.' It is the proven method for the attuning of the spiritual frequencies of our hearing to enable the sound of our Creator that beats within us to be heard by us. We should make every effort to improve our hearing and enable ourselves to listen to our Creator who constantly calls out to us.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Of Nerve and Nerves

The overwrought and hyperbolic response of some American Jewish organizations to the series of threats against JCC’s across the country should now be met with apologies of similar passion. The repeated accusations of misconduct and outright Jew hatred leveled against the Trump Administration should now be withdrawn and must engender forthright and unrestrained contrition. For all the talk about dog whistles, faint signals, hints, alt-right, alt-white supremacists and neo-Nazi nationalists lurking outside the Oval Office, well, it turns out that, no, it wasn’t Steve Bannon, after all, calling in bomb threats to Jewish institutions. Imagine that. Who would have thought??

The news that an Israeli-American Jew, probably a tad off, has been arrested in Israel for orchestrating dozens of phony bomb threats to US centers should put American Jews at ease. But of course it won’t, because the narrative of “rampant Jew hatred fomented by the right-wing government” is too precious to abandon. So far, two people have been arrested for this “anti-Semitic” wave: a black supremacist, anti-Trump journalist with ties to left-wing organizations and an Israeli-American Jew. Only in America!

Come on: will the white supremacist, Trump-supporting, flag-waving American from the boondocks of Kentucky who hired both of them please identify yourself and surrender to the authorities? The concern here is that until the narrative is satisfied, Jews of a certain temperament and political persuasion will not move on. But they should, as should we all, and try to recover some semblance of normal political discourse. Like the resident of Chelm who kept looking for the lost object under the street light “because it’s brighter there,” there are Jews who are obsessed with finding Jew haters in America, the Trump administration, the government and everywhere but where they can really be found.

It should have been noted that we are not living in an age of terrorist threats but of terror, period. Today’s terrorists do not warn their victims. Hoaxes, rare as they are, serve to win attention, disrupt lives and upset the daily course of business. The professional terrorist does not warn because the possibility of detection is almost guaranteed and his real aim – terror and mayhem – will thereby be thwarted. Those who warn are usually psychotics who do not mean to cause any real harm but only seek their moment of infamy when they are caught. That is the pattern notwithstanding that it remains prudent and appropriate to investigate every claim and threat. Fortunately, they were investigated and resolved, albeit not in the way that will calm the nerves or serve the interests of Jewish Trump-haters.

What was imprudent and inappropriate, which is not to say unsurprising, was the avalanche of condemnation of the Trump administration, blaming it for the attacks either directly or indirectly, and accusing it of fomenting Jew hatred, being dismissive of Jew hatred, and then labeling Trump’s denunciation of Jew hatred “insufficient,” “too late,” and indicting him for leading an administration that is “infected by the cancer of anti-Semitism.” When Trump suggested, in his inarticulate way, that the threats might be “the reverse,” he was castigated again, and not for the lack of clarity. But he was right, and maybe that’s what he meant. The media and the Jewish establishment primed the pump for an angry, bitter, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, unemployed white man. That was woefully wrong; it was the “reverse.”

Now it turns out that these threats were not at all related to Jew hatred but the product of one sick mind who was trying to win back his Jewish ex-girlfriend and another – a Jew – of equal derangement but unknown causality. In other words, the “reverse” of what people expected. Can we now expect apologies from the Jewish organizations that were so quick to condemn? We should insist on it.

There is something ennobling about accepting responsibility for error. It is mature, cathartic and humbling. It adds credibility when real problems arise. Jewish organizations that cry “anti-Semitism!” too frequently forfeit whatever credibility they still have. America is a country remarkably free of Jew hatred and Jewish life here has been blessed. That is not to say it will always remain so – the exile is the exile – but to pretend it is a cauldron of Jew hatred is false and offensive. Forget the “statistics” and walk the streets, breathe the air, shop in its malls and meet its people. Stop looking under the streetlight. Repetitive, false accusations of Jew hatred against innocent people with whom one has a legitimate political disagreement will eventually foment Jew hatred. To accuse government officials of Jew hatred because of political disagreements is repugnant. It must stop. The promiscuous use of the “anti-Semitism” charge is a sign of weakness, not strength, and whatever potency it had at one time has already been diluted because of the flippancy of its flingers.

Let’s be clear. Are there non-Jews who might not like some Jews? Sure. Even more clear: are there Jews who don’t like some other Jews? Sadly, yes. Neither is “Jew hatred,” the irrational passion that has infested too much of mankind since Sinai. Let us then make sure that those accused of Jew hatred have real animus against Jews. That requires left-wing Jews to reconcile themselves to the reality of President Trump and disagree with him civilly. Without animus. Without unfounded accusations. And without conflating immigration or health-coverage policy disagreements with Jew hatred.

The Coalition for Jewish Values (where I serve as Senior Rabbinic Fellow) earlier this week – even before the arrest in Israel - condemned the specious accusations of Jew hatred being lodged against good Americans. We must realize that politics comes and goes but the Torah’s values are eternal. All Jews need to return to the values of Torah – of respect for others, of a commitment to justice and self-preservation, of the dignity of all people and of a relentless fight against evil.

It is unseemly, disgraceful, immoral and counter-productive to hurl unfounded charges of Jew hatred, and that applies to both liberals and conservatives. Worse, too many Jews have developed the tendency to deny obvious Jew hatred in front of their eyes because the sources of that Jew hatred are favored or fearful groups, or political allies, and, instead, falsely attribute Jew hatred to their political foes in an attempt to score points and diminish their influence. Jews should really stop doing that – both because it is simply wrong and because it is completely ineffective and self-defeating.

A good start would be if all the Jewish organizations that lambasted the Trump administration, whose statements, in the end, did not matter one whit in terms of these particular crimes, would just apologize for overreacting and pledge to be more responsible in the future. If for nothing else, when and if a real white-supremacist Jew hater ever emerges again r”l, their claims will be taken more seriously.

And Jews all over should just calm down and prepare for Shabbat and Pesach.

Video: Is the Palestinian issue a core cause of Mideast turbulence?

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Entire online seminar:

1. Irrespective of - and unrelated to - the Palestinian issue, the Middle East is boiling, firing the 14-century-old Sunni-Shia intra-Muslim confrontation, exacerbating intra-Arab violence in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and threatening to explode in every Arab country. The Arab Tsunami, which has erupted independent of the Palestinian issue, has been leveraged by Iran's Ayatollahs, in order to advance their supremacist, megalomaniacal goal of dominating the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and beyond, notwithstanding the Palestinian issue, which has never played a substantial role in shaping the stormy intra-Arab and intra-Muslim relations and the Middle East agenda.

2. Contrary to Western preoccupation with the Palestinian issue, the Middle Eastern agenda dramatically transcends the Palestinian issue, which is neither the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, nor a crown-jewel of Arab policy-making and nor a core cause of the 1,400-year-old turbulence, violent intolerance, instability, unpredictability, subversion and terrorism in the Middle East. The Palestinian issue is completely irrelevant to the tectonic Arab Tsunami, which has engulfed the Middle East from the Persian Gulf to Northwestern Africa.

3. The intensifying Arab Tsunami, which erupted in 2010, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands people, the dislocation of millions, and threatens to topple every sitting Arab regime, has exposed the myth of the supposed centrality of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in general, and the Palestinian issue, in particular. None of the recent – as well as past – domestic and regional upheavals in the Middle East has been directly, or indirectly, related to the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Palestinian issue. Contrary to conventional “wisdom,” the Palestinian issue has always been a side – and not a main – dish on the tectonic Middle East menu, which has been dominated by intra-Muslim and intra-Arab explosive ingredients.

4. No Arab country has ever considered the Palestinian issue a top priority, warranting shedding blood, sweat or tears. Arab policy-makers have always talked the talk on behalf the Palestinian issue - in order to divert attention away from critical domestic and regional failures – but have never walked the walk, financially or militarily. They adhere to the Arab saying: “On words one does not pay custom.”

5. The top priority for Arab leaders, personally and nationally, is homeland security and countering-terrorism, in the face of intensifying, clear and present domestic and regional lethal threats. Therefore, they are preoccupied with the Muslim Brotherhood - the largest transnational Islamic terror organization – and additional Islamic terror organizations. The Muslim Brotherhood – not the Palestinian issue - has plagued Egypt since 1928. The Muslim Brotherhood, and its ideology, nurtured the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS and other Islamic terror organizations.

6. Therefore, President Al-Sisi has followed in the footsteps of President Sadat, who resisted President Carter’s pressure to place the Palestinian issue at the center of the 1977-79 Israel-Egypt peace process. Sadat was concerned about the destabilizing impact of a Palestinian entity, as evidenced by the subversive track record of Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt (1950s), Syria (1966), Jordan (1970), Lebanon (1970-1983) and, worst of all, in Kuwait (1990).

7. Moreover, in 2016, President Al-Sisi – just like all pro-US Arab leaders in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States – expands intelligence, counter-terrorism and overall geo-strategic cooperation, operationally and technologically with Israel, a global role-model of counter-terrorism, in defiance of Palestinian opposition. They believe that when smothered by the lethal sandstorms of Islamic terrorism and Iran, one must leverage the mutually-beneficial ties with Israel, rather than be preoccupied with the Palestinian tumbleweed.

8. Iran's policy of megalomaniacal supremacy, terrorism, subversion and hate-education, and its determination to become a nuclear power, are driven by the 2,000-year-old ambition to dominate the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Middle East and beyond, and not by the Palestinian issue.

9. The disintegration of the Arab Middle East, especially Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, is a derivative of the endemic, tribal, religious, ethnic, geographic and ideological intra-Muslim fragmentation, not the Palestinian issue.

10. The next video will connect the Middle East dots.

The Soul

By Rav Uri Cherki
Rav, Machon Meir
Rav, Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem

Just what is the soul of man? There have been many attempts to define it. There are some who try to constrict it into the tiny realm of biomolecules, what is called the “animal soul,” so that when a person dies his soul also disappears. Some even view it as an illusion, leading to the conclusion that man has no soul even while he is alive. As opposed to these approaches, the religious masters insist that the soul is eternal, and that it is a spark of the Divine which can never be destroyed.

This primal question was debated by the disciples of Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias and Themostius. The first one felt that the soul of man is basically identical with the animal soul but that it has a potential, a “readiness,” to become eternal by the study of philosophy if it has merit. The second one felt that the soul is eternal from the beginning but that it has to enhance its perfection. These two approaches were adopted by the Rambam and the Ramban, respectively. Rav Kook put forward an innovative approach, that this describes the difference between the souls of Yisrael and those of the other nations (Olat Re’Iyah volume 2, page 256).

If we look at this matter without any prior opinions, we cannot ignore the fact that there is in mankind a constant tension between two types of identity. On one hand, I am pulled to my natural animal outlook, which is called “dust of the earth” and a “serpent” in the Torah. On the other hand, I encounter within me a personality, a “me” which cannot be reduced to a biological machine, and it constantly thirsts for the metaphysical and for moral values. This can be called “the living soul” or “a part of G-d above.” The encounter between these two elements creates the actual man: “a living soul.”

This leads almost automatically to the division in the levels of the soul that was described by the masters of Kabbalah: Nefesh (soul), Ruach (air), and Neshamah (spirit), which are described by the sages (Bereishit Rabba 14). The nefesh, which is combined with the body (see the Zohar: “body and soul are one”), is identical to the revealed “me,” and it accompanies man from the first moment of his own awareness. The neshamah represents the most noble and ideal dimension of mankind, and it is buried deep within his identity. The ruach represents the changing relationship between the nefesh and the neshamah. This is the least stable element of mankind, where the labors of his life take place. A parallel can be drawn between the triplet nefesh-ruach-neshama and the times: past, present, and future. The nefesh is involved in the past and the neshama is related to the ideal of the future, while the ruach is the present in which man operates.

Who, then, is the man about whom we discuss the nefesh, the ruach, and the neshamah? We cannot allow ourselves to view mankind as nothing more than an assembly of separate parts. We must assume that man has a self-consciousness which precedes these three characteristics. This is what is called: “chayah” – an “animal.” It represents the general life, which is the essence of mankind.

Every soul (neshamah) is an expression of the Divine will and serves as part of the general plan of G-d. We can thus say that every soul is related in some way to infinity – and this is called “yechidah” – a unique unit.