Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Am Yisroel Chai

National Security Adviser, Susan Rice seen here with PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Today is the first day of Av, the month when Jews commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples. It’s a reminder that the Jewish people have endured much worse than rockets and survived much stronger enemies than Hamas. You have been tested by tragedy and time, by history and hatred. But each time, am yisrael chai: the people of Israel live.
As if on cue to my critical comments yesterday about Europe - come similar comments by President Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice. The above words were among the opening remarks made yesterday in her address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. If anyone has the slightest doubt about America’s commitment to Israel, they should read her remarks in their entirely. They are available at Cross Currents.

This is one reason (of many) that makes the United States different than all other countries - past and present. The term Esav Sonei L’Yaakov does not apply to vast majority of Americans and certainly not to the Obama administration.

This is why I think Jews all over the world should consider making either Israel or the US their home. Israel for obvious reasons. But if one is unable to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel) for any reason, there is no better place in the world for the Jewish people than the USA. What Ms. Rice revealed about current US attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people was more than encouraging. 

The contrast between America and Europe should not go unnoticed. With all the lip service about Europe no longer being hostile to the Jews and even welcoming to us, their true intentions can be seen in places like the UN. The US recognizes this and stands up for Israel every time the rest of the world dumps on her.  Here is how Ms. Rice put it: 
I saw this firsthand during my years at the United Nations, where America always has Israel’s back when its basic right of self-defense is challenged. Believe me, I remember all too well the fight against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. So, last week, when the United Nations Human Rights Council again passed a one-sided resolution calling for a commission of inquiry that will have no positive impact and should never have been created– the United States stood with Israel and said “no.” We were the lone vote in the Human Rights Council. Even our closest friends on the Council abstained. It was 29-1. But the “1”, as usual, was America… 
We take that stand on principle. It’s important not just for Israel, but for the credibility of the United Nations itself…  So when countries single out Israel for unfair treatment at the UN, it isn’t just a problem for Israel. It’s a problem for all of us. 
Here is what she said about the increase of Antisemitism in the world: 
(T)oday, we also see anti-Semitism flaring up around the world, including in Europe. The pretext is the passions coming out of the current conflict, but we all know it has its roots in something ancient and ugly—and we should not shy away from calling it by its name. 
It’s one thing to use the right of free expression to criticize particular policies of a particular government. No nation is immune from criticism, fair and otherwise, including our own—take it from me as a former UN ambassador. But an anti-Jewish riot is not a policy critique. It’s not free expression when a protest turns into a mob that attacks a synagogue and a kosher grocery store. It’s one thing when the message is “end the fighting,” but when the message is “Death to the Jews,” it’s an outrage. 
And it’s dangerous when the mayor of a major city takes to Twitter to invoke Hitler and incite hostility against the Israeli Embassy, which he called “the despicable murderers’ consulate.” That’s just hate, and it’s got to stop. As the late Tom Lantos used to say, “the veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.” 
These words come from an administration that some perceive to be less supportive of the Jewish state than previous administrations.  This criticism is in my view grossly unfair and even false. While there may have been some policy differences between the US and Israel, those disagreements were in my view not intended to harm Israel, but to help her. So even when we disagree, let us not ascribe nefarious motives where they do not belong.

The President’s strong commitment to Israel is why he has supported Iron Dome… and continues to support it. More from Ms. Rice: 
As we pursue diplomacy, we are grateful that the amazing Iron Dome anti-rocket system – researched and funded jointly by Israel and America – stands watch over Israel’s cities
During my most recent visit to Israel in May, I saw first-hand the technology at Palmachim Air Force Base. I met the young Israelis who operate the system—dedicated men and women now working around the clock. In recent weeks, on average, over 100 rockets a day have been fired at Israel. Iron Dome has literally meant the difference between life and death. And I’m deeply proud that President Obama helped make it possible. And, I’m proud that – with his enthusiastic support—the United States will more than double our investment in Iron Dome. 
The President also instructed the Secretary of Defense to inform Congress last week that we support an additional $225 million to accelerate the production of Iron Dome components in Israel this year and maintain Israel’s stockpile of interceptor missiles. Now, Congress has a critical opportunity this week to fund the President’s supplemental request, so that Israel can remain secure.
Iron Dome makes it clear yet again: America has Israel’s back. We have always had a truly special relationship—ever since President Truman made America the first nation in the world to recognize the State of Israel in May 1948, just 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence. The seeds of friendship planted that day have grown into a mighty oak– strong, sturdy, and enduring. 
Our governments have never been in closer touch, including through the delegation of senior officials from the Departments of State, Treasury, and Defense, and the CIA that I led to Israel, on behalf of the President, in May. We are in constant contact, constant consultation, constant cooperation. And by the way, that’s why I was late getting here—I was on the phone in the basement with my Israeli counterpart. So it is constant, it is daily and it is highly constructive. 
Our commitment to protect Israel’s qualitative military edge remains absolute. Just ask Israel’s generals. Our security assistance to Israel is at a record high. 
This is an amazing speech and should quiet down the criticism (often virulent) of President Obama. As Ms. Rice said, no country (or individual) is immune to criticism, including the President. But anyone who says that the President is an Anti-Semite… or anti Israel… or committed enough...simply doesn’t care - is a complete fool. I have never been so proud to be an American. God Bless the United States of America.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The New Anti-Semites in the Old Anti-Semitic World

Protest in France on July 13 of this year (VIN)
Having just perused various articles pertaining to the situation in Israel, I noticed that there is little I can comment upon where I haven’t already done so. There is one area however that I haven’t touched upon. The apparent increase in Antisemitism expressed in protests against Israel around the world because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The Antisemitism seems to be greatest in France. From an article in JTA
(An) Arab mob of 200 men who had gathered nearby with sticks and stones, setting garbage cans aflame and chanting “Slaughter the Jews.”
Unable to reach the Grand Synagogues of Sarcelles, some of the rioters smashed shop windows in this poor suburb where tens of thousands of Jews live amid many Muslims. They torched two cars and threw a firebomb at a nearby, smaller synagogue, which was only lightly damaged.
It was the ninth synagogue attack in France since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza two weeks ago.  
To their credit the French government has been battling these people. However - feeling that they do not have enough protection, the French  version of Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League (LJD) has taken matters into their own hands.  And the Jewish people of France seem to be supporting them.

Although I am generally unsympathetic to Jewish vigilante groups, I am not here to judge them. I am not there and can’t possibly know whether what they are doing is justifiable or not.  (Although nine Shuls being attacked makes me lean in the direction that in their case their actions are justifiable.) But this post isn’t about that. The question for me is whether the Antisemitism going on in France is real.

Are the French people Anti-Semitic? If so, are they representative on most Europeans in that regard? I don’t think the answer is all that simple. Let us examine the facts.

First of all France is part of the old world. One where Antisemitsim thrived in pre Holocaust times. The modern State of Israel actually owes its existence to that. If not for the fact that French Army Captain Alfred Dreyfus an innocent Jew accused of treason was nonetheless convicted on flimsy evidence to the cheers of his non Jewish fellow countryman is what gave Theodor Herzl his epiphany about the need to have a Jewish State. He saw that no matter how integrated we were, we would never be fully accepted as equal citizens. That was the birth of modern day Zionism – both religious and secular.

I do not think European Antisemitism is arguable. The history of European behavior toward the Jewish people is a long one that is filled with one tragedy after another - pogrom after pogrom culminating in the Holocaust.  While there has been a great deal of soul searching post Holocaust on the part of most of Europe, for the most part it is still there – even if it is currently in a benign subliminal state.  You cannot get rid of centuries of Jew hatred in one moment of time even after the Holocaust.

But the fact is that the Holocaust did change the behavior if not the underlying hatred. Germany is Israel’s biggest patron. And they currently grant incentives for Jews to immigrate to Germany in an attempt to rebuild the once strong Jewish presence there. France too values its Jewish citizens. And they have tried to quell the anti-Semitic violence currently going on there.

The truth of the matter is that Antisemitism is no longer policy. No government in Europe has any laws that discriminate against the Jewish people. So what gives with all these violent Anti-Semitic protests around the world? They are for the most part not Europeans. They are Muslims who have immigrated into these countries. Especially France where they are becoming an increasingly greater presence there. They are the ones causing these problems. When there is an anti Israel protest anywhere, you will find Muslims and their sympathizers. Sadly some of those sympathizers may even be Jewish.

This is not to say that all Muslims are anti-Semites. Of course they aren’t. But the ones protesting certainly are. To say they have a legitimate perspective on this and are simply expressing an opposing view is the height of absurdity. They see their coreligionists being slaughtered and automatically blame Israel! Anyone with eyes in his head and half a brain can easily see and understand that the fault for all those Palestinians deaths in Gaza is only one entity: Hamas.

But  their prejudice blinds them to the truth.  They see only the ‘gun’.  They should know who is pulling the trigger. It is Hamas and only Hamas. They want to destroy Israel. That is the purpose of the current enterprise. All of their stated grievances would be solved in a moment if they just changed that one goal.

Those protesting have the same goals as Hamas. And they capitalize on the human tragedy by blaming the gun rather than the one pulling the trigger.

I’m glad to see that the French government isn’t buying it. But that doesn’t seem to help the situation as these protest increase in their intensity.

I have no love lost on any European nation. Even if they are sincere in their goals of stopping the violence perpetrated against their Jewish citizens. I don’t know why any Jew would want to live in Europe. Not with its history of atrocities against the Jewish people. I don’t care how good things are there now.  My advice to my Jewish coreligionists in Europe: Get out! You will be much happier in Israel or the US. Let Europe sink into the ground for all I care. They don’t really want us anyway.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Let us Not Lose This Moment

From the Facebook page of Gal Gadot
There are many people who comment on my blog that add tremendous value to it. Their comments are thoughtful and very often enlightening. One of those whose comments reflect that is a woman who calls herself kweansmom.  In a recent comment she pointed out something that many of us have overlooked.  

I have commented about the Achdus among differing factions of Orthodoxy that often are at each other’s throats.  Whenever we are in times of trouble, we unite. There is no more Charedim versus Modern Orthodox or Religious Zionist. I haven’t heard a word lately about the army being a social engineering experiment. Instead there is universal prayer for the welfare of the Israeli people who face an existential threat by an enemy that has sworn to wipe Israel off the map. And has embarked on a terror campaign of daily nonstop indiscriminate rocket fire in an attempt to do so.

But one thing that has not been focused upon so much is how the secular public in Israel is reacting. The answer to that question is illustrated by the photo of Gal Gadot, an Israeli model and actress, lighting Shabbos candles. It was posted by kweansmom in one of her comments. She added the following: 
At the Shabbat table today, our neighbor commented on the achdus brought about by the operation, and that for a change, many haredim are openly grateful to the IDF. I commented that the unity works both ways, as many traditional but not necessarily Orthodox Israelis are expressing more openly religious feelings as well. 
Just like it is sad that only tragedy brings Orthodox factions together, it is sad that it takes the same tragedy to get secular people to become observant of Halacha.

It isn’t only Gal Gadot who has increased their religious observance, there is the story of an entire battalion of secular soldiers who have taken upon themselves the Mitzvah of wearing Tefllin daily. There is the story of a Israel commanding officer talking to his troops about to enter Gaza about saying a prayer before embarking on that mission. One may recall the entire Kenesset saying Tehilim for the missing (at the time) 3 teens before they were discovered murdered. 

Even MK Yair Lapid who proudly identifies as a secular Jew has taken upon himself to always be Dan L’Kaf Zechus for a fellow Jew  is a Torah based concept. While he may not be taking on any Mitzvos Bein Adam L’Makom, his  pledge to observe a  Bein Adam L’Chavero Halacha was probably motivated in the desire to seek God’s grace for His people.

We ought to look very hard and carefully at what is going on here. The people of Israel are a religious people. Even secular Jews who are not observant believe in God and that God has an active presence in this world. I think this has been shown to be the case in many polls taken on the subject. It is now more evident than ever that secular Israelis can be reached.

Once this conflict ends and we go back to a normal existence, we ought not to forget images like the one of Gal Gadot… or any of the other images I mentioned. What has to stop is business as usual. There ought to be some serious reflection on how we religious Jews interact with each other and how we interact with the secular public. We ought to take a lesson from Yair Lapid and learn to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus to all of our brethren – religious or secular - instead of thinking the worst of them. Let us look at the positive in each individual regardless of his Hashkafos or how religious he is.

If we really want to influence our religious opponents, we ought to take the concept of brotherhood seriously and respect them even when we are in strong disagreement.  There ought to be no more use of words like parasites and Amalek. There ought to be no more talk about the nefarious motives of the other… or calling people like Yair Lapid a Rasha. He is not a Rasha.

There ought to be interaction on all issues of the day with willingness to compromise for the benefit of the greater whole. There ought to be no assumptions of nefarious motives by one side about the other. If that happens we can hopefully achieve some permanent Achdus instead of the temporary kind generated by troubled times.

The same can be said about our interaction with secular Jews. There ought to be a lot more of it. This is where Chabad has got it right and from whom we should take note. Their religious convictions are so strong that they do not fear their observance being tainted by interacting with secular Jews. That is unfortunately not the case for most of the rest of observant Jewry. They fear being negatively influenced by people whose values are not Torah based. Especially where their children are concerned. While this is a legitimate fear, it need not be the determining one. 

Today’s secular Jews are not Yesterday’s secular Jews.  A few of generations ago many Jews that were raised in religious homes became disillusioned with religion and left religious observance in droves to find other movements that  spoke to them. Communism, Zionism, Secularism, , Reform, Conservative and even atheism had more appeal to them than the values of their parents. Why this happened is beyond the scope of this post. This phenomenon has produced today a generation of Jews that are ignorant of their faith. Many of them that are naturally spiritual people looking for meaning in their lives

We need to recognize that and reach out like never before. This war should be a wake-up call. We should not allow our resolve to be better and to influence others in positive ways - wane after the War. There ought to be Achdus not only with observant Jews. We should seek Achdus with all Jews. That should be our goal, and we need to follow up. The old paradigm of religious self interests ought to be discarded once and for all.

Let us hope that we never hear words of enmity ever again from one segment of Jewry (or from any of their leaders) against another. Instead let us integrate in the fullest sense of the word.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Israel's Moral Imperative

The war continues. Our people in Israel are under constant attack by Hamas firing rockets at them continuously. Non stop.

IDF soldiers are on the front trying to destroy Hamas’s ability to strike us.  From the air, missiles are targeting buildings known to harbor Hamas terrorists and armaments. From the ground soldiers are targeting the hundreds of tunnels used by Hamas to sneak into Israel and harm its people. That has cost us over 30 lives.

This has resulted in well over 700 hundred Palestinian casualties. None so horrific as the 16 that were killed yesterday at a UN school that was used by them as a safe house. In the end - it wasn’t safe. More about that later.

Here is the problem. Hamas’s tactic of assuring mass casualties of civilians is working. Every day on the nightly news we see reporters telling us in somber tones about Israel’s attacks in Gaza while images of dying or severely injured children are displayed on screen being carried or in hospital beds.

There are bloodied bodies all over the place, some dead; some alive.  Overcrowded hospitals are overflowing with injured and traumatized Palestinian civilians. Mostly children. The anger being expressed by Palestinians is palpable. Questions are constantly heard from angry Palestinians in Gaza about why a certain target was hit when there were no terrorists or armaments anywhere near them. UN officials are calling such events war crimes.

These images have an impact. Even if you are Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel and what they are doing, you would have to be less than human not to recognize the sheer human suffering one sees every single night on the news. Every additional Palestinian death; every additional Palestinian injury generates increased sympathy from the media.

I think this situation calls for some clarity. It is imperative to know and hold firm the knowledge about who is; and who isn’t to blame for all this. It is not Israel. Not a single civilian casualty can be blamed on Israel. It is clearly Hamas.

Let us not forget how this carnage began. Hamas started firing hundreds of rockets into Israel without warning after Israel started rounding up Hamas terrorists in an attempt to find the murderers of 3 Israeli teens. Israel did not fire a single bullet into Gaza up to that point. It had no interest in stirring things up. But how much can a country take before it responds? And respond it did. The ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system has protected them form the massive casualties that surely would have occurred with out it.  Israel cannot rely on Iron Dome alone. It isn’t foolproof. They had to respond by attacking the rockets, rocket launchers and people who operate them.

Hamas is not stupid. They knew that Israel would respond. Although they probably miscalculated the amount of damage their upgraded rockets would do, they knew Israel had an exponentially greater military then they did. They were counting on Israel to respond.

This is why they place their rocket launchers near schools and hospitals. It is a tactic to maximize their own civilian damage when Israel targets them. They have been telling their people to stay where they are and resist Israel with their bare chests. (I heard a Hamas official say that on camera early in the war.)

When Palestinians gets in the way of a missile, they are called martyrs. Palestinians civilians see an Israeli missile and blame only Israel on their dead and wounded. And their hatred of the Jewish people increases. If they would think for a minute they would realize that the death and destruction is the fault of Hamas, the very people they elected to run Gaza. 

If Hamas would simply stop firing rockets into Israel, all the carnage would stop instantly. But the hatred of the Jewish people is so embedded into the psyche of the Palestinian people that Israel is going to blamed no matter how much logic dictates against that.

The anger is as strong as I’ve ever seen it. Anger that was generated by yesterday’s attack of that UN school Palestinians were using as safe houses. It is however unclear who is actually responsible for that. Israel is investigating. It could very well be that Hamas itself is responsible. Maybe by accident. Maybe on purpose-  in order to create more carnage and generate more anger. It would not be the first time one of their bullets killed one of their own children and they blamed it on Israel.

But even if Israel did hit them, they were no doubt hit in error trying to pinpoint their rocket launchers nearby.

None of this truth helps Israel’s image though. The world sees Palestinians being killed in mass numbers by Israeli planes and soldiers. It’s hard to blame anyone else when one sees that.

Is Hamas winning the PR war with this tactic? I think they may have won over some converts to their cause with it. But I’m glad to see a recent survey of Americans the majority of whom support Israel entirely on the matter.

Thankfully the United States is still saying that Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket attack and that it has a right to destroy those tunnels. While it is also true that you keep hearing various administration officials telling Israel to be careful about hitting civilians, they must too realize that the massive number of civilian casualties is the fault of Hamas’s tactic for purposes of garnering world sympathy. At least so far.

There are some who are listening to the Hamas claim that they are being strangled by the blockade of their ports by Israel. And that they will stop firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel’s civilian population centers once Israel lifts the blockade and allows good to flow through.

No one should believe for a moment that this is what this war is all about for them. Not that the blockade doesn’t hurt them. I’m sure it does. But Israel is not the only one blockading them.  Egypt (which considers Hamas to be terrorists too) has blocked their entry points too.

 Israel is not trying to starve anyone to death. They allows food and vital supplies (like medications) to flow freely into Gaza. The entire concern is that these entry points have been used to smuggle in weapons with which  to attack Israel. Had they not been doing that… and simply wanted to live in peace with Israel and prosper, there would be no blockade at all. By anyone.

Make no mistake about what is going on here. This is about a group of people whose goal is to wipe Israel of the map and clean out the Jewish people from ‘their’ land… the land of Palestine. Until that happens they will never be satisfied. They will continue to work towards that goal in the belief that eventually God will side with them and they will achieve their aims.

Opening up those entry points would negate all of the progress Israel has made to degrade their ability to attack us. Weapons would flow freely into Gaza and they would restock their weapons in far greater number than they had before. And likely with better more sophisticated weaponry. Giving in to this demand would be suicidal.

Hamas has to be destroyed - or at least made impotent. Israel therefore has no choice but to stay the course until they get the job done – no matter what the PR costs are.  It is a moral imperative.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Another Round of Achdus - for Now.

Nahal Brigade soldiers carry Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, to his resting place (JP)
Once again we are displaying an incredible degree of Achdus. Every time we are in pain or are our mortal existence is threatened, we stand together as one people. It is increasingly obvious that the only way we do not figuratively slit each other’s throats is when we are attacked as Jews.

YWN reports that R’ Chaim Kanievsky has called upon his community to pray for the soldiers of the IDF, acknowledging the miracles we now witness. Even the Satmar Rebbe of Kiryas Joel, R’ Aharon Teitelbaum (no Zionist he) has directed his Chasidim to say 5 Perakim of Tehillim after each morning’s prayer service for the purpose of supplicating God to protect the people of Israel at this time.

Nowhere is this Achdus better described than in a letter from a soldier on the border with Gaza.  It is available on The Muqata Facebook page – translated from the original Hebrew. Here is an excerpt. 
What's happening here in the staging area [area where soldiers prepare to enter Gaza] is beyond comprehension, not rationally, not emotionally and beggars the imagination.
Almost every hour a car shows up overflowing with food, snacks, cold drinks, socks, underwear, undershirts, hygiene supplies, wipes, cigarettes, backgammon and more. They're coming from the North and the Center, from manufacturers, from companies and private businesses, from prisons, Chareidim and Settlers, from Tel Aviv and even Saviyon.
Every intersection on they way down here we get stopped, not by the police, but be residents giving out food. What is amazing is that the entire situation wasn't organized and everyone is coming on their own without coordination between the folks coming.
They're writing letters and blessings, how they're thinking of us all the time. There are those who spent hours making sandwiches, so they're as perfect and comforting as possible.
Of course representatives of Chabad are here to help soldiers put on Tefillin and distributing Cha'Ta'Ts (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya) for every troop transport and Breslov are showing up to the border and dancing with the soldiers with great joy.
The Chareidim are coming from their yeshivot to ask the names of the soldiers with their mothers' names so that the whole yeshiva can pray for them. It should be mentioned that all of this is done under the threat of the terrorist tunnels and rockets in the area. 
This is the way it should be. It shouldn’t take rocket fire from Hamas to get us to do that. I think everyone appreciates what these brave young men are doing for the people of Israel.  After 32 funerals of soldiers killed in action it should be obvious to everyone no matter what their Hashkafa, that a soldier in Israel puts his life on the line for our people.

The question is, will it last? Or will we once again start hearing about the army being nothing but a social engineering experiment? Will there be a resumption of verbal and in some cases physical attacks  by extremists against Charedim who have joined the army? I hope not. But experience has taught me that once the dangers have passed, it will be business as usual.

There is one individual that seems to be signaling very plainly that this will be the case. It is none other than the spiritual head of the Sephardi Shas party, Rabbi Shalom Cohen. He makes the Satmar Rebbe look like a Zionist.  From the Jerusalem Post - here is what he said at a prayer service at the Kotel: 
“Israel doesn’t need an army.” “Do you think that the people of Israel need an army?” “It is God almighty who fights for Israel.”
When stunned worshipers asked the rabbi to offer a blessing for IDF troops, he replied, “Do you think you are fighting? I am fighting for you. We screamed out to God: ‘Save us without inflicting anymore sorrow on the people of Israel’.” 
Where does he think he would be without IDF - the instrument by which God protects the Jewish people? Why does this man get any respect at all from anyone?! He is a walking embarrassment and his statements sicken me!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Two Israel Haters

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
I laughed so hard - I almost choked on my doughnut this morning when I read this little news item on VIN
Israel may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and shelling houses and hospitals during its two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday. 
I could not contain myself. Thank goodness my wife knows the Heimlich Maneuver… you never know.

Is there anyone in the world who takes this woman seriously? She is either a shill for Hamas or one of the stupidest people on the face of the earth.

Of course accusing Israel of war crimes is no laughing matter. But to not mention at all the war crimes committed daily by Hamas - sending deadly rockets indiscriminately at Israel into civilian populations is  mind-blowingly prejudiced. As is not mentioning the fact that Israel has agreed to a cease fire and actually stopped its offensive, while Hamas kept firing rockets into Israel. There are so many violations by Hamas, it would take pages upon pages to list them. 

Nor does she take into account the fact that Hamas actually wants its people to be killed by Israelis so that people like her can be convinced that Israel is committing war crimes. When a mother from Gaza cries over her dead family, Hamas privately cheers while publicly ‘showing’ the poor innocent lives that have been lost; the severely injured lying hospital beds talking about their losing wives, parents and children, the new homeless  whose homes were blown up by Israeli missiles… This works very well for them. The more damage they have, the more they like it. Israel has no chance of not killing civilians no matter how much they try to avoid it.

And they try mightily. Not only that -  Israel has set up field hospitals near the Gaza border for Palestinians that have been injured. How many Jews can be found in any Hamas controlled hospital? (Hint: Zero). The only thing you can find in a hospital in Gaza (besides the obvious) is rockets ready for use against Israeli civilian populations.

And she chooses to criticize Israel implying a threat to try its leaders for war crimes?! If there is anyone to blame for the innocent civilian casualties in Gaza it is clearly Hamas. They are the war criminals. Period. End of discussion.

While Ms. Pillay may not be the brightest bulb in the room, Neturei Karta (NK) cannot be accused of being stupid. They are simply brainwashed in the extreme to the point of being evil. How else can anyone explain the picture in Al Jazeera of a young Chasidic looking man holding a Palestinian flag at a rally protesting Israel’s attack on Gaza on July 11th?

The entire Jewish population of Israel is in mortal danger and this rather well groomed fellow joins with Palestinian protesters and their sympathizers, carries a Palestinian flag, wears a button that says ‘Free Palestine’ and an ID badge saying ‘Jew - not a Zionist’. All while Israel is being bombarded daily with hundreds of rockets. All while Jewish soldiers are risking their lives in Gaza trying to put an end to it. The funerals for the soldiers are heart rendering! ...and this guy stands with their murderers!

Of course the constant refrain I hear from the right is that no mainstream Jewish organization takes NK seriously. Not even the most right wing ones. Even Satmar rejects them. Typically you will hear comments from the right like, ‘There are very few of them - probably numbering less than a total of a hundred or so worldwide and everyone condemns what they do’.

Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner of London

Well, I’m not so sure that that they have no support at all from the right. Unfortunately there is a very prominent Charedi Dayan in England by the name of Aharon Dovid Dunner that has absolutely no problem speaking at one of their protests. I have come across a video from a while back of Neturei Karta in England protesting the disruption of graves at a construction site in Ramat Bet Shemesh. Dayan Dunner had no problem at all speaking at their rally. This does not look to me like a rejection of Neturei Karta. This looks more like tacit approval of the group, despite their disgusting behavior.

I cannot accept any kind of explanation that says he rejects them but only uses their platform to state his views - which happens to agree with them in that instance. That would be like joining with Hamas in support of Tznius in women’s clothing. By standing with them, you imply their legitimacy no less than standing with the Conservative or Reform movement implies legitimizing them.

Dayan Dunner is a respected figure in the mainstream Torah world. He actually spoke in Monsey’s Ohr Somayach, a mainstream Yeshiva for Baalei Teshuva. (Photos of the event are available here). 

I call upon the Jewish world to reject not only Neturie Karta, but to reject Dayan Dunner who by his mere presence on the same stage with them tacitly approves of them.  I would also ask that Ohr Somayach of Monsey express regret in inviting him to address their members.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Message to Elimelech Miesels: Time to Come Clean

Meisels (top left) pictured in a flyer together with R' Matisyhau Salomon
The rockets are still flying from Gaza into Israel.  And our brave soldiers have entered Gaza risking their lives for our people. May God protect them. As of right now 28 Israeli soldiers have been killed by Hamas. May God Avenge their blood. The situation is very serious. I pray that it ends soon and that Hamas is either destroyed or made impotent. 

As we await a positive outcome to this situation there is another horror story coming out of Israel. One that I wrote about last week. This too has destroyed some lives. Until yesterday, I did not know just how sick the sexual encounters Elimelech Meisels had with his victims were.

To briefly review - Meisels who was for many years the head of four seminaries was judged to be a danger to the young women that attend them. The Special Chicago Beis Din created to deal with these matters made that determination in a published letter. That Beis Din consisted of three of the most prominent Rabbonim - all Poskim and Dayanim - in the city.

As I said, I did not until yesterday know the nature of his illicit sexual encounters. Grounds for removing him from any association with those seminaries can range anywhere from simply putting his arm around a girl in need of emotional support which is highly inappropriate but perhaps understandable  - to activities that are far more serious. Based on the wording of the original letter calling it ‘unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature’ I strongly suspected it was the latter.

Yerachmiel Lopin posted about the matter immediately and was inundated with comments. I weighed in shortly after my own verification about the validity of the Chicago Beis Din’s proclamation. The accolades about Meisels poured in. Comments ranged from denial and disbelief  - calling the Beis Din letter a forgery to saying his accusers were unstable girls  that lied because of some sort of personal vendetta. Others said it was impossible to believe since the behavior they always saw in him was inspiring and beyond exemplary.

Then there are all those who say that a man is innocent until proven guilty. We should give this wonderful man with so many accomplishments under his belt – the benefit of the doubt. We must be Dan L’Kaf Zechus.

After doing a little bit of research on the nature of his acts, I have found out exactly what he did. To call it unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature is an understatement. I am not at liberty to say what it was. But suffice it to say it was disgusting by any standard - even if he were not done by a respected seminary head.

The problem now is the following. Elimelech Meisels has not come forward publicly to admit he sexually abused some of his students. And that increases the Chilul HaShem immensely. The fact is that he not only violated the victims he had sexual contact with. He violated the entire rest of his student body who still believe in him and defend him.  By not admitting what he did publicly, the myth of his righteousness will continue to be perpetuated. They will continue living in denial and disbelief.  That the man who so strongly inspired them is an innocent man having been falsely accused by some very convincing liars claiming to be victims.

Elimelech Meisels must come clean and tell the truth. He must completely sever his relationship in every way to those seminaries, and not simply  just stop teaching there. He should then seek professional help.  

I strongly disagree with the Israeli Beis din that restored the reputation of these seminaries by simply removing him from the premises. It appears I am not the only one. My Alma Mater, HTC is severing their relationship with them too as is Torah Umesorah.

The fact is that a public admission of guilt is part of the Teshuva process. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz has written two wonderful posts (here and here) on the subject that should be read by all.

As a footnote, I would add that the Gemarah’s principle of Ayn Apitopus L’Aryaos (there is no guardian for sex) is as applicable today as it ever was. And it applies to everyone, no matter what his station; no matter how respected; no matter how popular.

There have been many great people including great rabbinic figures, popular Kiruv rabbis, Poskim,  and Roshei Yeshiva that have fallen into this trap. They have allowed themselves to be put into situations that led to behavior they never thought themselves capable of.

I have never been more supportive of the Hilchos Yichud than I am now.  Any seminary head or individual that secludes themeslves with a woman for whatever reason puts himlsef at risk. Male psychotherapists, psychiatrists, rabbis, and counselors of any kind should never lock any doors when treating a woman. There should always be an open door with another person close by and the ability to enter the room at will.

I don’t know whether Meisels was a sexual predator whose ulterior motive was to set up seminaries for purposes of finding vulnerable females to satisfy his aberrant sexual needs… or if he was L’Shma from the beginning and just fell into a trap while seriously trying to help a troubled girl one on one late into the night. It really doesn’t matter to the victim. It should have never happened. If there are troubled young women that need counseling, he should have sent them to professionals.

In almost every case the perpetrator was  charismatic individual. The behavior of a charismatic leader is well described by Yerachmiel Lopin about Meisels in response to comments made in a recent Facebook post
Amazing", "friendly, "always available," and "fun" came up over and over in comments from many of the Meisels students. It is also clear that he was in the seminary at all hours and took girls out for "drives" or "coffee" in the early a.m. hours. Unfortunately, so many of them were besotted by him to the point that they would not let themselves admit the pattern or recognize how far along they were in themselves being potentially seducible. 
My advice to parents contemplating a seminary experience in Israel for their daughters is to stay away from charismatic seminary heads. Young women are too easily drawn to them which can lead to an intimacy from which they will never recover.

Under Constant Rocket Attack

For the duration of Operation Protective Edge I am hosting an advertisement free of charge  for an organization known as the Israel Free Loan Association (IFLA). It is located to the right and is a worthy cause. Please click on the image to read about what they do and how you can help.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Jew is Required to Learn Torah, Period

Guest Post by Yossie Litwak*

In a recent post I wrote about changes happening in the Charedi world that impacts on their Shiddach situation. I received the following e-mail from a young man deeply committed to the Charedi paradigm of Torah study. In the interest of fairness and balance and in my continuous goal of seeking Emes and I have decided to publish it.  As a condition for publication he asked that I not reveal his real identity. I agreed. His words follow: 

I enjoy your column but would like to respectfully disagree on your recent post: Should Women Marry a Kollel Man. Before I start I'd like to tell you that I am 21 years old and just recently got back from a 3 year learning stint in Israel. This can either be taken as "he's full of unreasonable and illogical enthusiasm," or, as I like to see it in my friends and myself, we are at the height of our spiritual growth. It's not a coincidence that many people, as they live through more of life’s experiences, lose touch with their original passion for Torah and its goals. I would like to suggest that the fresh insights from a boy straight out of yeshiva can have a lot of the truth, clarity, and honesty that may get lost as people older, notwithstanding that the boys' views may be unpolished, due to age.

The way our world works is that above all else, a Jew is required to learn Torah. Period, end of story. Anyone who denies this is not a believing, observant Jew. Notice - I didn't say someone who doesn't learn Torah is not observant, rather someone who denies that a Jew must learn. 

To sit and learn all day in Kollel is a beautiful thing. From what I have observed up close Kollel men are largely the best of the best, elite of the elite. The way the world would work if we all had unlimited money, and will work when mashiach comes,is that we'll all be learning and essentially serving g-d full time a la “shivti b’veis hashem kol yemei chayai”. Torah is not just another obligation to quickly fulfill. Technically, merely saying shema would satisfy the obligation to learn, but would totally miss its spirit.

Now that that's established let's look at our Kollel system. True, it is not a perfect system, but what system is? Churchill famously said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”. Experience shows that religious Jews from all backgrounds appreciate its beauty. It's incredible! Thousands upon thousands of young men learning all day, with beautiful middos, families and hashkofos.

I did my research and found out that when this trend started 25-30 years ago everyone asked the same questions that they ask now, "Who will support the next generation, etc." But the fact is, they have, and still do, get by, and more importantly, they end up preserving the beauty of total devotion to Torah.

Meaning that at the end of the day they are scraping and getting by. Let's not focus on the rich parents scenario; i.e. who support fully, forever, from unlimited cash, to fancy vacations, to huge houses, because they are definitely in minority. Let's focus on the majority of the Kollel world. Yes, there may be many sleepless nights, psychological worries, fears of the future (not that these phenomena aren't there in working families) but - to repeat - they are getting by!!

Most Kollel families (and I mean real Kollel families, not “52-week honeymooners” in Arzei Habirah) are not going on vacations, not spending a dime more than they need to, not eating fancy foods, not buying fancy clothes. They are scrimping and saving and struggling, all to do the will of G-d to the best of their understanding.

Those who experience it up close, as I recently have in Israel, know that it’s truly a beautiful thing. You might tell me that the system will collapse. But as I have said, what's with the last 30 years, we are already a couple of generations into it, to everyone’s surprise.

If these heroes of ours are willing to scrimp, save and sacrifice in order to learn, then to suggest that we pull them out of yeshivas and/or discourage the next generation from attending Kollels can be viewed as bitul Torah and, in my humble opinion,Jewish suicide!

One can argue that working families have more money and are more comfortable etc.
But working families' needs are greater, no matter how much a working man makes - he needs more. His standard of his cars, houses, and vacations go up. A real Kollel man sacrifices all of these! He needs a roof, food, and water. It may be very hard, but if they're willing to sacrifice other pleasures, as many as there are, so be it!!!

For those among us who will be martyrs of physical pleasure for the spiritual sake of the Jewish nation, that is their struggle to decide to take on, and kol hakavod! 

As I said before, if no one is keeling over in the street because of lack of food and if these people keep learning for the sake of g-d, then they should continue uninterrupted and unchallenged!

In the year 2014, with all our technology etc. which make it so easy to drag one down, shouldn’t we be thrilled to know there are such men who are our shining light through the heavy darkness, keeping us a nation with a vibrant pulse, I know this sounds highly idealistic but I believe in the strongest sense that it's all true. Let us not be stuck on how we have done things in the past (eser batlanim, etc.). Let us be modern in our thinking and be flexible and innovative by focusing on today’s needs; which call for a dose of extra ruchnius, more than we have ever needed.

One may also argue that not everyone belongs in Kollel full time. I would respond to that argument with my strongestagreement! My main point is NOT to send all of the world’s Jewish youth to Kollel. Rather, that if they choose to go on their own, let us applaud it rather than denounce it, and recognize that at the end of the day, they will sacrifice, and ultimately survive,all for the greater good of klal yisroel. Is there social pressure to do this? Undoubtedly. Is it from their rabbeim? Surely! But so is their core belief in Hashem, their commitment to shmiras Shabbos and their concern for klal yisrael. Of the all the pressures out there on our youth, mah tov that THIS is the pressure that is our “problem”.

I do agree with your secular studies point - and this Kollellifestyle is not for everyone obviously! However if one wants to go, let him go! At the very least let us, first and foremost recognize and celebrate all the positive in Kollel, before focusing on the drawbacks.
Again, one may chalk all of this up to youthful idealism or naiveté, but I feel we are privileged that for the first time in how many generations we have merited a dominant national mindset to go learn G-d's Torah as a priority!

Let's embrace it, not challenge it! If these noble Kollel men arephysically alive, strong willed, and battling, then they're heroes of the highest regard!!

*Not his real name

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Staying the Course in the Face of a Successful Tactic

Whose fault is it?
Early this morning I turned on the radio on my way to Shul to hear the latest on the situation in Israel. I heard a reporter say that there were a large number of Palestinian casualties in Gaza this morning. A missile had been fired by Israel into the densely populated area of Gaza City. PA President Mahmoud Abbas called it a massacre.

This is a tactic that works. At some point the nations of the world including the United States will not continue to tolerate the increasing numbers of civilian casualties. Even if they are not the target of Israel’s attacks the collateral damage will put pressure on Israel to stop. So far, thankfully, this is not the case.

It is indeed sad that any innocent civilians are being killed.  But do not be fooled into thinking it is the fault of the Israeli government. They have gone way out of their way to avoid civilian casualties. The city that was hit today had 2 days warning of a major strike. The population had ample time to leave the area. If they had done so, there would have been no casualties at all. They chose to stay.

Let us be clear. This is a tactic. Hamas knows that it has no other means of winning its war with Israel. Nor has it had any luck convincing other Arab nations that they are not themselves the ones at fault. Even Abbas blamed Hamas for the increasing casualties because of their refusal to accept an Egyptian brokered cease fire (which Israel accepted immediately).

Hamas has very few if any friends. They even broke with Iran over their policies with respect to Syria. To their chagrin their rockets have done little damage due to Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’. They did not expect that to happen at all.

And yet they keep on sending rockets into Israel  which assures an Israeli response. They need Israel to respond and kill as many of their civilians as possible. They realize that is the only way they can get any kind of world sympathy. They have been urging their population not to leave their homes even after being warned about an impending attack. They call these people brave defenders of the Palestinians cause. ‘Palestinians are defending their people with their bare chests’ one of their leaders said recently.

An attack happens. Mothers are seen crying. Severely injured people are seen bleeding in hospital beds. Dead babies killed when their home was blown up are laid out in front of cameras to show the world who Israel is ‘targeting’. Inadvertent killing of some Palestinian children playing soccer on a beach is filmed ‘proving’ that Israel ‘purposely targets’ people who have nothing to do with Hamas when in truth Israel was aiming at tunnels on that beach that Hamas uses to sneak into Israel and in no way targeted those children.

The more of their civilians get killed, the better they like it. Each crying mother carrying her dead baby – killed by an Israeli missile increases world sympathy for them. Who wouldn’t feel sympathy of a crying mother who just lost a precious child?! That is a tactic that works.

Before you know it the UN will meet and will censure Israel for their disproportionate response. (Translation: Not enough Jews are dying making it an unfair fight).

Israel has no choice to defend itself and take out targets they have determined to be a danger to the lives of their citizens. They are doing whatever is humanly possible to avoid innocent civilians from being killed in the process. But how do you do that effectively when Hamas does their level best to assure their civilians become martyrs for the cause?

Israel must not be deterred. They must continue to do what they have been doing for the purpose of reaching a sustainable ceasefire. They must continue to have respect for innocent human life even if the enemy doesn’t. Israel should not be deterred by the increasing criticism over the increasing casualties.

If the nations of the world  truly want to stop the carnage they should support Israel in that goal and realize that the casualties are the direct responsibility of Hamas itself.

I’m glad to see Secretary of State John Kerry this morning reaffirm Israel’s right to defend itself in the strongest of terms. I did not hear him use the word restraint. His goal is a sustainable cease fire. That is exactly Israel’s goal. I am equally glad to see that Senator Lindsay Graham this morning urged Israel to stay the course and get the job done and that the morality of a war is not to be judged by the number of casualties sustained by the enemy.