Friday, October 30, 2020
Gemara: Whoever is lazy about the eulogy of a scholar will not have long days (i.e., life), a measure for a measure … But doesn’t the pasuk say: “The nation served Hashem all the days of Yehoshua and all the days of the elders whose days were elongated after Yehoshua” (Shoftim 2:7) (even though the people of his generation were lazy in eulogizing Yehoshua)? They had long days but not long years. But doesn’t the pasuk say [as reward]: “…in order that you will have many days as will your children” (Devarim 11:21) – is that also only long days and not long years?! A blessing is different.
Ein Ayah: Respecting wisdom is the essence of seeking wisdom. The more a person is connected to extoling it, so does he seek it, and his life becomes full of positive emotion and activity, which is connected to the secret of long life. If a person is unmoved by wisdom, which finds expression in his not caring sufficiently when a scholar dies, and the person is lazy about his eulogy, then the foundations of his life are dry, and the wellspring that helps produce full lives is missing. Therefore the content of his life is short and his life aspirations lack a strong base. The laziness causes life’s root to be shortened as is appropriate based on the rule of a measure for a measure.
Yehoshua’s generation, whose members were lazy in eulogizing him, had signs of the disease of superficiality in their approach to wisdom and only saw Yehoshua’s obvious positive accomplishments, as opposed to his internal characteristics, which were greater. How then could this generation have long life, which is rooted in the flow of spiritual life, from the depths of the soul, especially the part that is enamored with wisdom?
The answer is that there is a difference between the conception of life as it takes form in a general manner and that which exists on the level of specific spiritual acquisitions. The general is broad and bright, and corresponds to long years. The specific comes splintered into different elements, which can only be called long days.
Even though the generation as a whole was too darkened in its appreciation of wisdom to merit long life, as it separated itself from that level of spirituality, the elders of the generation were only lowered somewhat and were able to recognize the greatness of Yehoshua on the specific level. They would say: “The face of Moshe was like that of the sun and Yehoshua’s was like that of the moon. Woe unto us for the embarrassment [of the deterioration of the leadership].” The truth is that there was an element of internal light that Yehoshua possessed that was also like the light of the sun, even if on a lower level, as opposed to the light of the moon, which is totally of a different type.
Because of the elders’ partial recognition of Yehoshua, they merited longer days, as they had at least recognized some of the internal greatness of Yehoshua, although they did not merit longer years. Those who were totally lazy in eulogizing lost even the specific spiritual appreciation, so that they did not get long days and certainly not long years. In truth the length of days is an outgrowth of length of years, and so in regards to the blessing found in the Torah, when it refers to long days, it includes long years.
When G-d said to Abraham “Go to yourself– Lech Lecha” what was He actually asking Abraham to do? This command seems to be contradicted by the remainder of the statement: “…from your country, from your birthplace and from your father’s home.” Are these not the fundamental elements that make up a person’s sense of self? My nation, my birthplace and family together create the context for my identity and establish the vital ground for my sense of self. In addition, they represent citizenship, property rights, and inheritance, all essential sources of personal security.
What G-d is actually saying to Abraham is, “Go to yourself and leave yourself,” bidding him to seek himself and at the same time abandon everything that establishes and confirms selfhood. The very order of the statement verifies this, as it is not in chronological order. A person first leaves his father’s home, then his birthplace and then finally the country’s borders, not the other way around. Clearly, G-d’s intention is not just a geographical move, but also a spiritual journey, expressed in the order of psychological difficulty. Abraham is summoned to seek a new identity, a higher self- independent of nationality, land and family. Ready to let go of normative self-definitions, Abraham accepts this new identity. Unlike the usual person whose self, identity and security are founded upon and confirmed by nationality, land or family, Abraham’s new identity is founded upon his service to and love for G-d.
If you define yourself through your relationship to G-d, then G-d, the Eternal, becomes part of your personal definition and identity. In doing so, you discover your higher immortal self. Abraham paved the way back to mankind’s immortality and G- dliness. He initiated the return of the Shechina, the establishment of Divine Presence on earth and the acceptance of the greatest gift—the Divine Spirit immanent within humanity. Abraham understood that you discover your higher self when you show your love for G-d.
This is the secret of how the Jews survived 2,000 years of exile from the Land of Israel because their identity was not predicated on their land. This is the secret of how the Jews as a nation could survive, although scattered over the face of the earth: because their identity was not dependent upon their nationalism. This is the secret of how the Jews could survive the Holocaust, when whole families were decimated, leaving solitary survivors: because their identity even transcended families.
Mark Twain, who was not Jewish, marveled at the apparent immortality of the Jews throughout their harsh history in a famous essay. He wrote in his famous essay “Concerning the Jews” published in Harper’s magazine in 1897:
If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and he has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.
The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.
The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal, but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
The great French philosopher, Blaise Pascal came to the same conclusion:
It is certain that in certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar people, separated from the other peoples of the world and this is called the Jewish people … This people is not only of remarkable antiquity but has also lasted for a singular long time … For whereas the people of Greece and Italy, of Sparta, Athens and Rome, and others who came so much later, have perished so long ago, these still exist, despite the efforts of so many powerful kings who have tried a hundred times to wipe them out, as historians testify, and as can easily be judged by the natural order of things over such a long spell of years. They have always been preserved, however, and their preservation was foretold …
What is the secret of to Jewish immortality? Jewish identity is a human “I” defined in relation to the “Eternal Thou,”– eternity is part of the very definition of the Jews. Leo Tolstoy put it well: “The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.”
Sometimes, you can’t change the world, and in order to make sure the world doesn’t change you, difficult and often painful decisions are necessary.
I still remember the sinking feeling in my gut when I realized who the culprit was, and what I probably was going to have to do about it.
I had come to this army unit as a young officer, full of motivation and inspired to make a difference, only to discover that the reality of army life often had its own set of rules.
One of the most damaging norms in army life is how easy it is, even as a relatively honest person, to become a thief. People justify it by differentiating between outright theft and minor pilfering, whether grabbing extra cookies from the kitchen when the cooks aren’t looking, or swiping an extra pair of pants before inspection from a different tent because in the middle of the night someone swiped yours. At the end of the day, however, theft is theft, and it is a struggle to stay ‘clean’ all the way through training.
Still, there are certain rules and codes you learn quickly, that most soldiers instinctively understand. No normal soldier steals weapons or numbered items (called ‘tselem’ because of their value) such as binoculars, radios and of course guns and you don’t ever take personal belongings from anyone , especially from the guys in your own unit.
Guys will rationalize taking things they deem to be the collective army’s (such as swiping an extra rain parka out of the huge pile in the supply depot (knowing the clerks will always find a way to adjust the count and make it right for inspection, as is their specialty…) but usually draw the line at pilfering from a buddy’s gear.
Which was why it was so distressing to discover that we apparently had a thief in the unit; things were disappearing, and some of the guys were getting upset.
When one of the men came to me, upset because someone had taken his cologne from his open locker, I thought the guys were either setting me up for a gag, or that this particular soldier was letting little issues become big ones. After all, one guy is heading out on a weekend pass and wants to impress his girlfriend and ‘borrows’ a buddy’s cologne, right?
But when a scarf disappeared from a package one of the guys had been sent, it was clear we had a problem, and if you can’t trust the guys in your unit everything else starts to fall apart.
It took me a few weeks of detective work and entrapment to catch the guy and I still remember the look on his face when I found my cologne and flashlight (which I had doused in the cologne as part of my entrapment) in his kitbag. No remorse; no embarrassment; just a wicked grin.
“Hey, it’s only on loan…” was his response.
It was a painful shock to discover who the thief was, especially as he was one of the guys who was always helpful, and when he realized I was bringing him up on charges and demanding his removal from our battalion (eventually settling for his transfer out of our company; there are three companies, a smaller unit of only about 30 guys, in each battalion) not only was he upset with me, but some of his buddies in the unit who were good men themselves spent a fair amount of time trying to convince me that it wasn’t a big deal, and that ejecting him from the unit would seriously damage morale.
It took me a couple weeks to get him kicked out of our unit, which included having to convince the battalion commander that one of us would have to go, because I refused to serve with or command a thief who could steal from his own buddies, and they finally just switched him into one of the other companies on the base.
It took me a lot longer to struggle with whether I was right or had just made a terrible error in judgment. After all, in the end he was a good guy who you could count on to cover your back, and pilfering was almost an inevitable part of army life…. Was it fair to put a blotch on his service record forever?
How does one find the appropriate balance between ‘live and let live’ – learning not to sweat the small stuff on the one hand, and refusing to compromise with evil and wrong-doing on the other?
If you are standing in the supermarket and someone cuts the line in front (or even in back) of you, should you demand he leave the line, and call for store personnel to remove him from the store? Or is that getting a little too stressed out? Is it worth getting stressed over the little things? After all, maybe he is a soldier on leave who is in a rush to get back to base…? Where do we draw the line, and how do we know when immoral or unethical behavior should not be tolerated, and when we should just let it go?
This week’s portion of Lech Lecha provides with the classic case in point.
It seems that the shepherds of Avram (Abraham) and the shepherds of Lot, Avram’s nephew, have gotten into an argument big enough to come to Avram’s attention.
Ve’gam le’Lot ha’holech et Avram hayah tzon u’bakar ve’ohalim. Ve’lo’ nasa otam ha’aretz lashevet yachdav, ki’ haya re’chusaham rav, ve’lo’ yachlu’ lashevet yachdav. Va’yehi riv bein ro’ei mikneh Avram, u’bein roei’ mikneh Lot, ve’haKena’ani ve’haPerizi az yoshev ba’aretz.
And Lot also, who went with Avram (back up from Egypt) had flocks and cattle and tents. And the land could not support them dwelling together for their property was great, and they could not dwell together. And there was an argument between the shepherds of Avram’s cattle, and the shepherds of Lot’s cattle, and the Canaanites and the Perizites were then dwelling in the land. (Bereishit (Genesis 12: 5-7).
Apparently, now that Avram and his nephew Lot had both acquired so much property there wasn’t enough room for the both of them. Can you imagine? In Israel today there are over ten million people. And sitting in America reading the Times looking at a map spread out on the table, one might imagine there is just no more room in this tiny little country.
But come to Israel and spend a day in the Galil, or the Negev, or the Judean Mountains, and believe me, there is plenty of room. Endless vistas stretching as far as the eye can see. So how could there not have been enough room for two families four thousand years ago? How sad is that? And especially when considering that one of these people is no less than Abraham himself? I would have thought that if you live next door to a man of such sterling quality as Abraham, there is always enough room, no?
The Torah does not tell me exactly what the argument, though obviously the root of the issue begins with the fact that now, everyone has a lot of ‘stuff’. There is a saying in Jewish tradition: Marbeh nechasim, marbeh tzarot. More things, more tzaros (troubles). And this seems to be no exception.
However, while the Torah is somewhat vague about the exact nature of the conflict between the shepherds, Rashi (Rav Shlomo Yitzchaki; 11th century Biblical commentator), quoting the Midrash (Rabbinic legend) makes it very clear:
“Because Lot’s shepherds were wicked and allowed their flocks to graze in the fields of others, and Avram’s shepherds would tell them off (criticize them) for stealing, to which they (Lot’s shepherds) would respond: ‘G-d promised the land to Avram, who has no heir, so Lot his nephew will inherit from him, so this is really not stealing. But the verse says: “and the Canaanites and the Perizites were then dwelling in the land”, because Avram had not yet merited (acquired) it.” (Rashi 12:7)
In other words, Lot’s shepherds were stealing, and Avram’s shepherds were taking the moral high ground.
It is worth noting that Rashi, perhaps in an attempt to explain why the Torah adds these additional words (“and the Canaanites and the Perizites were then dwelling in the land”), seems to be veering far beyond the normal scope of his commentary by expanding on the back and forth between the shepherds. Typically, Rashi (as he states in his introduction to the Book of Genesis) is interested only in extrapolating the contextual understanding of the verse. Yet here, rather than suffice with the simple statement that Lot’s shepherds were grazing illegally, Rashi launches into a lengthy back and forth as to what they said and why they were arguing. Why is this so important? What does the fact that Lot’s shepherds felt the land was already theirs add to our general understanding of the issue here? And again, how could such an argument develop in the tents of holy and virtuous father Abraham?
More puzzling than the conflict itself however, is Avram’s inexplicable reaction to it:
“Va’yomer Avram el Lot: al na tehi’ merivah beini u’veinecha’ u’vein roai’ u’vein roecha’,ki’ anashim achim anachnu. Halo’ kol ha’aretz lefanecha’; Hipared na’ me’alai; im ha’smol ve’eiminah, ve’im hayemin ve’asmeilah.”
“And Avram said to Lot: ‘Let there not be a quarrel between you and I and between my shepherds and your shepherds. Behold all the land is before you; please separate (part) from me; if you go left I will go right, and if you go right, I will go left.” (12:8- 9)
“Separate from me”? This is Avram’s great solution to conflict? Bear in mind that this is not an argument with someone you never met who is in you parking space; this is Avram’s own nephew! The same flesh and blood (son of Avram’s deceased brother Haran) who came up with him to Canaan in the first place when Avram was commanded to leave everything behind and journey to “the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12;1). And while Avram was following the word of G-d who had spoke with him, Lot was not necessarily privy to that conversation.
It may well have taken a tremendous act of faith on Lot’s part to embark on this journey. After all, people must have thought Avram was mad; what would you say if your neighbor told you he was off on a journey to the mountains of Tibet because G-d had spoken to him yesterday? At least Avram could shrug off such ridicule knowing G-d had indeed spoken to him, but for Lot it was all about trusting Avram.
And this is the same Lot who then accompanies Avram down to Egypt when, shortly after arriving in Canaan, there is a great famine and no sustenance to be found in the land. A lesser man at this point might have packed his bags, but Lot stays the course, and follows Avram back up to Canaan a second time, though now he clearly has the means to make it on his own in Egypt, a land of plenty.
And bear in mind as well, that the verse does not actually say Avram and Lot were arguing; it says the argument was between the shepherds. So why does Avram feel Lot should leave? How depressing to think that even the paradigm of loving-kindness in this world can reach the point of no return in his relationship with his own nephew. Is this what we are meant to espouse? Is this the blueprint for Jewish ethics? When the going gets a little tough, just go?
Equally disturbing is Lot’s response, especially since one might have expected better from someone who comes of age in the tents of Abraham:
“Va’yisa Lot et eianav, va’yar et kol kikar ha’Yarden ki’ kulah’ mashkeh, lifnei shachet Hashem et S’dom ve’et Amorah; ke’gan Hashem, ke’eretz mitzraim bo’acha’ Tzoar. Va’yivchar lo’ Lot et kol kikar ha’Yarden, va’yisah Lot mi’kedem, v’yipardu’ ish me’al achiv. Avram yashav be’eretz Ke’na’an ve’Lot yashav be’arei ha’kikar va’ye’ehal ad S’dom. Ve’anshei S’dom raim ve’chataim la’Hashem me’od.”
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and saw the entire Jordan valley which was all lush, before G-d destroyed S’dom and Amorah; like the garden of G-d, like the land of Egypt as you come to Tzo’ar. And Lot chose the entire Jordan valley and Lot traveled from (to?) the East, and they parted, each man from upon his brother. Avram dwelled in Canaan and Lot dwelled in the cities of the valley and cast his tents up till S’dom. And the people of S’dom were exceedingly wicked and sinful to G-d.” (13:10-14)
Lot actually chooses to leave the tent of Abraham and live in S’dom, the most wicked and sinful place on earth! That is akin to growing up in the house of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and deciding you need a change of pace… and leaving to take a job as a bookie for the mob! How could someone who grew up in what must have been the most ethical place on earth, end up in S’dom? Where did Avram go wrong? And most of all, it almost seems as though Avram pushed Lot out the door!
Yet the Torah provides us with a valuable clue in helping us to understand how and why Lot chose S’dom.
When the Torah describes Avram’s initial journey to Canaan (the land of Israel) it says (12:5) he took along Sarai his wife, Lot his nephew, and all their property, in that order. But when describing their return after being in Egypt, the order is changed, and the Torah (13:1) says Avram took Sarai, their property and Lot.
It seems all their property has come between Avram and Lot; there is now a distance between Avram and Lot.
Something happens to Lot while they are all in Egypt; he becomes immersed in all that Egypt represents. Egypt, the mightiest Empire on earth at the time, is all about materialism and the physical world. Even their religion, based on paganism, is itself the worship of the physical and Lot becomes enamored by the pure unadulterated hedonism that is Egypt. (Indeed, Avram lies about Sarai being his wife, telling the Egyptians she is his sister, out of fear that they will kill him in order to have her, so this indeed is a society steeped in immorality.
Avram may have brought Lot up with him when he left Egypt, but a part of Lot is still there, hence, when looking out on the Valley of S’dom, he sees it as a lush land, “like the land of Egypt”. Lot never really leaves Egypt and all that it represents, and maybe, if Avram realizes this, he understands he cannot decide where Lot should be, Lot has to make that decision on his own.
Equally reasonable however, is the possibility that Avram actually decides Lot has sunken to a level which precludes his living in the tent of Avram, and with a heavy heart, Lot is told in no uncertain terms he needs to leave.
This does not, incidentally, mean Avram ever stops loving Lot and caring for him. After all, when hearing that Lot has been taken captive, Avram goes to war against no less than five kings to save him. But they can no longer live together.
And while it may be that Avram desperately hoped Lot would leave his desires and evil ways aside and stop at nothing to stay with Avram, it is also obvious that something has changed such that as things stand Lot has to go. What is this line that was crossed? What has to happen to make an Avram, the paradigm of loving-kindness, who argues with G-d to try and save S’dom itself, decide to expel Lot from his home?
There are many instances in the Torah where such a line seems to have been crossed forcing the necessary expulsion of a person or persons. Adam and Eve have to leave the Garden of Eden, Cain is exiled from society and doomed to a life of wandering, Joseph is thrown in a pit by his brothers, possibly because they felt he had crossed a line and could no longer remain a part of the family, and of course we, the Jewish people, 2,500 years ago, were expelled by no less than G-d Himself from the land of Israel.
In order to understand what the common denominator of these events is, it is worth taking a brief look at what may well be the most painful and even tragic example of this phenomenon in the entire scriptures: the fall of King Saul from grace with G-d and with Shmuel (Samuel) the prophet.
Saul, Israel’s first King, has been given what amounts to a difficult and terrible commandment: to destroy, once and for all, the nation of Amalek. The same Amalek which attacked Israel from the rear for no apparent reason immediately after the splitting of the Red Sea, and were terrorizing the Jewish people ever since, are a society so steeped in evil, that the world will be better off without them.
Imagine being commanded by G-d directly to destroy Nazi Germany in its entirety, in 1941. Even if you knew what was coming, you would probably still find it difficult to kill every last German citizen. But this is what G-d commanded Saul to do. Amalek had become a society so evil, it was no longer redeemable.
Saul was unable to complete the task. He takes pity on King Agag, the last remaining Amalekite and cannot bring himself to cut down a man begging and sobbing on his knees. Agag is spared. He is commanded to destroy all the property including the livestock and flocks, but the people want to save the cattle; after all an animal is an animal, right? How can a cow be evil? (Although we might hesitate to adopt dogs used in Auschwitz to maim Jewish concentration camp prisoners….) So instead they allow the animals to live, offering the best cattle up as sacrifices to G- d.
When Shmuel the prophet arrives, and hears the flocks and sees Agag, he understands Saul has disobeyed the word of G-d. Accused by Shmuel, Saul responds:
“… but I did obey the voice of G-d…and brought back Agag, but the Amalekites I destroyed. And the people took of the spoils, sheep and cattle… to sacrifice to the Lord your G-d…” (Samuel I; 15: 20-25)
And when Shmuel nonetheless castigates Saul for his mistake (after all, what value do sacrifices to G-d hold, if they are themselves a violation of what he has commanded…), Saul explains that his mistake was in listening to the people who wanted the cattle, and entreats Shmuel to come back to the camp and worship G-d (ostensibly with these same sacrifices that have already been offered).
To this, Shmuel replies (15:26):
“… I will not return with you for you have disgusted G-d.”
And, even more severe (15: 35):
“And Shmuel never saw Saul again as long as he lived.”
Realize that Shmuel was more than just a prophet to Saul; he was his mentor, his Rebbe. A perusal of the story of Saul reveals very clearly that they must have had a very close relationship, and that Shmuel loved Saul very much. And yet, something happens to cause Shmuel to cut Saul off in much the same way it appears Avram did with Lot. What is it about Saul’s mistake that caused Shmuel to take such a hard line?
Rav Avigdor Miller in his Shiurim series suggests that we are looking at here is a basic flaw in Saul’s process of repentance.
Maimonides points out that there are three components necessary for a person to really modify their negative behavior. A person must have:
Hakarat ha’chet; recognition of the mistake: You have to know that what you are doing is wrong.
Charata’; regret: It has to bother you; you have to be ripped up by the wrong- doing.
Kaballah le’atid: You have to be so bothered by your mistake that you are determined to change, and decide that you will, in the future, never make this mistake again.
Imagine you catch someone at work stealing money from the cash register. And when he realizes he is caught, his face turns white, and he can’t even look at you. Imagine you bring him into your office and he starts to cry, and he realizes he has done a terrible thing, and he swears that if you will only give him a chance, he will never do it again. You would probably give him another chance, right? He has admitted he is wrong; he knows he has done a terrible thing (Hakarat ha’chet), he sincerely regrets it (Charata’) and he seems determined to change in the future (Kaballah le’atid ). And we all make mistakes, right?
But what if, upon being confronted, he laughs at you? Or he rationalizes it by saying he’s just borrowing the money, and after all, what’s so terrible about taking ten dollars when he brings in so much business and is such an asset? Well, if it were me, I’d fire him on the spot, because such a person is never going to change. And worse, he has made wrong into right and confused good and evil to such an extent that he no longer knows the difference.
And this, it would seem, was Saul’s mistake: he doesn’t really admit or accept that he is really wrong; after all, the animals are sacrificed to G-d, and the people pressured him…. Unlike King David, who, when confronted with his sin with Bathsheba humbly responds “Chatati” “I am wrong”, Saul just doesn’t get it. And when evil becomes good and the line between right and wrong becomes so blurred that we no longer can tell one from the other, everything we stand for as a people is at risk. And that, perhaps, is the point at which we need to create a little distance.
If the King of the Jewish people is rationalizing disobeying G-d himself, then how will we ever become a light unto the Nations? And if the potential inheritor of the legacy of Abraham thinks Egypt and S’dom are great places to hang your hat, it is only a matter of time before the people he shares a tent with start to consider his points as having merit.
This is why Rashi takes the time to delineate the dialogue between the shepherds of Avram and Lot: because that is the point. The straw that broke the camel’s back was not that the shepherds of Lot were stealing; it was that they didn’t see anything wrong with it. And if Lot’s shepherds think wrong is right, it can only mean their employer Lot is OK with that and it won’t be long before the rest of the camp starts considering the merits of that position as well. That, perhaps, is why Lot has to go.
What a powerful and yet challenging message. When does someone cross a line to the degree that we need to distance ourselves from them? Not when they do wrong, but when they justify it, and perceive it to be right. When right is wrong and wrong is right, then society is upside down, and if we can’t remove such a society, we at least need to remove ourselves from it. In fact, this really was Nazi Germany’ good became evil, and evil became good. And the greatest danger is not that I am conquered by evil; it is when I become evil.
This is true in every aspect of life. When someone you love does something terrible, it is important to be able to deal with it, forgive them, and move on. But if they don’t really see anything wrong with what they are doing, then we have to absolutely refuse to live with such norms.
We all expect our children to make mistakes, and we try to help them learn from those mistakes, however terrible they may be. But if our children do not even see their errors as mistakes, then something is terribly wrong.
If this is true on an individual level, it is equally true on a National level. What Germany did more than seventy years ago was evil in its purest form, and as a world, we cannot allow such evil to exist in our midst; it has no place in the community of nations. But if Germany recognizes the tremendous evil in their past, and carries the guilt for all that happened, and is truly determined to change and never to allow it to recur, then they can eventually re-enter the community of Nations.
If, however, a society is teaching their children to emulate suicide bombers; if people are dancing on rooftops because scud missiles are raining down on civilians, and partying in the streets because the twin Towers collapsed, then that is a society we cannot tolerate, and we must distance ourselves from.
Perhaps, what Abraham was teaching the world all those thousands of years ago, is that there is a line we cannot cross. And while we dream of creating a world where all peoples live together in peace; our challenge is to make sure we are happy with that peaceful world we create.
The end of the historic “Arab-Israeli conflict” may be on the horizon, depending on the outcome of the US presidential election.
Oh, It wouldn’t mean that the Palestinian Arabs will soon give up on the idea that they can flood Israel with the descendants of 1948 refugees and reverse the result of the War of Independence. It wouldn’t mean that the antisemitism and misoziony that are rife in our neighbors Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, are likely to end in our lifetimes. It wouldn’t mean that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will stop trying to re-establish the Ottoman Empire, including Jerusalem, or that the revolutionary regime in Iran will stop planning to wipe Israel off the map and establish a Shiite caliphate in the region. ISIS, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood will not be normalizing relations with the Jewish state no matter what. There will be plenty of conflict and terrorism in our region for the foreseeable future.
But the classical Arab-Israeli conflict, as expressed by the Three No’s of 1967 may soon be history. The idea that no Arab nation can accept the existence of the Jewish state – or even mention it by name – until all of the extreme demands of the Palestinian Arabs have been met has already fallen by the wayside. It is becoming obvious to any honest observer that the reason the Palestinian issue has festered for so many years is that the Palestinians, encouraged by the Arab nations and European antisemites, have never entertained any possibility short of total victory. Now Arab support for their intransigence and rejectionism is falling away.
The UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan have already made normalization agreements with Israel. Others are expected to follow. The most important of those would be Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, the custodian of the Holy Mosques, and the source of funds for countless Islamic institutions around the world. There are reliable reports that the Saudi regime, which is increasingly under the control of Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), will normalize relations after the US election – if Donald Trump wins.
It’s hard to imagine that any of this would have happened if not for the change in US policy initiated by the Trump Administration. The recognition of Israeli rights in Jerusalem and sovereignty over the Golan, and the downgrading of relations with the PLO, sent an unmistakable message that America did not support the Palestinian program to replace Israel with an Arab state. Trump’s peace plan, unlike those proposed during the previous administration, is not based on the transformation of the 1949 cease-fire lines into borders, but respects the concept of “secure and recognized boundaries” as expressed in UNSC resolution 242.
In order to truly appreciate the change in policy, compare it to that of the previous administration. Even before his inauguration in January 2009, Barack Obama forced Israel to abandon its campaign to oust Hamas from Gaza, probably the last practical opportunity to do so. In June of that year he visited Cairo and made a speech in which he directly compared the Holocaust to Palestinian “suffer[ing] in pursuit of a homeland” (he didn’t visit Israel until 2013, and then chose not to speak to the Knesset in Jerusalem but rather informally to students). Obama deliberately refrained from helping Iranian dissidents in Iran’s failed Green Revolution. He supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Arab Spring conflicts in Egypt, endangering Israeli-Egyptian relations. He demanded a freeze on all “settlement activity” which was used by the Palestinians as an excuse to refuse to talk. He deliberately humiliated PM Netanyahu when he visited the White House in 2011. He stopped a shipment of missiles to Israel during the 2014 conflict with Hamas in Gaza. At the same time the FAA ordered flights to Israel canceled, in an action that many thought was ordered by the administration.
Obama rammed through the Iran deal over the objections of a majority in Congress, including huge cash payments that the regime used to finance terrorism and Hezbollah’s military buildup. In 2013, his administration leaked information to the press about Israeli attacks against Iranian weapons shipments in Syria, making a wider conflict more likely. Finally, as a lame-duck parting shot at Israel in 2016, he encouraged the introduction of an anti-Israel Security Council resolution, and instructed his ambassador to abstain, ensuring its passage. And there is much more.
One can understand why Arab leaders might have thought that there was no percentage in improving relations with Israel while the US was kicking her to the curb.
Joe Biden was deeply involved in the Obama Administration’s relationship with Israel. You may recall that Biden was “furious” after an Israeli official announced the completion of a step in the process of approval for the construction of apartments in eastern Jerusalem while he was visiting Israel, precipitating a 45-minute angry phone call full of demands from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to PM Netanyahu.
Biden has said that he would “rejoin the [nuclear deal with Iran] … as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.” He opposes Trump’s “maximum pressure” approach and even blames it for Iranian progress toward nuclear weapons. He is likely to reopen the American consulate in eastern Jerusalem that was the unofficial “US Embassy in Palestine,” and the PLO office in Washington that were closed by Trump. He will restore financial aid to the Palestinian Authority that was cut off by Trump because the PA would not agree to stop payments to convicted terrorists (“pay to slay”). He will probably restore payments to UNRWA, which supports the descendants of 1948 refugees and is closely aligned with Hamas in Gaza. And he will bring back the tired rhetoric of the impossible “two-state solution” based on 1949 lines. It’s doubtful that he would be as hostile to Israel as Barack Obama, but he would undo much of the progress made by Trump.
This explains the statement by MBS that he would not normalize relations with Israel immediately if Biden becomes president. There is plenty of opposition in Saudi Arabia to such a bold step, which could even express itself violently. MBS is willing to take the risk if it will lead to the development of a powerful, US-supported Sunni-Israel bloc which could challenge Iran for regional leadership. Why should he do so if the US returns to the Obama-era policy of appeasement of Iran? And the same applies to other Arab countries that are waiting in the wings.
The development of a Sunni-Israel bloc in the region would be a breakthrough that would fundamentally alter the balance of power, and reduce the need for the US to physically intervene to keep the peace. It might set the stage for greater regional independence, so that outside players like Russia, the US, and Turkey would be less able to use its nations as pawns in their power struggles. It might lead to the Iranian people finally throwing off the corrupt and oppressive regime of the Mullahs. It might even bring a solution to the Palestinian problem somewhat closer. It would not fix all of the region’s problems, but it would be a good start.
But all of this depends on continuing Trump’s sharp turn towards rationality in Middle East policy. And Joe Biden is not the guy to do it, especially since he has already adopted some of the same advisers and former officials of the Obama Administration that were responsible for its destructive policies, including several architects of the Iran deal. Biden’s mental condition is a matter of dispute, but the specter of the enormous power of the US president in the hands of unelected and unaccountable operatives who have demonstrated their hostility to Israel and their approval of Iranian regional hegemony is truly frightening.
"'And I will make you a great nation' (Bereishis 12:2). Because the journey diminishes reproduction, Avraham needed a blessing to have many descendants" (Rashi). The Midrash Tanchuma explains differently, as follows: when did Hashem make Avraham into a great nation? When Am Yisrael accepted the Torah, as Moshe declared (Devarim 4:8), "And which is a great nation that has just statutes and laws, as the entire Torah that I place before you today?" (Tanchuma Lech Lecha 3).
Rashi understands a great nation quantitatively. Despite the arduous journey, which inhibits procreation, you will father a large nation. By contrast, the Tanchuma interprets a great nation qualitatively and links this greatness to the acceptance of the laws of the Torah.
In fact, the phrase "great nation" (goy gadol) is found twice more in Devarim (4:6-7), "When the nations of the world hear the Torah laws, they will comment, when seeing you observe the laws, 'This great nation is wise and understanding.' For which is a great nation that has a G-d Who is close to it, as HaShem whenever we call to Him?"
The Ba'al HaTurim writes that the blessing "I will make you a nation (goy)" is the greatest (gadol) of the seven blessings found in 12:2 and 12:3. This national experience includes slavery and emancipation. The mere fact that Avraham's progeny will emerge as a national unit that survives forever, as a national unit in good times and bad, is "gadol," the greatest bracha.
The series of the aforementioned three pesukim which contain the phrase "great nation" begins (4:6), "This is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations." The Gemara (Shabbos 75a) asks: What is the wisdom and understanding that is visible to the eyes of the nations? This is the calculation of the "tekufos umazalos." These astronomical and astrological phenomena, as interpreted by wise Jewish scholars, are later confirmed when their meteorological predictions come true (Rashi).
It is this wisdom which is called bina, understanding (Divrei Hayamim I 12:33, see Rashi Devarim 33:18) that the nations, which do not possess Torah wisdom, can ascertain (Maharsha).
This, in turn, leads to their statement that our great nation is wise and because we observe all of the laws of the Torah.
In earlier generations, Rabbinic scholars were recognized for their scientific and medical knowledge, which led to a great appreciation of Torah by their non-Jewish contemporaries. Today, Jewish scientists and doctors continue to enhance our great nation's international reputation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Orthodox Jewish community disproportionately. All of the blessings of "I will make you a great nation" have been affected. The sheer number of fatalities, r"l, has quantitatively reduced our great nation. Of course, each loss is a terrible tragedy for the deceased and the close family and friends. But the cumulative losses in the Orthodox community have been devastating.
Our reputation as a wise and understanding nation has been tarnished. Despite staggering numbers of mortality and morbidity, and notwithstanding repeated warnings and predictions that have come true, appropriate precautions are often ignored. Nearly all physicians, including numerous Orthodox doctors, agree that masks and social distance reduce risk of transmission. In many if not most circumstances, lack of precaution adds danger. It is not only unscientific, it is against the halachic requirement to avoid danger whenever possible. The dozens of recent Covid-19 funerals across the spectrum of Orthodoxy, in the US and Eretz Yisrael, should lead to universal compliance. The failure to wear masks and to distance is a perplexing case of cognitive dissonance, unbefitting a wise and understanding nation.
Avraham's greatest blessing was the creation of an eternal national unit known as Am Yisrael. Based on halacha and mesora, Jews congregate in tefila and Torah, in simcha and aivel. However, the basis of these laudable practices is concern for a fellow Jew. We often go to extraordinary lengths to help and join with others. Today this same mandate demands that we reduce these communal activities to help us stay safe. As a single national unit, we may not practice extreme individualism which results in the spread COVID.
Similarly, young Jews many not unnecessarily risk getting COVID-19 based on relatively mild outcomes for youngsters. As a single national unit, the welfare of older Jews, who can be infected by younger ones with disastrous consequences, cannot be ignored. Shuls, schools, wedding and funerals are all potential spreaders and must proceed with caution. Teaching youngsters to engage in lies or subterfuge to circumvent local laws is terrible chinuch. Dishonesty leads some to leave Torah observance (See the book "Off the Derech" by Faranak Margolese), and causes a chilul Hashem. It could lead to anti-Semitism by those claiming that Orthodox Jews spread disease.
Thankfully, many are now taking the precautions advocated by many gedolei rabbanim, doctors and governmental authorities. This will lead to the fulfillment of Hashem's promise to make us a goy gadol, a great nation. Our numbers will increase as we limit death by COVID-19. Our reputation as a wise and understanding nation, which the Torah attributes to scientific knowledge as well as halachic observance, both of which are reflected by adhering to sound medical advice, will be restored. And the greatest blessing is realized when, as a single national unit, we do whatever is necessary and appropriate to save lives, including staying home.
As members of this great nation, let us all call to HaShem Who is close to us. May Hashem answer our prayers, bring a refua shelaima to the sick, protect the healthy, end the pandemic speedily and fulfill the blessings He gave Avraham Avinu so many years ago.
The Israeli communities of Judea and Samaria represent the front-lines of Zionism - but some people think we should evacuate them for the sake of peace. Rabbi Yishai Fleisher debates social media influencer Hen Mazzig on the contentious topic. But first, Rav Mike Feuer joins Yishai for a walk on the wild side - as Abraham hears the call to LECH LECHA!
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Partisanship has always struck me as curious, the notion that we must vote for a particular political party always and forever, regardless of its current positions, leaders and tendencies. It is worth observing that the Orthodox rabbis who are most vociferous in their support for Joe Biden have always supported every Democrat, without fail, whether, Carter, Dukakis, Clinton, Obama, Clinton and now Biden. It is as if there was a mandate from Sinai that “every Jew must vote Democrat forever!” – and he will therefore toil wearily to overlook FDR’s dismissal of the Holocaust, the Carter, Clinton, Obama or Biden occasional rank hostility to Israel and Jewish interests, and scour the terrain like an archeologist to unearth the reason why the Republican is always a closet Jew hater and the tool of racist and white supremacists. (Yes, these same accusations were lodged against Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. It is part of the Democrat playbook.)
I have twice voted for Democrat presidential candidates, something it is hard to see happening again given where the party is now, but I did it because at the time they were the best candidates in my reckoning for America, Israel and the Jewish people. Anyone with an open mind can see that the Democratic Party has trended in the last two decades to a view of the world that is antithetical to Israel and Jews – globalist, cosmopolitan, secular, with barely concealed tolerance for a Jewish nation state and for the traditional values on which America was founded and because of which Jews have prospered. Here are some compelling reasons why Americans should vote for Donald Trump’s re-election – and why it matters.
First, it should be obvious that gratitude is a fundamental Jewish virtue and, for that reason alone, the simple gesture of voting to re-elect the most pro-Israel president in history should suffice. But concomitant with gratitude should be the realization that President Trump has incorporated Israel’s best interests into American domestic and foreign policy to an unprecedented degree.
Here is just a partial list:
- he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the American embassy there;
- he recognized the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory and the legality of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria;
- he pulled America out of the Iran nuclear deal and orchestrated peace treaties between Israel and three Arab states, with others apparently in the works;
- he closed the PLO mission in Washington and halted aid to the Palestine Authority, recognizing that American taxpayer dollars were being diverted to fund the PA’s “pay for slay” travesty;
- he unequivocally defended Israel in the United Nations and other international forums, and worked to undo the lasting damage of the anti-Israel resolution spearheaded by the American government in the waning days of the Obama-Biden administration that declared, among other things, that the Western Wall is sovereign Arab territory;
- he recognized the right of Israeli settlement as legal, reversing a tendentious State Department legal opinion that dated to the Carter administration;
- he has repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism, and became the only president to sign an Executive Order combating anti-Semitism on American college campuses (where it is rampant);
- he threatened to freeze federal funds to colleges that don’t protect Jews from discrimination on campus.
The fact is that Joe Biden didn’t do any of this – not in the 47 years he was in Washington. He is not anti-Israel – that wouldn’t be fair. He supports a certain type of Israel – the one that has to make concessions for “peace,” the Israel that is an American ward, not an American friend and ally, the Israel accepts American money and therefore must bend to American dictates, and has no right to settle Jews in, of all places, the heartland of the land of Israel. Suffice it to say that, beneath the pleasant smile and the flowery rhetoric, Israeli prime ministers from Menachem Begin to Binyamin Netanyahu felt the wrath and absorbed the vitriol of Joe Biden for the sins of building homes in Israel, including Yerushalayim, and defending Israeli civilians.
Second, a strong America benefits Israel as it keeps American and Israeli adversaries, including Iran, at bay. President Trump has articulated a belief in the smart but limited projection of American military power and he has forcefully applied economic sanctions to a number of countries engaged in acts of global destabilization. Yet, he also ended the caliphate, the life of the ISIS leader and other terrorists. American strength has intimidated America’s enemies.
This “America First” policy – which greatly advantages Israel as well – contrasts sharply with the globalist view of the Obama-Biden administration and others which sub-contracted American influence to neutral or hostile elements and emboldened rogue nations to perpetrate acts of evil with impunity. One need only recall the days of kowtowing to Iran and subsidizing its terror operations, of drawing red lines in the sand that were erased the moment they were crossed, and acquiescing in the conquest by major powers of adjacent territories to realize the inherent danger of a return to those policies, all of which will occur in a Biden-Harris administration.
A Biden administration, it should be feared, will mean a return to terror, a tool that has been largely dormant in the last few years because it was counterproductive to Palestinian interests (Israel fought it, the Arabs opposed it, and the American government never sought to hamstring Israel’s right of self-defense); a revival of American funding of terrorists (under the guise of providing humanitarian aid to the PA; money is fungible); the return of the cruel diplomatic dance of condemning “violence on both sides” when Israel responds to or thwarts terror; a return to the folly of “land for peace”; and a renewal of the castigations of Israel when a Jew adds a room to a house in Bet El. Iran will again be coddled and funded. The reason why so many Arab countries have warmed to Israel during the Trump administration was a direct result of the bizarre and deadly Obama-Biden tilt to Iran. That is why Iran and Israel’s Muslim foes (like Turkey) want Joe Biden back, and most of the Arab world (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States) and Israel anticipate with joy a second Trump administration.
Third, the US Supreme Court has attempted, in recent years, to revert to a more constitutionally appropriate role interpreting and applying the will of America’s foundational documents. That has not been an easy nor altogether successful enterprise, as it is difficult for any institution to relinquish power it has claimed for itself. But it is slowly changing, and that is due to the incumbent American president.
President Trump has appointed and continues to appoint Supreme Court justices and federal judges who adhere to a more limited, originalist philosophy. Such not only stabilizes American society – either the Constitution means what it says, or fundamental principles can change abruptly based on the whims of five justices in a land of 330,000,000 people with the attendant disruptions to societal order – but it can only have a positive influence on jurisprudence in Israel where the High Court similarly arrogates to itself powers it should not have. Conversely, an American judicial system whose judges are appointed by a President Biden will encourage even more unbridled activism by the Supreme Court that further erode American democracy and make elections almost irrelevant.
The recent threats to religious liberty in America should be a clarion call to all Jews. A land in which riots and demonstrations have constitutional protections that religious worship and Torah study do not is a land that will in due course become inhospitable to Jewish life. Jews should take note, even if some rabbis don’t, that the marauders, arsonists and anarchists that have destroyed American cities are not Republicans but have been aided and abetted by the Democrat mayors, governors and even Joe Biden. Their America – the America that the rioters seek – is not one in which Jews will be welcome, as they perceive Jews as integral parts of the systemic racism they allege holds them back, enriches the few at the expense of the many. Those people, in a Biden/Harris administration, are coming for you.
Fourth, a victory for President Trump would greatly weaken the “cancel culture” promoted by progressives in America that seeks to destroy individuals whose words or actions simply offend them. This “cancel culture” is today routinely accompanied by attacks on freedom of speech, assembly and worship. It attempts to silence any voices that dissent from the progressive orthodoxy the critics wish to impose.
To an incalculable extent, President Trump stands in the way of the “cancel culture,” even as Joe Biden is a beneficiary and even an unwitting advocate for it. A vote for Biden will bolster every negative social trend in America, and the open borders he and his party effectively promotes – with a path to citizenship for every illegal alien – will fundamentally transform America. Jews have a comfort level in the United States (that is not always warranted or salutary); that comfort level will continue to decline. It should be sobering to all Jews that the enemies of Jews in America and across the world largely support the election of Joe Biden. That doesn’t make him a bad person – support is support – but it should be considered.
Fifth, President Trump’s temperament. Well, in all candor, that is not a reason to vote for him but certainly not a reason to vote against him. I, too, wish he would act more presidential, tweet less, cut out the nicknames, and never punch below his weight class against inane celebrities. But his greatest weakness is also his greatness strength: he is not a politician. Joe Biden is a politician. (Typical politician talk: “I will not ban fracking!” That is probably true but he could always regulate and tax it into non-existence, accomplishing the same goal having not actually “banned” it – and shifting the United States away from complete energy independence to a renewed reliance on imported oil.) A politician is a chameleon, with positions that change depending on the audience. A politician profits from his position and enriches his family – and then denies knowing anything about it. Trump is not a politician. He has never perfected the oleaginous politician double talk nor, for that matter, the fairly obvious goal of trying to reach out to people beyond your most loyal base. The former is great, the latter – less so.
The bottom line is that I do not seek moral guidance from any political leader of any party but only from the Torah. Harry Truman’s curses, anti-black and anti-Jewish slurs flowed like water over Niagara. It didn’t prevent him from desegregating the American army or recognizing Israel’s existence, both controversial actions. No president was more vulgar than Lyndon Johnson. Presidents – just take recent history – like FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump all suffered from “women” problems, as does Joe Biden, whose predations against women have been so ignored by his supporters and the media that he seems to have singlehandedly eradicated the MeToo movement. Kamala Harris entered political life as the consort of a politically-powerful married man. By contrast, Mike Pence observes the laws of yichud, and is ridiculed for it by the enlightened press that routinely scolds Republicans (only Republicans; Democrat offenders get a pass) for their randiness, even mistreatment of women.
For sure, Trump has been more bitter than most presidents, but only because no prior president ever endured such sustained spying on his campaign (much worse than Watergate), the attempt to tarnish and overthrow him with bogus accusations of foreign influence, the relentless hostility of the press (magnified now because of social media and 24/7 news), the illegal and immediate leaking of intelligence information (including private Oval Office conversations – something that has never happened in American history), and the disloyalty of so many entrenched government officials. All of this occurred, mainly, because of their conclusion that the American people were wrong to have elected him and that he was a ready and present danger as president. And all he did was bring prosperity and peace.
Sixth, “follow the science” has become a poll-tested cliché of the Democrats. I am not a physician but I do know that the presidency is a high stress job that requires daily multi-tasking and rapid decision-making on matters of great consequence. We all wish Joe Biden well, win or lose, but no one can truly contend with any credibility that he currently possesses the vitality, vigor and mental acuity to function as president now, and certainly not when he hits 82 years old towards the end of his term (if elected). Hard core Jewish Democrats who impute to Biden their nostalgic for “the moderate old Democrat” should consider how they would enjoy a President Harris, who is as unaccomplished a politician as she is a creature of the radical left, whose views – on religion, culture, values, the economy, Israel, etc. – are inimical to everything that Jews should profess. If you really “follow the science,” no one Biden’s age or condition should be running for, much less serving as, President.
And the Corona virus? Politics has never been known for sincerity or fairness but certainly the vicious and tendentious accusations against President Trump’s handling of the virus are obviously unfair. Israel has been wracked by its second wave of Corona after touting its response to the first wave; stores, schools and the country itself remain mostly closed. The unrest and discontent here is as great as in any country. Europe, now, is being battered by its second wave – France, Spain, Italy, the UK and elsewhere are rapidly shutting down or scrambling to find some way forward. The bottom line is that no one truly knows what to do – not Trump, not Biden, not the scientists. Read the “Great Barrington Declaration” promulgated a few weeks ago by thousands of scientists, decrying the lockdown response to the virus as deadlier than the virus itself and with even more dreadful long term consequences.
Sure, follow the science. And what if the scientists are in dispute? What if the scientists do not know? Then a leader weighs the advice and input of different sources, not merely the science, and determines what is best for the society. And when the subject is an unprecedented pandemic, honest people allow for flexibility in response and mature people recognize that there is no panacea. But politics is politics, and “follow the science” is a great slogan for virtue-signaling secularists.
Seventh, and finally, can we please put a stop to this notion of Trump as “dog-whistling Jew hater”? It is preposterous. The Charlottesville hoax, perpetrated by the media, can be rebutted by any person who spends three minutes watching the press conference. The “fine people on both sides” referred to different views among protesting southerners as to the acceptability of Confederate statues. A minute later, Trump said explicitly that he is not referring to “white supremacists” who should be unequivocally condemned. And think about it – the violence there was carried out by white supremacists and Antifa militants; did the President really say there are “fine” Antifa? I think not, but this hoary notion of the Republican candidate who secretly hates Jews also surfaces in every election cycle. And Jews fall for it time and again.
I was in the White House several times when President Trump, speaking to an audience of American Jews, referred to Israel as “your country” and Netanyahu as “your prime minister.” I laughed because I knew how it sounded and what he meant – that Jews have a special bond and connection to their homeland. Shame on those Jews who see this as nefarious – but perhaps that is why I write from Israel, and not America.
It is astonishing, also, that the the liberal Jewish media has spent years chastising Trump’s Jewish and observant children – and kvell over Harris’ intermarried Jewish husband. That too does not portend well for American Jewry.
Baruch Hashem, we have seen under the first Trump administration the glorious advantages of having an unabashedly pro-Israel administration, one that advocates for traditional values and freedoms and perceives Israel as a partner, friend and ally, one that endorses and promotes the traditional values on which America was founded, and has unleashed the American economy to remarkable achievement.
We should not take that for granted. We will rue the day if and when it is no longer the case. Here in Israel it has been widely observed that the only advantage to a Biden administration will be an anticipated upsurge in American aliya. Life will become more difficult. The mob will have won, and the streets will again be the domain of rioters and looters, those who think only their lives matter and no one else’s, and the craven politicians who support them. That is the future – only with a redistribution of the wealth from the productive to the unproductive, wealth for which generations of Americans have worked hard.
If Donald Trump is not your cup of tea, go have a coffee – and then vote for him. Vote for the man whose policies have strengthened both the United States of America and the nation of Israel, and who promises, credibly, more of the same.
Will the next US Administration sustain the realization that the clear and present threat of the transnational Muslim Brotherhood to every moderate Arab regime in the Middle East and North Africa (second only to the threat posed by Iran's Ayatollahs) has been a key incentive for the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to conclude the US-backed peace accords with Israel?
Will the next US Administration acknowledge the role played by Muslim Brotherhood subversion and terrorism in Saudi Arabia's decision to expand security and commercial cooperation with Israel?
According to Prof. Albert Hourani, a leading Middle East historian, Oxford University's St. Anthony's College (A History of the Arab Peoples, pp. 445-446), the following are the tenets of the Muslim Brotherhood: "A total rejection of all forms of society except the wholly Islamic one…. The true Islamic society…was the one which accepted the sovereign authority of God [Allah]…which regarded the Quran as the source of all guidance for human life…. All other societies were societies of jahiliyya (ignorance of religious truth), whether they were communist, capitalist, nationalist, [followers of] false religions, or claimed to be Muslim but did not obey the Sharia…. The leadership of Western man in the human world is coming to an end…because the Western order has played its part, and no longer possesses that stock of values which gave it its predominance…. The turn of Islam has come…."
The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest Islamic terror organization in the world – supported mostly by Turkey's Erdogan, Iran's Ayatollahs and Qatar – with political branches throughout the globe (including in the USA), aiming to rid the Arab world of Western "infidel" influence (which drew the current map of the Middle East), topple existing Arab regimes in a subversive and revolutionary manner, Islamize Arab societies, establish a "divinely-ordained" pan-Islamic regime and spread Islam through violence/terrorism, as well as via political and organizational involvement (e.g., the Freedom and Justice Party in Libya, the ruling Ennahdha Party in Tunisia, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco, the recently dissolved Islamic Action Front in Jordan, the Islamic Constitutional Movement in Kuwait, Jamaat-e-Islami in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and the Welfare Party of India).
The Muslim Brotherhood maintains that the only legitimate rule is Islam-based rule. Moreover, Arab regimes, which are not based on the Sharia (the precepts of Islam) are apostates and therefore, targets for Jihad (martyrdom for Islam).
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassan Al-Banna, and participated in the offensive against the British-backed monarchy. However, since the toppling of the monarchy in 1952, the Muslim Brotherhood – assisted by Palestinian leaders - has been engaged in domestic, regional and global Jihad (terrorism) against all secular Arab regimes (e.g., Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain), as prescribed by the teachings of Sayyid Qutb (who was hanged in Egypt in 1966), inspiring a multitude of Islamic terror organizations such as Al Qaeda and Hamas, while condemning Arab corruption and inequality and providing social and charity services.
In 1949, the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud Nuqrashi; in 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood failed in its attempt to murder Egyptian President Nasser; but, in 1981, its offshoot, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, murdered Egyptian President Sadat. The Islamic Jihad merged with Al Qaeda (the perpetrators of September 11, 2001!), terrorized US and Israeli targets, and formed a political party (the Freedom and Justice Party) during the 2011-2013 Muslim Brotherhood rule of Egypt, which was supported by the US Administration. In 2020, the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist and political branches – bearing innocent titles - seek to subvert, terrorize and topple every moderate, pro-US Arab regime, proliferating all over the globe, including South, Central and North America.
According to Professor Fouad Ajami, one of the leading experts on Arab politics and Director of Middle East Studies, Johns Hopkins University (The Arab Predicament, Cambridge University Press, 1992), the Muslim Brotherhood espouses: "The struggle of the Prophet [Muhammed], the integrity of Islam, the need for sacrifice, the clash between the world of Islam and the Jews, who will never abandon their belief that they are God's chosen people (p. 134)."
Professor Albert Hourani (ibid., pp. 445-446) adds: "Those who accepted [the Muslim Brotherhood] program would form a vanguard of dedicated fighters, using every means, including Jihad… to destroy all worship of false gods and remove all the obstacles which prevented men from accepting Islam. The struggle should aim at creating a universal Muslim society in which there were no distinctions of race, and one which was worldwide. The Western age is finished…. Only Islam offered hope to the world…. [The Muslim Brotherhood] were prepared for violence and martyrdom."
Will the next US Administration demonstrate realism and recognize the threat of Islamic terrorism to global stability, including US homeland security?
Will the next US Administration sustain the current US support of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and additional Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa in their battle against the lethal threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood?
Will the next US Administration persist in the financial and military pressure of Iran's Ayatollahs, who have been a critical epicenter of global proliferation of Islamic terrorism (including to South and Central America) and a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood?
Will the next US Administration codify the repudiation of Islamic terrorism by outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood and its political and social offshoots such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Society of North America?
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir
Two world wars are mentioned in the Bible. One occurred during Abraham’s day, between the four kings and the five. That was a war between two coalitions of evildoers. On the one side were a number of kings including Amrafel, a.k.a. Nimrod, who had rebelled against G-d. On the other side was Bera King of Sodom, who, like his name, was evil [ra] to G-d and evil to man (Rashi on Genesis 14:2).
The other world war will occur in the end of days, that of Gog and Magog. At first, the nations of the world will fight against one another: “Every man’s sword shall be against his brother” (Ezekiel 38:20); “On that day, a great panic from the L-rd shall be among them, and each of them will lay hold on the hand of his neighbor, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbor” (Zechariah 14:13; Rashi, Malbim).
With both of these world wars, the Jewish People ultimately achieve a resounding victory.
In the first of the two, Abraham defeats Chedorlaomer and the kings with him, and as he returns from the war, the King of Sodom and MalkiTzedek, King of Shalem go forth to Emek Shaveh, the valley of the king, and they bless Abraham (Genesis 14:17). Rashi explains why it is called “Emek Shaveh” [lit., “level valley”]. It is because all the nations were rendered equal [hushvu] there and they crowned Abraham over them as a prince of G-d. They treated him with royal honors and appointed him leader of the nations. They did this not just due to his wisdom and reliability, but because they saw with their own eyes his military might and fortitude.
As noted above, during the other Biblical world war, that of Gog and Magog, described by both Ezekiel (38-39) and Zechariah (14), the nations of the world will fight one another. In the first stage, the conflict will be between Ishmael and Edom (Malbim and other sources), and in the second stage, they will all fight against Israel with the intention of conquering Jerusalem. Even so, they will suffer a terrible defeat, and Israel will enjoy an enormous victory:
“Jerusalem shall dwell in security…. The L-rd shall be King over all the earth. On that day, the L-rd shall be one and His name One…. It shall come to pass that everyone that is left of all the nations who came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the L-rd of hosts, and to keep the festival of booths” (Zechariah 14:11,9,16); “Then I will magnify and sanctify Myself, and I will make Myself known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the L-rd” (Ezekiel 38:23).
As is known, in the Kaddish recited by Jews for thousands of years, with the words, “May G-d’s great name be magnified and sanctified,” we have to have in mind also Israel’s being victorious against its enemies, for through this G-d’s name is magnified and sanctified in the world.
Today there are war clouds over the earth. It is a physical war between Islam, on the one hand, and a spiritual war against the western world, on the other. In the background, however, there is now also China and its mendacity. Yet, here are the Jewish People, rising to rebirth in the State of Israel, no matter who may challenge us. Our ancestors’ deed presage our own. In the first war of history, the nations appointed Abraham to be their president and leader, and gave him the honor of kings. So too in the final war, the war of Gog and Magog, only a resounding victory by Israel over its enemies seeking to banish it from its land and to conquer Jerusalem, like today, will cause the nations of the world to treat Israel with respect:
“All the inhabitants of the world will realize…. That the kingdom is Yours, and to all eternity You will reign in glory…. The L-rd shall be King over the all the earth. On that day [the day of victory], the L-rd shall be One and His name One” (Aleinu prayer).
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Completing the Master’s Work
We must first understand the essence of the servant-master relationship. The servant fulfills the wishes of his master by completing the master’s work. The servant is an extension of his master, his shaliach or agent. When the servant acts, it is as if the master has acted.
Before Abraham, people acknowledged the existence of a Prime Mover, an infinite Being Who created the universe. But they could not fathom how a truly perfect Being would be concerned with an imperfect and lowly world such as ours. Why would God, transcendent beyond all things, be involved in the smallest details of the workings of the universe?
They failed to recognize that an integral aspect of creation — its inner core — is that the universe aspires to perfect itself. This underlying aspiration for perfection and the world’s gradual moral progression is by plan and purpose; thus Divine providence governs all moral paths in the world, even the smallest and least significant.
The central conduit for the universe’s pursuit of perfection is mankind’s efforts to elevate its deeds, traits, and thoughts. We have free will to choose good or evil. And that which leads us to choose good over evil is God’s will stamped in creation, resulting in the universe’s inner aspiration to perfection.
By declaring God as his Master, Abraham publicly proclaimed that God governs the world and desires its moral perfection. God wills that we should be His agents in bringing about the world’s gradual advancement. As we work toward our own personal spiritual growth, we promote the work of our Master — the spiritual elevation of the entire universe.
(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, p. 33 on Berachot 7b (I:77) by Rav Chanan Morrison)
by HaRav Nachman Kahana
We meet our illustrious grandparents Avraham and Sarah in the last verses of parashat Noach, but there is no information regarding what made them the chosen human beings of HaShem and progenitors of HaShem’s chosen nation – Am YIsrael.
In actuality, the story of Avraham and Sarah is inseparably bound to the episode of Kayin and Hevel, even though they are not mentioned by name as follows…
In Parashat Bereishiet, the Torah relates that Kayin was a farmer and his brother Hevel a shepherd. Kayin initiated an offering to HaShem, consisting – according to Rashi – of poor-quality vegetables, while Hevel brought “the best of his flock” (Bereishiet 4:4). When HaShem preferred Hevel’s gift, Kayin grew angry to such a degree that HaShem had to warn him to put aside his frustrations lest he sin. At that point, Kayin murdered Hevel.
The Midrash reveals that Kayin and Hevel were fraternal twins. In Kayin’s amniotic sac there was a twin sister, and in Hevel’s there were two twin sisters. In the course of time, Kayin married his twin sister and Hevel married one of his own twin sisters. Kayin demanded Hevel’s second twin sister; and when Hevel refused, Kayin murdered him.
HaShem asked Kayin: “Where is your brother Hevel?” (v. 9) and Kayin responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (v. 9).
The Midrash teaches that Kayin repented, and HaShem meted out just half of the punishment he would have received as a murderer. Kayin would forever be a wanderer, incapable of settling permanently in one place (v. 12).
Each stage of the story is puzzling:
- The name “Kayin” is derived from the word kinyan (acquire), a halachic-legal concept through which Chava expressed her gratitude to HaShem for presenting her with a child. By contrast, “Hevel” is a derogatory name meaning nothingness. King Shlomo in Kohelet describes the worthlessness of man’s deeds using the expression, “Utter futility! [hevel havalim], all is futile” (1:2). Why did Hevel’s parents give him such a name?
- Why did the Torah inform us that Kayin was a farmer and Hevel a shepherd?
- Kayin offered poor-quality vegetables. Is that the sort of gift one brings to the Creator of the Universe? Why was Kayin dejected when HaShem preferred Hevel’s excellent offering?
- Would Kayin really have killed his brother over which sister to marry?
- In response to HaShem’s question, “Where is your brother Hevel?”, Kayin responded disrespectfully, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Is that how one responds to the Master of the Universe?
- Why did HaShem only punish Kayin for half of his crime? If the murder was justified, he should have been totally acquitted. If not, what room was there for forgiveness at all?
- How was the punishment of “restless wandering” appropriate to the crime of fratricide?
Rabbi Eliezer in Tractate Chagiga 12a says that before Adam sinned, he reached “from heaven to earth”, reflecting the spiritual bond that linked him to the celestial realm. Following his sin, HaShem placed His hand, so to speak, on Adam and made him smaller, as it says in Tehillim 139:5: “… You placed Your hand upon me.”
Kayin and Hevel differed on a fundamental issue: Just how much did HaShem diminish Adam and Chava, and after them all mankind?
Kayin argued that although mankind was no longer what it had been prior to the original sin of Adam and Chava, humans were still connected spiritually to HaShem – sort of angels with shortcomings.
Hevel argued that HaShem had cut Man off totally from the spiritual realm and, from that time on, relegating the human race to just one more rung on the Darwinian ladder of all biological creatures to survive according to the “laws of the jungle”. Man, though more sophisticated, more talented and more conniving but essentially no different from any other animal. Man became a sort of highly developed monkey.
The main characteristic of an enlightened society is its ability to enact and enforce just and moral laws. In contrast, the “animal kingdom” lives according to the “law of the jungle” – the survival of the fittest.
The older brother gave expression to his belief in man’s spirituality by adopting the name “Kayin”, connoting legal purchase and ownership. His brother preferred the name “Hevel” (nothingness), which expressed his worldview that humans are no longer connected to the spiritual universe but are just another type of animal that exists according to the law of the jungle. Hevel believed that when all was said and done, values and ethics would be forever meaningless.
In accordance with their outlooks, Kayin chose to be a farmer and Hevel a shepherd. Kayin plowed, sowed, harvested, ground and kneaded to make dough, baked bread and enjoyed his involvement in the unfinished world that he had received from HaShem. Had he the ability, he would have built jets and established institutions of higher learning for the study of chemistry and physics. He was HaShem’s full partner in developing and refining the world.
Hevel, the shepherd, accepted the natural world as it was. He would go out each morning with his flocks and return with them in the evening, seeing himself as just another of the plethora of creatures – a smarter one but devoid of a spiritual soul after his parents’ sin. He did not develop anything, and he did not improve anything. He was a fine, highly developed monkey.
Kayin brought poor-quality vegetables (Rashi) as a gift to HaShem, and Hevel brought fat, heathy animals to appease the Creator of nature. Here, as well, each brother was following his own worldview.
As a proponent of the halachic-legal approach, Kayin had no need for nice vegetables or plump animals, because any offering would be acceptable as long as the act was performed in accordance with the rules of Halacha.
Hevel viewed himself and all mankind as an eternal part of the world of nature, in which esthetics and external beauty are the defining characteristic. Therefore, he brought the best of his flocks.
HaShem chose Hevel’s gift, signaling that Hevel’s view in the philosophical argument between the brothers was the correct one, that after the sin in the Garden of Eden, mankind was no longer the preferred creation but just another one of all the biological creatures.
Kayin refused to accept that determination, even though it came from HaShem. He was incapable of seeing himself cut off from HaShem’s holiness, and he struggled in vain to find a suitable definition for himself and for mankind – the words “Israel” and “Jew” had not yet descended to the world.
Kayin demanded the second sister born in Hevel’s placenta, but Hevel refused. Hevel argued that she belonged to him due to the natural reality of her having been born with him.
Kayin argued that she was his, due to his being the firstborn, such that halachically he deserved a double portion. Hevel rejected this claim, just as he rejected anything based on law and Halacha. Kayin rose up against his brother Hevel and murdered him.
HaShem appeared to Kayin and asked him, “Where is your brother Hevel?” Kayin responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Hebrew word for “keeper” is shomer and derives from the world of Halacha (Tractate Bava Metzia), where it is commonly translated as “a legal agent”. Kayin, so to speak, was castigating HaShem by saying, “If You have really established that people are just another type of animal, operating according to the laws of the jungle, then I am no longer my brother’s keeper.”
Kayin admitted to his brother’s murder and pleaded innocent based on the following argument: Since Hevel lived according to the laws of the jungle – not bound by the principles of justice and morality – sooner or later strong emotions would have compelled Hevel to murder Kayin. Hence, Hevel was halachically classified as a rodef, an assailant, and it was a mitzvah to kill him.
Even though HaShem accepted Kayin’s halachically-correct arguments, He ruled as follows: Had Kayin advocated using the laws of the jungle, he would be exempt. Instead, Kayin conducted himself according to the Torah, which was forbidden to him just as it is forbidden for a non-Jew to keep the Sabbath. Therefore, he was partially exonerated of murder (fratricide), but was punished for adopting Torah approaches outside his authority. Kayin was condemned to a life of wandering like a forest animal, for this was HaShem’s decree against the human race.
And so it was for twenty generations, until Avraham appeared on the stage of history. Out of HaShem’s love for Avraham and Sarah, the spiritual souls taken from Adam and Chava were restored in them. From that time on, their children, and children’s children forever would be privileged to a heavenly portion as had existed before the primal sin. In addition, because of Avraham and Sarah, a degree of spirituality was restored to all of mankind, albeit lower than that of Avraham and his descendants.
As a mark of this change in mankind’s elevated status brought about by Avraham, HaShem added the Hebrew letter “hei” to Avram’s name, rendering him “Avraham”, which is short for “Av Hamon Goyim” – “father of many nations,” father of mankind. Later Sarah received her full name, changed from Sarai.
Humanity today is somewhat connected to the spiritual world, having been elevated by Avraham and Sarah’s efforts above the animal world of Kayin and Hevel.
One day, when the nations realize what they owe to the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov, they will willingly and sincerely lift up the Jewish nation to the status promised us by HaShem in this week’s parasha.
Remember the three Bs:
Be healthy, Be careful Be here, and
JLMM – Jewish lives Matter Most
Shabbat Shalom and have a happy and healthy winter,
Copyright © 5781/2020 Nachman Kahana
The Joint Arab List was alone in voting against the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates in the Knesset, upsetting many Israeli Arabs that welcomed a move that is likely to become a key economic, education and tourism opportunity for the community...
An estimated 1.9 million (20 percent) of Israel s population is Arab, and prior to the latest deals, the only Arab countries open to them were Egypt, a popular tourist destination, and Jordan, where many attend college. Arab Israelis also travel to Saudi Arabia for the Haj pilgrimage, commuting through Jordan or another country since there are no direct flights from Israel.
Regarding opposition by Israeli-Arab parties in the Joint List, Ghada Zoabi, founder and CEO of the Israeli-Arab news portal, said political leaders have their own personal interests and desire to make headlines.
The peace deal will positively affect the entire region, and Israeli Arabs that have family members there will more easily connect with them and study there..."
The Joint List is acting like the Palestinian Authority in rejecting the deal, when, in fact, it will help Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian territories, she continued, adding that in the case of the Joint List, they should not have come out publicly against the deal...
Zoabi claimed that many Israeli Arabs supported them in the last elections because they wanted to oust the right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not because they necessarily support the entire Joint List agenda.
Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
The situation between Israel and the so-called Palestinians will not change until they realise that Israel is here to stay! They need to stop terror against Israel and end occupying Jewish land - by leaving it! There are 22 Arab states (almost 60 Muslim) - only one tiny Jewish one. It is time for Muslim brothers around the world, who have been so concerned about plight of fake Palestinians, and have been generously subsidising their existence for over 70 years, while they dream of the destruction of Israel, to truly embrace and welcome fake Palestinians back!
Returning Sudanese Migrants
Sudan s government has agreed to accept large numbers of migrants who illegally entered Israel, following the announced normalization between the countries. Thousands of Sudanese nationals have illegally entered Israel in the past 15 years, and about 6,000 remain. The return of as many as possible was determined in two-way talks with the Sudanese government. (Immediate positive result of the agreement!)
US Reaffirming Israel's Military Edge
Defense Minister Benny Gantz met US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon on Thursday where they signed a joint declaration confirming Washington's strategic commitment to maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge in the Middle East. Gantz's visit mainly revolved around advancing Israel's bid to purchase advanced US-made aircrafts such as F-15 and F-35 fighter jets, transport helicopters, and probably also a V-22 helicopter.
Simulating War with Hezbollah
The IDF launched the Lethal Arrow military exercise simulating a war on Israel s northern border with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, incorporating thousands of regular and reserve soldiers to simulate war with Hezbollah terrorists. (During political instability in Lebanon, war with Hezbollah is becoming more likely.)
EU Finances Anti-Semitic, Terror-Tied NGOs
EU donated ¬30 million to anti-Israel NGOs in 2019. 32 grants totalling ¬30.1 million ($35.67 million) were issued for projects listed under Palestine, and an additional nine grants totalling ¬3.3 million were approved for projects listed under Israel. The funding included three grants totalling ¬5.8 million involving NGOs tied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an EU-designated terrorist group. For example, one 2019 grantee, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip (RCS4GS) regularly hosts PFLP-organized events that are attended by PFLP armed activists. (In anti-Semitic Europe nobody protests or even questions these generous contributions to anti-Israel organisations!)
Why is Turkey still a Member of NATO?
The Hamas terrorist organization has established a secret cyberwarfare and counter-intelligence ops headquarters in Turkey. The unit reportedly runs the terror group s operations against Hamas rivals across the Arab world, including against the Palestinian Authority, and against Saudi and United Arab Emirate embassies in the Middle East and Europe. (Turkey has chosen the Islamist path; buying weapons from Russia; supporting terrorist organisations, but still is a member of NATO! Why?)
Israel s Generosity is not Appreciated
The Israeli Electric Company announced that it had transferred to the Palestinian Authority three sub-stations in Tarqumiyah, Qalandiya, and Shechem, to transmit electricity from Israel. This is in addition to the sub-station in Jenin that was transferred to the PA in 2017. If only the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority had learned from their own news agency about this improvement in their lives due to Israel s generosity. (Helping enemies to stay and occupy Jewish land, is it generosity or stupidity? Arabs view it as a weakness and the PA does not pay its electrical, gas, and water bills to Israel - turn the tap off!)
Terror Business as Usual
1) A new tunnel snaking underground into Israel from the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis had been unearthed by the IDF with the help of new technology. It was developed after Palestinians terrorists dug these tunnels - 20 in the last few years to sneak attackers into Israel for attacks on neighbouring communities. The tunnel was detected by sensors in the concrete barrier.
2) Iron Dome intercepted a Palestinian rocket fired from the Gaza Strip a week ago. On Thursday, two more rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel
3) IAF attacks Hamas in Gaza in retaliation for rocket attack.
Quote of the Week:
In comparison with David Friedman, the US Ambassador in Israel, Netanyahu is far left-wing. The US administration is pulling Israel to the right and we will not be able to renew the negotiations. - Saeb Erekat, chief PA negotiator with Israel - The question is - Why Bibi is still remaining on the 'far-Left' and unwilling to use the opportunity created by President Trump and advance the Zionist aspirations of the Jewish people?
The PA Hurts 'Palestinians' Most!
by David Israel
The real source of Palestinian misery is not Israel and not the Trump administration. It s the Palestinian leadership!
The PA arrested businessman Saleh Abu Mayala from Hebron after his return from President Trump s Manama, Bahrain conference on economic plans to help the Palestinians...
President Trump s initiative came against the background of two failed Palestinian states: the one in Judea and Samaria and the one in the Gaza Strip.
Bad government, mismanagement of resources, poverty, waste, and rampant corruption among the Palestinian leadership, have combined with collapsing sewer and water systems that were never kept up since the Israelis have left, and restricted food, medicine and power, to create the worst pockets of misery on the planet... (Attacking Israel/Jews is their priority!)
Both governments suppress free speech and democratic activities, and both prefer to divert their resources to the war against Israel while their people are suffering needlessly.
They invest the donations they receive in incitement and terrorism directed against Israel, rather than invest in essential public services for their people.
They pay salaries to their terrorists behind bars in Israel, and to sustain this outrage, they cut the pay of their government employees by 40%.
At the same time, the Palestinian leaders are mired in graft and corruption... Abbas own net worth is estimated at $100 million (Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is not far behind) . Hamas collects $5,000 each from Arabs who wish to immigrate to the West...