Friday, August 30, 2019

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: The Day of Firsts – part II

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:57)

Gemara: [The first day of the month of Nisan of the second year in the desert] took ten crowns for itself, as the first in these regards: 1. to the days of creation (i.e., Sunday); 2. for the tribal princes (who brought special sacrifices for the inauguration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) starting that day); 3. for the functioning of the kohanim; 4. for the service [in the Mishkan]; 5. for fire coming down [from the heaven]; 6. for eating the meat of sacrifices [in a specific place]; 7. for the dwelling of the Divine Presence; 8. to bless Israel [via the kohanim]; 9. for the prohibition to sacrifice anywhere but in the Mishkan; 10. for the months [of the Jewish year].

Ein Ayah: Israel, as the essence of mankind and of creation, is “collected” to be centered in such a way that it elevates everything. When it appears [on the “stage of history”] in its most complete form, there is a gathering together of light that includes all that is special. This includes the areas of the personal, the societal, the historical and the cosmic.

[We saw last time Rav Kook’s analysis of the first five matters that were special on that unique day. We continue now with the latter five.]

6. Hashem, Who called the world into existence, continually encourages His eternal nation to fill the world with signs of the purpose behind creation. In this world, everything can be used for sanctity, and thus there is flesh that is to be eaten as part of a wonderful service in sanctity, as was first done on that day.

7. Hashem’s presence in the world can be felt both with internal and external senses, in every twist and turn of life, whether in the internal or external world. Hashem is connected to the world with all of His glory, whether through actions that occur or through thoughts and spiritual presence. His providence brings about matters and His spirit sends forth its “branches” throughout every part of the universe. On this day, the Divine Presence, in its more glowing form, began to appear in a qualitatively new form.

8. Hashem is the power of life, the source of all success, the wellspring of all blessing, and the blessing of all of the worlds. He provides the blessing to the spirit of every special individual, and the blessing of a nation to the various generations of a nation, allowing it to be maintained according to its national goals and character. All of this is contingent upon and enmeshed in the divine life source. This day was a first in the blessing of Israel.

9. The special way that Israel, as a united nation that is collectively connected to the light of Hashem and carries out its actions in an exact way according to the word of Hashem, causes there to be centrality in its service of Hashem. The guarding against the explosion of the powers and having conceptions stray from those actions that are uniquely sanctified is accomplished with the help of such laws as forbidding sacrifice anywhere but in the Mishkan, which started on this day.

10. The centrality that unites the soul of the nation is the thing that enables the nation to make its imprint on time and enable it to sanctify time. They can create a month that has the divine light that Hashem shined on Bnei Yisrael in Egypt, which enabled them to be what they became among the nations. This ability was expanded to all of time and made the month of the Exodus “the head of the months for you” (Shemot 12:2). Each month received its character, being connected to sowing or harvesting, heat or frost, just like the first month received its character as the one in which Hashem revealed himself to His servants.

Jordan is Palestine

(Speech delivered at Israpundit’s conference in Jerusalem, October 17, 2017)

The history of the fall out from the Balfour Declaration through to our time that has witnessed the barbarity of al Qaeda and the Islamic State is pretty well known and there is no need for me to repeat it. I want to make three points as they relate to the theme of this conference. I preface these points by the following observation that we all know, but we need reminding especially when it comes to Arabs and Muslims.

In the summer of 1914 the Ottoman Empire, greatly reduced from what it once was at its peak and ailing as were the other European empires, in particular the Austro-Hungarian and the Czarist Russian empires, was still a token ally of Britain and France as it had been through much of the nineteenth century. The fateful decision of the Ottoman Turks to join forces with Germany and Austro-Hungary, precipitated by the Churchill “folly” of sequestering two Turkish naval vessels in English shipyards, brought about a chain of events that were unforeseen.

If the Ottoman Turks had remained neutral, the history of the past century as it bears upon the Middle East would have been significantly different. So we need to keep in mind the “march of folly,” as in Barbara Tuchman’s apt phrase, is of our making, and in this case of the Ottoman Turks, Muslims and Arabs; and their continued failure or refusal to recognize their “folly” or worse in the making of their contemporary history has meant their continued self-mutilation from which there is no reprieve for them until unless they acknowledge their responsibility and accept its consequences. This is what their sacred book, the Qur’an, admonishes them: “God changes not the condition of a people unless they change what is in their hearts.”

My first point is a corollary of my introductory remarks. Arabs for the past hundred years have constructed a fake history of “betrayal” and “occupation” resulting from the fall-out of World War I, and have lived a life of denial.

Wars have consequences, and both victories and defeats come with a price. The defeat of the Ottoman Turks brought about the making of the modern Middle East by the victorious powers, Britain and France, gifting Arabs with states of their own, or to become “tribes with flags” in the words of the Egyptian diplomat Tahseen Bashir. In the rectangular area bounded by the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates there emerged 11 Arab states and statelets, and one Jewish state of Israel. The promise in the Balfour Declaration of a Jewish homeland established by diplomacy and under international law took time to be implemented, though not entirely nor even substantively as promised. This British promise of a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine was hemmed by the promises and commitments to Arabs, even though Arabs were not the only people in the region ruled by the Ottoman Turks.

Empires are patchwork of military power, political intrigues, promises, bluffs, and trade-offs. The British were no different in their machinations as rulers of an empire than were the Ottoman Turks, or any people who have administered empires. In 1921 necessity and convenience required on the part of Britain, directed by the Colonial Office under Churchill, to divide the Palestine Mandate and in the land east of the River Jordan constituting nearly four-fifth of Palestine fabricate the Emirate of Transjordan as a gift for the Hashemite pretender Abdullah, son of Sharif Husayn of Mecca. Arabs remaining in the land west of River Jordan were not satisfied that an Arab state out of Palestine Mandate was created, and they continued to agitate and riot to deny that Britain fulfil what remained of her promise to Jews. In 1937, as Arab riots against Jews intensified, Britain offered yet again through the Peel Commission further concession to appease the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin el-Husseini, and his mob of rioters by agreeing to partition Palestine a second time into two states, Arab and Jewish, only to have her offer repudiated by Arabs. Ten years later in November 1947 following another world war and the Holocaust, the Peel Commission’s offer was repackaged as the UN plan for two states, and once again Arabs refused to accept a Jewish state in their midst.

In the meantime Jews, despite formidable obstacles went forward in the making of Israel. The war of 1967 resulted in Israel’s taking control of all of the area west of the River Jordan and in uniting the divided city of Jerusalem, an area that is barely one-half of one per cent of the total rectangular area distributed among 11 Arab states as gifts or rewards of Britain and France. In other words, Arab authorities presently rule more than ninety-nine per cent of the rectangular area once part of the Ottoman Empire. In the context of this indisputable record of the past century, the Arab and Muslim narrative of “occupation” as propagated by Palestinian Arabs and their supporters is an absurdity, and it is compounded by the absurdity that major powers in contemporary politics since the end of World War II have more or less adopted this fake narrative to appease Arab and Muslim opinion at the UN.

My second point is this fake narrative of “occupation” has been turned into an all-purpose excuse by Arabs, and especially Palestinian Arabs who reside within Israel, for not taking any responsibility of their continued state of self-generated political and social disrepair despite the amount of international assistance provided to them. Indeed, this fake narrative of “occupation” enables the Palestinian-Arab leaders to live without accountability to anyone, a lucrative lifestyle that is provided for them by the international community. The flip side of the “occupation” narrative is denial of Jews and their rights, and this denial has rested on deriving fake legitimacy from a grossly perverted reading of Islam’s sacred text, the Qur’an. I leave aside here references made to the hadithliterature, since much of it is fabrication. The result of denying Jews their rights based on perverting the Qur’an meant spreading Arab-Palestinian Jew-hatred across the Muslim world, while providing European anti-Semites with cover under which to keep simmering the oldest bigotry, on the excuse of supporting Palestinian-Arabs under so-called Israeli “occupation.”

There can be no future of peace with justice for Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims in general, when they deny the rights of others, that of Jews in the holy land. In embracing nationalism as the basis of gaining independence from European colonial rule, it was incumbent on Muslims to recognize national rights of others among them, especially people of minority faith—for instance, of Jews in the case of their rights in historic Palestine—and through mutual recognition work together for just settlement where contending nationalisms collided.

The pitfall the Mufti of Jerusalem and his people dug for Arabs and Muslims in denying the historic rights of Jews in Palestine was the extent to which they perverted Islam and violated the Qur’an, which bears witness to those rights. The wrong so done will continue to haunt them unless it is set right in accordance with the revelation of the Qur’an that Arabs and Muslims take as a matter of belief to be the Word of God. The Qur’an, as the scripture revealed to Muhammad, narrates the history of Jews to pagan Arabs for their edification. And there are several references in the Qur’an that speaks of Jews as guided, or directed, to reside in land described as holy, as in the following verse:

And when Moses said to his people,

‘O my people, remember God’s blessing

upon you, when He appointed among you

Prophets, and appointed you kings, and gave you

Such as He had not given to any being.

O my people, enter the Holy Land

which God has prescribed for you, and turn not

back in your traces, to turn about losers’ (v. 5:20).

“Jordan is Palestine” repudiates both the fake narrative of “occupation” and the denial of the rights of Jews in historic Palestine, or Judea and Samaria. “Jordan is Palestine” affirms what is the historical record and, consequently, will assist in emancipating Arabs, and then Muslims, to reconcile with Jews honourably, justly and in accordance with the respect with which Jews are addressed in the Qur’an as ahl al-kitab or “people of the Book.”

Finally, my third point, “Jordan is Palestine” is the “elephant in the room” in the Middle East and in world politics, the denial of which by Arabs in the first place, and those in the UN who have gone along in accepting this Arab denial, has been the primary source of the Arab-Israeli and Muslim-Jewish conflicts in the region and beyond.

There is a very simple precedent in contemporary history on how to correct the wrong of such denial of the “elephant in the room” and the terrible consequences that invariably follow as a result. I am referring here to the example of the United States in denial of the Chinese revolution culminating in 1949 and the subsequent non-recognition of the reality of Communist China by Americans in world politics. This politics of denial in Washington led to the American involvement in the Korean War; it is an involvement that still continues with the Korean peninsula divided, while the price of such involvement now haunts the region with escalating nuclear threats. It also led to the American involvement in the Vietnam War and the cost of that war for all directly or indirectly involved over a lengthy period. Historians will debate these issues for a long time to come, but what is not to be disputed is the misguided denial by American political leaders of both parties that could have been avoided. Eventually, President Nixon came to terms with mainland China and travelled to Beijing in 1972 to extend belated diplomatic recognition to Mao’s China. In Tuchman’s phrase the “march of folly” was ended, the page on a tragic history for Americans and others was turned, and the obvious question tormenting all who were affected by this denial that haunts them is, could it not have been avoided in the first place? The answer is, “of course”. But again, history reminds us over and over again that we refuse to learn from our past until we are forced to acknowledge simple truths by discarding our hubris.

A hundred years after the Balfour Declaration, ninety-six years after Palestine east of the River Jordan was turned into an Arab state or kingdom of Jordan, eighty years after the Peel Commission, seventy years after the UN partition plan, it is long past the time to acknowledge the “elephant in the room” that “Jordan is Palestine.” The lesson of the United States misguided denial of China and its subsequent correction by President Nixon is a precedent that bears great relevance for the situation in historic Palestine, and President Trump can take a Nixon-like stride to do what is right in bringing the curtains down on a fake history with its attendant conflicts that has caused so much grief in this part of the world.

It is to the immense credit of Mudar Zahran, as a Palestinian-Jordanian leader, to announce to the world on behalf of his people that an Arab state in historic Palestine exists, that the Jewish state in Palestine was rightfully established under international law and in accordance with Jewish rights as expressed in Islam’s sacred text, the holy Qur’an, and that any further territorial claims on Jews and Israel by Arabs, Palestinians, and Muslims are unjust and indefensible. Jordan is Palestine, Israel is ancient Judea and Samaria re-born, Jerusalem is holy and deservingly the capital of the only Jewish state consistent with the historical record, and Arabs and Jews are people of two-degrees of separation as progenies of Ishmael and Isaac born to Abraham. Peace and justice is only a breath away if those who worship the God of Abraham have the courage to embrace and recognize each other for who they are.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Smiling in the Face of Adversity

by Rav Binny Freedman
It was them against us; that much was clear. The only question was who would break first. I can’t even remember exactly what it was we were supposed to have done, and what it was that had so enraged them, but our sergeants were on the war path, and it was clearly going to be a long afternoon…

They called it a ‘misdar amerikai’ (American inspection), and none of us knew the origin of the term, but its meaning was clear enough. This had all started out as just another inspection. Six months into our army service, having completed basic infantry training followed by tank school we were now on maneuvers out in ‘the field’ where we were meant to learn how to assimilate all we had learned and begin to function as effective tank crews in battle-worthy battalions.

It was Friday afternoon, and after a week of intense maneuvers with very little sleep, followed by the weekly servicing of our tanks all night long (referred to in the army as ‘white night’ every Thursday night in the armored corps…) we were exhausted.

Our tanks had passed inspection, finally, and, full of oil and grease, and having gone without any sleep since early Thursday morning, and without a shower since Saturday night, all that stood between us and Shabbat was one last inspection of our barracks.

Blankets drawn tight across beds, boots polished to a black shine, gear stowed regulation style beneath the foot of the bed, guns cleaned and oiled, and floors mopped shiny clean we could practically taste the showers and Shabbat food that awaited…. (Though stuck in the army, no maneuvers are allowed on Shabbat in the Israeli army….)

And then something went dreadfully wrong and amidst screaming sergeants, flying blankets, and beds tipped over, we were given seven minutes to re-do the entire inspection… outside on the base perimeter in front of the tanks!

It is hard to imagine, much less describe a company full of tank crew men carrying bunk-beds full of gear all the way out to the area in front of the tanks and trying to re-make the beds and stow the gear all while making sure the guns stayed clean…. And then they started screaming at us all over again… we had forgotten our boot lockers….

And finally, as the sun dipped lower on the horizon, realizing most of us would not get the chance to use the phones to call home (at the time I was with a Hesder unit: Yeshiva students who did their army service together, all of whom would not dream of using the phone lines once Shabbat came in…) and getting more and more depressed, that last final demand: “thirty seconds around the tanks: MOVE!!”

We were expected to run around the line of tanks and get back in line within thirty seconds, a hopeless task. And then we were made to run with our beds, and then with our boot lockers… all the while watching the sun dip lower and lower….

I don’t know how it began, though I am pretty sure it was Roni Redman (he of the quick wit, with a funny one-liner always handy to cut us all up, who put up a sign in our tent at one particularly difficult point in training: “kach et ha’basa’ be’sababa’” loosely translated as: ‘Take the tough knocks with a smile…’), but someone started to laugh.

We were behind the tanks so the commanders couldn’t see us, and pretty soon the entire company was in hysterics. We did our best to put a straight, agonized face back on once clearing the tanks and coming back into view of our commanders, but they could see most of us were smiling, which of course only infuriated them more….

With time on our side (they had to end all this before Shabbat) we all came to the same realization that our enjoyment was also our victory; we would not break. Of course, in retrospect that may well have been the point of the entire exercise, (to mold us as a unit), but at the time, the pure joy of recognizing we had nothing more to lose, and we might as well laugh about it as cry, was a powerful experience that stays with me still.

But as much as I still smile, recalling that experience, it nonetheless leaves one with a compelling question: how do some people succeed in smiling in the face of adversity?

Rav Nachman of Breslev is quoted as having said:

“Mitzvah gedolah le’hiyot besimcha tamid”
“It is a great mitzvah to always be happy”

Sounds nice; but seems to be beyond most of our reach, no? How do we (can we / should we?) keep a smile on our faces even when the most horrific things sometimes come our way?

This week’s portion, Re’eh (literally: ‘See!’) is all about learning to see the world through different eyes. This may explain why the particular mitzvah of being joyous on the festivals, occurs in this portion.

Specifically, on the festival of Sukkot, the third of the regalim(biblical festivals wherein every Jew was meant to come up to the temple in Jerusalem to rejoice in the midst of the entire Jewish people) we are commanded:

“Ve’hayita’ ach sameach”
“And you shall be completely joyous” (Devarim 16:15)

We have discussed previously the nature of this joy and the idea that joy is all about purpose, but our question here is not defining joy (simcha), but rather how one achieves it?

How does a person develop the skill-set necessary to being a happy person? And can one (how can one) maintain such joy in the face of the inevitable adversities life always seems to throw our way? Indeed, what is it that prevents some people from being happy, whilst others seem to have happiness ingrained almost into their body chemistry?

Take for example, the story of Aaron, (Moshe’s brother,) who, as part of an enslaved people in Egypt, caught in the depths of the most evil and cruel empire the world had ever known whom we might have expected to be quite miserable. Yet, he is the only individual in the entire Torah who is described as being happy! No less than G-d Himself tells Moshe that Aaron will, upon seeing Moshe (just arrived back in Egypt after forty years), “rejoice in his heart”! (Shemot(Exodus) 4:14).

In the midst of all that pain and suffering, after being enslaved as a people for over two centuries, Aaron succeeds in focusing on the positive and is able to rejoice in his heart at his brother’s return. What is the secret to being happy? How does Aaron do it?

On the other hand, take a close look at the story of Haman, who seems to represent the opposite extreme in the spectrum.

Haman, chief advisor to the king (Achashveirosh) of the entire Persian Empire, Haman is essentially the second most powerful person in the entire world. He is happily married (albeit to a wicked woman), with no less than ten sons who seem to idolize him and want only to follow in his footsteps, and every subject of the Persian empire who crosses his path must bow down to him. And yet:

“Ve’kol zeh einenu shaveh li”
“All this is worthless to me”(Esther 5:13)

Simply because there is one Jew (Mordechai) who will not bow down to him! And this, after the Jewish people have already been sentenced to death as a people, such that the issue with Mordechai is soon to be solved regardless! And yet, Haman is miserable; he cannot see all the good he has because he is so focused on what he doesn’t have….

Herein, perhaps, lies the key to happiness: Haman cannot focus on all that he has because he is stuck on what he does not have.

What prevents a person from rejoicing in life? Only the feeling that he or she is missingsomething.

Indeed, being happy is not really about how much we actually have, it is rather about appreciatinghow much we have. It is only through appreciation that we really have things at all….

In the end, poverty is really a state of mind: you are poor if you think you are.

And it gets deeper, because if happiness is all about purpose (hence people who feel they have no purpose are depressed, whether they be financially well of or not, and people who are imbued with a sense of purpose have much joy in their lives…), there is no true purpose unless we are created. If we are a random accident in a G-dless world, then of course there is no real purpose to our being here in the first place, which of course is very depressing….

But if we are created, and obviously G-d has a reason for creating all of us, so we all have purpose, then by definition I must have what I need, always! Whatever I have, and whatever skills I was born with are, by definition, all I need to accomplish whatever my purpose is in this world. And being happy is simply based on my ability to see that, all the time.

Even in the midst of the servitude of Egypt, as soon as Aaron sees Moshe, he knows Moshe is coming into his life again because somehow, he needs Moshe to help him achieve his purpose. Otherwise, why would G-d have sent Moshe to him after all these years? And of course, if I need Moshe in my life to achieve my purpose in this world, then it is only natural that seeing Moshe again after forty years will fill me (or in this case Aaron…) with joy.

This is really secret of life itself. Sukkot, the festival on which we are commanded to rejoice, is the third of the three festivals, and, after the magnitude of the Rosh Hashanahand Yom Kippur experience, seems al most an afterthought; a vacation of sorts after the long hard work of Rosh Hashanahand Yom Kippur.

But Sukkotis actually the goal, hence it is known as the festival of the harvest. All the other festivals ultimately lead to Sukkot, economically as well as theologically.

Happiness is actually the goal because the reason we are here in the first place is to become vehicles for bringing G-d into the world (a.k.a. Kedusha or holiness…). And we succeed in doing that by tapping into what we each feel our purpose is meant to be, which of course is what joy is all about…

Incidentally there is another character flaw which seems to lie at the root of unhappiness: and that is pride.

Haman when asked by the king (Achashveirosh) how to pay homage to a person the king wants to honor, immediately assumes the king is speaking of none other than Haman himself. ( Esther 6:6: “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?!” )

As opposed to Moshe who, upon being told by no less than G-d that he must go to speak with Pharaoh, says ‘Mi anochi ki eileich el Pharaoh?” (Shemot (Exodus) 3:11)

For Haman it is all about Haman, but for Moshe, it’s all about G-d and the Jewish people. Moshe sees himself as a tool in something much greater, whilst Haman considers himself the goal of all that he does. And a person like that always feels he is missing something….

Too much pride will make you miserable. Because what is pride all about? Pride suggests that its all about me, but true joy is about recognizing I am just a vehicle to a greater and higher purpose…. (Hence a prophet can only prophesy in a state of joy….)

Several years ago at a memorial evening for my cousin Benji (H”YD, killed in action in Lebanon just a few short weeks after he married his High School sweetheart), his father said something I have not been able to let go of.

The custom at a child’s bris (circumcision) is to say:
“Ke’shem shenichnas labrit, ken yi’kanes le’Torah, le’Chuppah u’le’maasim tovim.”
“ Just as he enters the covenant (of circumcision) so may he enter the world of Torah, the wedding canopy, and good deeds.”

Benji, it seems, needed that one last piece: to stand under the chuppah(wedding canopy), before he could complete his journey in his world. In other words, he had and did all he was meant to do so that now he could move on. The sadness in his loss is what we feel we are all missing with Benji gone. But the joy that waits around the corner is all about being able to see, in the life he lived all that we have and continue to be given….

May we all succeed in finding joy in our lives by learning to see all we have, and finding the clarity to decide, as individuals and as a nation, what we are meant to do with it all….

Shabbat Shalom, from the Old City of Jerusalem.

A Short-Cut to a Life of Blessings: You get what you give

by Rabbi David Aaron

“Thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy hand from your needy brother; surely open thy hand to him.”
— Deut. 15:7-8

Is there a short-cut to the spiritual wealth of life? One of the most powerful and immediate ways to connect the circuit of life, and let the blessings flow is Tzedaka, that is charity.

The Talmud teaches: “Tzedakasaves from death.” When we need an incredible influx of life force — because we are facing impending physical death or impending spiritual death, the act of giving to charity can be one of the most powerful antidotes.

As proof for the statement, the Talmud tells the incredible story of the daughter of the famous Rabbi Akiva, who lived some 2,000 years ago. A star-gazer told Rabbi Akiva that his daughter would die on the day of her wedding. Rabbi Akiva replied that just because it is written in the stars does not mean it has to happen, because we can make choices which overturn our destinies.

As it turned out however, on the day of her wedding, the young bride was getting ready when, unbeknown to her, a poisonous snake slithered into the room and crawled up the back of her dress. Meanwhile, unaware she continued to put on her wedding bonnet. In those days, brides wore elaborate headdresses affixed by large hat pins. The snake was ready to bite her just as she inserted one pin and pierced an eye of the snake. Then she put in the other pin and it pierced the other eye of the snake and killed it.

Still unaware of what had happened, she went out to greet her father, who was shocked to see a dead snake dangling from her hair. Realizing the narrowness of her escape, he asked, “What did you do that you succeeded in saving yourself from death?”

She thought for a moment and then remembered that earlier in the day as everyone in the house was busy preparing for the wedding she heard a knock at the door. All the others were too preoccupied with their duties, but she, the bride, in the midst of beautifying herself, heard the knock at the door and took the time to answer. Standing there was a person asking for money. So she gave him a few coins.

Rabbi Akiva nodded knowingly, “Tzedakasaves a person from death.” Why should giving a few coins have the power to save a person’s life? Why is Tzedakasuch an incredible connector to life, blessing and abundance?

To begin with Tzedakais really not charity. Charity is doing something you don’t have to do because you are being nice. You don’t feel an obligation to give, but you want to be nice, so you’ll give a few coins. That’s what charity is, but that’s not really Tzedaka.

Tzedakareally means “justice.” According to justice, you must help someone who has less than you. It’s not giving because you feel like giving, and want to think of yourself as sweet and generous. Tzedakais an obligation.

By giving out of Tzedaka, out of justice, we justifyour existence. Without giving, there’s no reason to exist. Only by being contributing members of a community do we acquire worth. Tzedakajustifies our existence by demonstrating that we are a part of a community in service of a greater reality. At the same time, we recognize that what we are giving is not really our own. It’s all G-d’s wealth. We’re just passing it on.

Torah teaches that we are responsible to acknowledge — in thought, speech and action — the blessings of life’s spiritual wealth and pass them on to the world. And Tzedakafulfills that function. We give each to each, because we are all members of a community. Our higher purpose in being part of a community is to acknowledge G-d as the source of all life and goodness and thereby enjoy the opportunity of being a channel for the presence of G-d into this world. The simple act of giving Tzedakaaccomplishes that in an instant.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Tzedakais not being nice. Tzedakais being honest. You are saying, in effect, “It’s not my money. It’s for me to pass it on. And the more I give away, the more I’m going to get.”

Now, if you can’t give it away, it’s because you think it’s yours and you are the source of your wealth. When you know that it’s not yours, that it’s only entrusted to you, you have no difficulty in passing it on.

A stingy person is like a wire trying to hold on to electricity. But isn’t that crazy? Why would a wire want to hold onto electricity? Its whole purpose is to pass it on, to be a conductor of electricity. That’s why a wealthy person is not a person who has a lot. A wealthy person is a person who gives a lot. A person who gives a lot understands that he is plugged into the source of all wealth. G-d is the source of blessing and wealth. The more conscious a person is of G-d as the source of wealth, the more he can become a vehicle to channel wealth into the world. But when a person holds onto money, thinking, “It’s my money. It’s just for me,” eventually he will lose his wealth. Maybe he won’t lose his money literally, but he will lose the blessing of that money. That’s why when people who are experiencing financial difficulties seek the advice of a rabbi, often he will tell them, “Give more Tzedaka.” It may sound odd. Here a person is struggling, unable to make ends meet, and the solution is to give what little he has away? But it works, because by letting it flow out one end, new resources flow in the other end.

I remember a wealthy philanthropist I met in Los Angeles. He told me that when he sold the controlling shares in one of his businesses, he put in the contract that the new owners had to give 10% of all earnings to Tzedaka.

In the contract negotiations the prospective buyers objected, “That’s ridiculous! We’ve never seen anything like this. You can’t put that into a contract. You’re retaining only a small percentage of the shares. You can’t dictate that we give away 10% of our earnings.”

The philanthropist retorted, “If you don’t put that into the contract, I won’t sell it to you, because you’ll destroy my business. The reason I have been blessed with success is that my business is a vehicle for G-d’s wealth to come into the world. As long as it continues to dispense Tzedaka, I know it’s going to continue to receive wealth, because the more it passes it on, the more it gets. I know where all this wealth is coming from.”

The buyers decided not to mess with success and accepted his conditions.

A wealthy, very generous man named Joe Berman once told me something which made a deep impression on me. He said, “Very often, when people go through bad times, they ask, ‘Why me?’ Well, why don’t people, when they go through good times, ask, ‘Why me?’ My whole life, I’ve been blessed with good times, and I’ve always asked, ‘Why did it come to me? What am I supposed to do with it?’ Because I could see that it certainly wasn’t coming in just to make me rich.”

Very wise advice. We all have to ask ourselves this same question: “Why me? If I have this money, why me?”

Palestinians: Why Allow Facts to Get in the Way?

by Bassam Tawil 

  • Why are the details about Rina Shnerb's hometown and her age worth mentioning? Because the Palestinian media has again engaged in a campaign of fabrications and lies to justify the terror attack and the murder of an innocent Jewish teenager.
  • The Palestinian media, however, does not feel comfortable reporting the facts about the terror attack. In the eyes of Palestinian new editors and journalists, Rina was a "settler" and a "soldier." By using such terms, the Palestinians are trying to create the impression that she was not an innocent teenager, but a Jew who lived in a settlement and was even serving in the IDF.
  • Finally, it is important to note that many Palestinian media outlets and officials continue to refer to Israel as "occupied Palestine." They see zero difference between a Jew living in the West Bank and a Jew living inside Israel. For them, all Jews are settlers and colonizers, and all cities inside Israel -- Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Eilat, as well as Lod, the hometown of Rina -- are "occupied." In the eyes of Palestinians, in fact all of Israel is "occupied" and a "settlement."
  • When Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets at Sderot on August 25, Palestinian media outlets reported that Sderot is a "settlement." In case anyone had doubts, Sderot is an Israeli city in the Negev Desert, not a "settlement." By using the term "settlement," the Palestinians are again trying to create the impression that a city it is a legitimate target for rocket attacks because it is an "illegal settlement."
Why are the details about Rina Shnerb's hometown and her age worth mentioning? Because the Palestinian media has again engaged in a campaign of fabrications and lies to justify the terror attack and the murder of an innocent Jewish teenager. Pictured: Rina Shnerb, who was murdered in a terrorist bombing on August 23. (Photo courtesy of the victim's family)
Rina Shnerb, the 17-year-old teenager who was killed in a Palestinian terror attack in the West Bank on August 23, was born and raised in the Israeli city of Lod. She had never lived in a settlement in the West Bank. Moreover, she never served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or any security agency, as she was too young to be recruited for service.
Rina was killed in a bomb explosion when she and her family were visiting the popular Ein Buvin spring near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Her father, Eitan, and brother, Dvir, were injured when an explosive device planted near the spring went off.
Why are the details about Rina's hometown and her age worth mentioning? Because the Palestinian media has again engaged in a campaign of fabrications and lies to justify the terror attack and the murder of an innocent Jewish teenager.
Lod is not a settlement. It is a city located in the Central District of Israel, and even has an Arab population of 30%.

Rav Kook on Parashat Re'eih: Uprooting Idolatry in the Land of Israel

As a condition for inheriting the Land of Israel, the Torah demands that all forms of idolatry be destroyed:

“You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you are driving out worship their gods.... You must tear down their altars, break up their sacred pillars, burn their Asheirah trees, and chop down the statues of their gods. You must obliterate their names from that place.” (Deut. 12:2-3)

The Torah stresses that this obligation to destroy idolatrous artifacts is primarily binding in the Land of Israel. As the Sages commented,

“'You will obliterate their names from that place’ — in the land of Israel you are commanded to pursue idolatry [until it is totally eradicated], but not outside the land.” (Sifri; see Maimonides, Laws of Idolatry 7:2)

Idolatry is clearly the antithesis of Judaism’s message of monotheism. The imperative to fight idolatry should not be limited to a particular location. So why does the Torah confine the eradication of idolatry to the Land of Israel?

Opposing Worldviews

The conflict between monotheism and idolatry is a contest between two fundamentally opposing worldviews. Idolatry sees the world as divided and fragmented, a place where competing gods/forces of nature clash and struggle with one another. In this bleak worldview, the material outweighs the spiritual, and life is reduced to the pursuit of physical wants.

Monotheism, on the other hand, teaches that the world has an underlying unity. As one’s sense of the universe’s inner harmony deepens, one’s longing for the spiritual grows stronger. Higher aspirations take on greater significance; the world advances and is progressively enlightened.

The Land of Israel and Monotheism

The Sages wrote that “The air of the Land of Israel makes one wise” (Baba Batra158b). 

Eretz Yisrael is bound to the spiritual life of Israel, the Torah; and the essence of the Torah’s wisdom is the inner truth of a united reality. The special atmosphere of the Land of Israel instills greater awareness of the world’s unified foundation. For this reason, obliteration of idolatry is especially important in the Land of Israel.

Outside the Land of Israel, the harmonious vision of a unified world cannot be fully revealed. There, a fragmented worldview reigns, emphasizing division and isolation. A grim sense of existential estrangement pervades all aspects of life. Any attempt to reveal the hidden unity of the world is hindered by the ‘impurity of the lands of the nations.’ The lands outside of Israel suffer from the foul odor of idolatry. The Sages wrote that Jews living outside the Land are “idol-worshippers in purity” (Avodah Zarah 8a). In other words, they are unintentionally influenced by the cultural environment of the foreign countries in which they live.

This distinction is also manifest in the difference between the Torah of EretzYisraeland the Torah of the exile. The Torah outside the Land excels in detailed arguments and the fine dialectics of pilpul. Its qualities reflect the general sense of divisiveness felt there.[1] The Torah of the Land of Israel, on the other hand, is illuminated by a lofty wisdom which connects the details to their governing moral principles. “There is no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel” (Breisheet Rabbah 16:7).

Only by residing in the Land of Israel can one be truly free from the influence of idolatry. The Torah explicitly links living in the Land and monotheistic faith:

“I took you out from the Land of Egypt in order to give you the Land of Canaan, to be your God” (Lev. 25:38).

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Orot HaKodeshvol. II, pp. 423-424)
[1]‘R. Oshaia taught: No'am refers to the scholars of EretzYisrael, who treat each other graciously (manimim) when engaged in halachic debates. “Chovlim” refers to the scholars of Babylon, who attack (mechablim) each other when debating halachic issues’ (Sanhedrin 24a).

Israel is a Wedge Issue (and the Democrats Make it One)

by Steve Postal

Senator Kamala Harris recently said that “the bonds between the people of the United States and the people of Israel are unbreakable and we can never let anyone drive a wedge between us…Israel should never be a partisan issue.” This is what George Orwell would call “doublespeak,” as the major Democratic presidential candidates are fast forging that partisan wedge. When they discuss Israel, they advocate for policies that harm American interests and the American-Israeli strategic partnership.
To me, a pro-Israel presidential candidate regardless of party affiliation would adhere to at least most of the principles below. He or she would:
  • Support Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. [Here are some reasons why the U.S. was right to recognize the Golan as part of Israel.]
  • Support Israel’s sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and at the very least: 1) not dismiss the possibility that Israel has a right to annex at least some of Judea and Samaria; 2) not dismiss the “settlements” as illegitimate, as Israel has a right to build them; and 3) not dismiss Israel’s claim to Judea and Samaria as being one of “occupation,” as it isn’t.
  • Conversely, oppose Oslo/two state solution/land-for peace frameworks for achieving Arab-Israeli peace. [In exchange for Israel’s willingness to give land for peace, Israel has received two wars with Hezbollah, three wars with Hamas, the Second Intifada and the Knife Intifada. That’s seven wars in twenty years. The Arabs have also rejected sovereignty in Judea and Samaria at least seven times. So, sticking to old paradigms of solving the conflict is ludicrous. It is better to consider alternatives.]
  • Support Israel’s right to defend itself from Palestinian terror attacks from Gaza, eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
  • Support Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem and the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Support Israel’s right to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting Israel. [Here are some reasons why Israel was right to bar them.]
  • Not demonize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his “right wing” government. [Much of this is a vague swipe against some or all of the above principles, and against the will of the Israeli people. Benjamin Netanyahu is now the longest serving Israeli prime minister ever, and the Likud has been the dominant party of Israel since Menachem Begin was first elected in 1977. The staying power of both reflects the politics of the Israeli electorate. Can we move on?]
So how do the major candidates stack up on these issues? All fall short, to varying degrees.

Joe Biden
  • Opposes the “occupation”
  • Opposes the “settlements” as “unnecessary.” [There are currently about 400,000 Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria, in addition to another 300,000 living in eastern Jerusalem]
  • Supports a two state solution
  • While he opposes moving the US embassy back to Tel Aviv, he supports re-opening the U.S. consulate to the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
Bernie Sanders
  • Opposes the “occupation”
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Would consider cutting aid to Israel to pressure Israel in the peace process
  • Opposed how Israel fought Hamas in the 2014 war in Gaza
  • Opposed moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and wouldn’t state definitively whether or not he would move it back to Tel Aviv. He had previously voted for a 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Skipped Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress
  • Called the Israeli government racist
Elizabeth Warren
  • Opposes Israel unilaterally annexing Judea and Samaria
  • Opposes the “occupation.” Interestingly, she has hired Max Berger, a co-founder of IfNotNow, a group that advocate against the “occupation” of Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem.
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Was non-committal when asked if aid to Israel should be conditional on Israel ceasing to build “settlements”
  • Opposed Israel’s response to the March 2018 Gaza protests
  • Opposed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and did not respond / refused to comment when asked if she would move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv. She had previously voted for a 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Skipped Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress
  • Opposes Netanyahu as “embracing right wing extremism”
Kamala Harris
  • Opposes Israel unilaterally annexing Judea and Samaria. In 2017, she had opposed the Obama Administration’s abstaining on a U.N. Security Council resolution that declared that Israeli “settlements” had “no legal validity.”
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Did not respond when asked if she would move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv. She had voted for a 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
Pete Buttigieg
  • Opposed the U.S. unilaterally recognizing Israeli sovereignty of the Golan, and opposed doing so without some concession from Israel, and equivocated on if he would reverse this if elected
  • Opposes the “occupation” and states that “it must end”
  • Opposes Israeli annexation of Judea and Samaria
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Opposed moving the embassy to Jerusalem without some concession from Israel, but opposes moving it back to Tel Aviv
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Opposes the “right wing policies by the Netanyahu government” and criticizes Netanyahu for “turning away from peace” [I debunk the assertion that Netanyahu turned away from peace here]
Beto O’Rourke
  • Equivocated on whether U.S. should recognize Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights and equivocated on whether or not he would reverse this if elected
  • Opposes Israel building in Judea and Samaria, and supported the Obama Administration’s abstaining on a U.N. Security Council resolution that declared that Israeli “settlements” had “no legal validity.”
  • Supports a two-state solution as the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict
  • Opposed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and equivocated on whether he would move it back to Tel Aviv
  • Called Netanyahu racist
  • Skipped Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress
Cory Booker
  • When asked about the “occupation” from the group IfNotNow, he did not use the word “occupation,” but cryptically stated, “we may not agree on strategies, but we agree on outcomes.”
  • Supports a two-state solution
  • Opposed the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem without obtaining a concession from Israel, but opposes moving it back to Tel Aviv. He did not vote either yes or no in the 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Held up a sign that read “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go.” This seems to indicate that Senator Booker does not think that Israel has a right to defend its citizens from terror attacks with its separation barrier.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Equivocated when asked if Netanyahu was a racist, stating “I’m not going to judge Israel by Netanyahu.”
Despite rhetoric opposing making Israel into a wedge issue, the major Democratic presidential candidates have done just that. They often take positions that are driven by partisan politics, rather than by sound policy. By compromising on issues essential to Israeli’s sovereignty, security and inalienable rights, they push Arab-Israeli peace further and further away from realization.

A Teenage Girl’s Murder Shows What Loyal and Disloyal Jews Are

Are Jewish Democrats loyal to terrorists or to terror victims?

by Daniel Greenfield

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.

"Is there water in the spring?"

Those were the last words that Danny heard on a hot day in June. The spring of Ein Bubin bursts forth in a valley surrounded by dusty hills, flows into a glittering pool, and waters a garden of fruit trees. But every garden has its serpent. And the serpent in this spot of paradise was named Mohammed.

Mohammed Abu Shahin stopped Danny Gonen to ask him if there was water to swim in. Danny had just finished swimming in the spring and was happy to oblige. The Israeli electrical engineering student was the oldest of five brothers and sisters. He always stepped up, whether it was supporting his family after his father died, or helping out a stranger. And on that Friday afternoon, he paid for it with his life.

Mohammed shot Danny, along with his friend Netanel. Danny’s friend survived. And Danny did not.

The Muslim terrorist was a former member of Force 17, a Palestinian Authority terror group that acted as Arafat’s Presidential Guard, and was on the Palestinian Authority payroll. He had spent two years in prison for previous terror plots before being freed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a corrupt left-wing politician, along with 249 other Fatah terrorists as part of a “peace” gesture for the Islamic Eid holiday.

Palestinian Authority boss Mahmoud Abbas rejected the peace gesture, and the freed Islamic terrorists, who had promised not to carry out attacks, shockingly enough, didn’t keep their word.

"As a gesture of goodwill towards the Palestinians, I will bring before the Israeli cabinet a proposal to free 250 Fatah prisoners who do not have blood on their hands, after they sign a commitment not to return to violence," Olmert had declared at a summit, where he was photographed hugging Abbas.

It didn’t take long for blood to end up on their hands and on the hands of the “pro-peace” politicians.

At Mohammed's trial, Danny's mother condemned the process that allowed an “animal walking on two legs, who is mistakenly called a human, to keep on living and enjoying life on our bill.” The family's lawyer asked the court to ensure that this time around the terrorist would not be freed.

When Danny’s mother appeared before the Israeli Supreme Court, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, the best friend illegal migrants invading Israel ever had, barked at her to be quiet.

“If I survived my son's murder, then no judge will ever break me,” Danny’s mother courageously replied.

Danny was murdered in 2015. A plaque went up reminding hikers that on a Sabbath Eve, the young man had been murdered not in a place that leftists call “Palestine,” but in the “Holy Land of Israel.”

Four years later, terrorists struck at the Ein Bubin spring on yet another Friday.

Rabbi Eitan Shnerb was hiking to the spring with his son Dvir and his daughter Rina when the bomb went off. For a moment, as he described it in the hospital, everything went black. Then, badly wounded, he saw that the two teenagers were bleeding. Rabbi Shnerb was a trained paramedic. He saw that Rina, his 17-year-old daughter, had absorbed most of the blast. He kissed her on the forehead.

And then he turned his Tzizit, the biblical garment that Orthodox Jewish men wear, into a tourniquet for his 19-year-old son to stop the bleeding.

Dvir told his father that he couldn’t breathe and passed out. His daughter was already dead.

Rabbi Shnerb had stopped a terrorist attack earlier this year by two armed attackers. This time there were no attackers, just a bomb, and he had not seen the explosion coming.

Medical personnel evacuated father and son by helicopter. They continued trying to treat Rina at the scene. Hoping against hope that something could still be done.

On that same Friday, while her father and bother remained in the hospital, Rina was laid to rest. Students from her high school class turned out to say goodbye to one of their classmates. Prayers from the cemetery were relayed by phone to her father. A Rabbi recited Psalm 91 and the mourners echoed.

"I will say of the LORD, who is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust," he chanted. "Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, and see the recompense of the wicked."

The wicked are being sought once more. Israeli soldiers are hunting for the killers and their accomplices in dirty villages and sinister towns. And they are aware that the hunt may lead to more ambushes.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh praised the killers of the teenage girl as heroes.

In his sermon in Gaza, the Islamic terrorist leader called her murder a "heroic attack" and celebrated it as “proof of the vitality and bravery of the Palestinian people." He claimed that the bombing was evidence that the terrorists are "strong people" who are "faithful and steadfast."

The Shnerb family had run a charity in Lod which handed out food and clothing to the poor.

The Palestinian Authority’s Ma’an News Agency justified Rina’s murder by falsely claimingthat she was an 18-year-old soldier, when she was actually a high school student who had just turned 17.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib responded to the attack by calling for an end to the “Israeli occupation.”

Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt urged “donor countries” to “demand the PA answer for why their donor funds continue to be used to reward attacks.” Just like Danny Ganon’s killers, Rina’s murderers will receive a lifetime salary from the Palestinian Authority funded by foreign aid.

Since Trump cut off aid to the terror group, the money is mainly coming from the European Union.

“It’s time to stop burying our people,” Danny’s mother said after the latest attack.

But the only way that will happen is if money stops flowing to the terrorists. The Democrats have made it clear that if they win the presidential election, they will restore the flow of cash to the terrorists.

Joe Biden vowed to restore “security” funding to the Palestinian Authority. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand promised to restore the aid programs that “President Trump has cut.” Andrew Yang called for restoring aid to the terrorists. Senator Bernie Sanders and Peter Buttigieg went further, threatening aid to Israel.

None of them condemned Rina’s murder.

Rina’s murder and Danny’s murder, on the same day, four years apart, were funded by foreign aid.

A few days before Rina’s murder, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech in which the terrorist leader vowed, “Allah willing”, to destroy Jewish houses and capture Jerusalem.

"We shall enter Jerusalem – millions of fighters!" he ranted. "We will not accept their designation of our martyrs as terrorists. Our martyrs are the martyrs of the homeland. We will not allow them to deduct a single penny from their money. All the money will go back to them, because the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners are the most sacred things we have."

Terrorists would continue receiving cash because terrorism was sacred to the Palestinian Authority.

Last week, Democrat politicians and liberal Jewish organizations fumed when President Trump accused them of disloyalty. The last time they were this outraged was when Israel barred Rep. Tlaib and Rep. Omar, overt opponents of Israel and supporters of terrorism against the Jewish State, from entering.

The murders at Ein Bubin are a harsh reminder that what is at stake here is not Twitter feeds. It’s lives.

The issue is not who said what about whom. It’s a bomb going off on a warm summer day. It’s a teenage girl dying in the dust. It’s the disloyalty of those American Jews who place their allegiance to abortion, to gay rights, and illegal migrants over the loyalty that teenage girl deserved from them.

Jewish Democrats who failed to stand up to their party to stop murders like these are not disloyal to a country; they are disloyal to Rina. And to Danny. And to thousands more like them.

While the Jewish Democrats attacked Israel over Rep. Omar, Rep. Tlaib and other anti-Semites, the Jews of Dolev, named after its sycamore trees, buried Rina and waited for her father to return home.

And Danny’s mother stands at the plaque marking her son’s death and wonders if there will be more.

We are all defined by our loyalties. Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib are loyal to their people. Many Jewish Democrats are loyal to the party even if it means accepting bigots like Omar and Tlaib.

That loyalty to leftist politics is disloyalty to the Jews being murdered by Omar and Tlaib’s people.

In the face of terror, there is only one loyalty that matters, either to terrorists or to terror victims.

At Ein Bubin, the water flows. And the residents of Dolev continue to hike into the hills, to swim in the spring and the pool, and to prepare for the next terrorist attack.

The spring is located in the land that once belonged to the tribe of Joseph.

“Blessed be the land of Joseph, before the Lord,” Moses preached in Deuteronomy 33:13, “with the blessing of the dew and the rain that comes down from the heaven above, with the blessings of the fountains of the deep which well up from the earth beneath.”

Faithfulness is like the springs that rise from the earth. Its loyalty breaks through all barriers.

Rina, her father, and her brother, were loyal not to a party, but to the G-d who gave them that land.

“Dvir said to me we will be strong, we will protect the people of Israel and the Torah of Israel, and together we will move forward,” Rabbi Eitan Shnerb said of his son.

That is a loyalty that the disloyal Democrats -- who cringe before Omar and Tlaib, who pander to terrorists, who believe in every leftist cause, but have no faith in a Jewish cause -- cannot imagine.

It is a true faith and allegiance that has endured for thousands of years. It is of an age with the land, with the hills and the springs beneath, with the truth of martyrdom and endurance, and the truth of G-d.

When Rabbi Shnerb spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu on the phone, he told him that his daughter was "a martyr of the people of Israel.” He asserted, “with God’s help we will grow stronger.”

That is what a loyal Jew sounds like. To hear what a disloyal one sounds like, listen to the media.

Israel Faces a Serious Escalation in its Proxy War with Iran

by Con Coughlin 

  • The fact that Israel has found it necessary to attack targets so far from its traditional area of military operations close to its immediate borders is indicative of the alarming escalation that has taken place in recent months in the threat Iran poses to Israeli security.
  • Earlier this week, in Lebanon, an Israeli drone was reported to have bombed a Palestinian base that is said to be funded by Iran. Israeli warplanes were also reported to have bombed Iranian military bases on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus.
  • The very idea of Washington sitting down with the Iranians at a time when it is continuing to threaten the security of its closest Middle Eastern ally would be unconscionable.
  • The reality is that there can be no meaningful dialogue between Washington and Tehran on a future deal so long as Iran remains committed to its long-standing policy of seeking the wholesale destruction of the Jewish state.
Israel was responsible for the recent attack on an Iranian military base in Iraq, which was being used to assemble medium-range missiles with the capability to hit targets in Israel. The threat was deemed so important that senior Israeli officers decided to launch a daring bombing raid that required F-35 stealth warplanes to penetrate Saudi airspace to achieve their objective. Pictured: An Israel Air Force F-35. (Image source: Israel Air Force/Wikimedia Commons)
The recent confirmation by US military officials that Israeli warplanes were responsible for the recent attack on an Iranian military base in Iraq demonstrates the alarming extent to which the so-called proxy war between Tehran and Jerusalem has escalated in recent weeks.
According to senior Israeli security sources, spoken to on an off-the-record basis, the base in the northern Iraqi province of Salaheddin was targeted because they believed it was being used to assemble Iranian-made medium-range missiles with the capability to hit targets in Israel.
The threat was deemed so important that senior Israeli officers decided to launch a daring bombing raid that required F-35 stealth warplanes to penetrate Saudi airspace to achieve their objective. It is unclear whether the Saudis, who oppose Iranian meddling in Iraq but do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, gave permission for the Israeli warplanes to enter their airspace.

Reflections on Tribal and National Loyalty

Recently I saw a Facebook post by Ryan Bellerose. Ryan is an Indian of the Metis tribe who lives in Canada, an activist for indigenous (aboriginal) peoples – all of them, including the Jewish people.

He wrote:

I side with my people before everything else. I can count on one hand where I sided with a non indian over an indian (the indian had to be really really wrong) but I would never side against my people on anything of real importance and I will never stand with anyone who stands against my core beliefs. why is this so difficult for people to understand?

Family. Clan. Tribe. Nation. Country. in that order, no exceptions, that’s how loyalty should be. family first last and always. nuff said.

Most people today agree about loyalty to their family. The other stuff, it depends. When I was in school in the 1950s, we learned about Stephen Decatur Jr., the American naval officer and hero of the wars against the Barbary Pirates, who was reported to have said “Our country! … may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.” This was presented as an admirable example of patriotism. Later, in the late 1960s, it became for many an example of chauvinism or jingoism, something not at all admirable (and after the turn of the millennium, Barry Rubin reported that it seemed as though education in the US was aimed to develop precisely the opposite position, that America was always wrong).

Since 1945, tribalism and nationalism have officially fallen out of favor. The World Wars of the 20th century were blamed on nationalism, and the UN and EU were founded to keep a lid on it. Countless international institutions in those frameworks were created in order to erase or blur national differences and boundaries. Those who express sentiments like those of Bellerose, Decatur, and me, were considered throwbacks, pitied for their atavistic inability to grasp the equal value of all humanity, to understand that everyone has the same human rights. Zionism, which is nothing more or less than Jewish nationalism, got a bad rap.

Although the one-worldism of this period didn’t appeal to me, at least it was consistent. Every human had the same rights.

But then something else happened in the ideological space: post-colonialism appeared. Thanks to writers like Franz Fanon and Edward Said (and the KGB’s psychological warfare machine), it began to be popular to think that although in theory everyone should have the same rights, that entity known collectively as “the West” or “Whites” had for centuries systematically abused and exploited “the Third World” or “People of Color;” and now, in the name of human rights and fairness, it became necessary to compensate the formerly colonized peoples.

This compensation takes multiple forms, from actual monetary reparations to the descendants of slaves, to excusing violence on the part of “colonized” peoples. Because Palestinian Arabs are supposedly “occupied” by Israeli “settler-colonialists,” they are permitted – they will even argue (wrongly) that they are allowed by international law – to employ terrorism against them. When a 17-year old Jewish girl is killed by a remote-controlled bomb, as happened Friday, the PLO will not condemn the act, and Hamas will celebrate it. It is, they say, their right.

Indeed, the acceptance by the international community of systematic war crimes committed by “oppressed third world” movements like Hezbollah, Hamas, and other similar militias is, or should be, a scandal.

In the post-colonial model, tribalism and nationalism are still anathema, except for the formerly or currently “colonized,” particularly the Palestinian Arabs, whose own nationalism – not to mention misogyny, homophobia, antisemitism, and extreme propensity for violence – are all excused as the legacy of the colonial past.

In its milder form, post-colonialism informs the political correctness that plagues American campuses. “People of color” have victimhood rights that “whites” do not, including the right to impose segregation, to decide what topics can be discussed and who can have opinions about them, and so forth. Violation of these “rights” constitute “racism,” which is punished severely by ostracism and often loss of employment.

The difference between the idealistic postwar emphasis on human rights and the postcolonial era, which dates more or less to the 1970s, is striking. The language, which often refers to human rights, is similar, but in practice the exercise of these rights is limited to favored groups.

The contrast between the two periods is illustrated by the 1947 UN decision to partition the Palestine Mandate in a way intended to be fair to both its Jewish and Arab residents, versus the later, biased decisions of the UN, of which the 1975 General Assembly Resolution 3379 declaring Zionism to be a form of racism was a prime example.

Today postcolonialism is firmly ensconced in international institutions in the academic world, and in the media. The contradiction between the emphasis on human rights – for some groups – and the denial of self-determination for the Jewish people (who are never included among those who are considered victims of colonialism) is especially evident in Europe. Zionism, despite the UN’s repeal of Resolution 3379, is still considered “racist” by many, even though they don’t bat an eyelash at Palestinian nationalism – which includes the explicit intention to ethnically cleanse a Palestinian state of Jews.

But there does not need to be a contradiction between human rights and the older conception of nationalism. Prioritizing family, clan, tribe, nation, and country, as Ryan Bellerose does, does not necessarily imply denying rights to others. You can believe, as is stated in Israel’s declaration of independence and her recently passed Nation State Law, that the State of Israel is a Jewish state – that is, a state of, by and for the Jewish people – without denying the civil rights of non-Jews that live in it. This is what it means to be a Zionist.

Those of us who feel this way also understand the concept of national or tribal honor, and its importance. We understand that perhaps Israel had a reason to refuse to permit her enemies Tlaib and Omar to enter the country over and above the calculation of whether it would be better or worse PR than letting them in: national self-respect.

President Trump’s remark about Jewish loyalty might have been unfair to all of the Democratic Party. It might have represented the kind of poor boundaries sometimes attributed to Trump. But it certainly wasn’t antisemitic. And it wouldn’t hurt for American Jews to engage in more than a little introspection on the subject.