DENYING THE DENIERS

I have absolutely no idea whatsoever as to how many Holocaust Deniers sully humanity with their ludicrous claim that the Holocaust never existed. I do know, however, that there is one notorious Holocaust denier less, with the recent death of Ernst Zundel. In addition to spreading lies and misinformation, Zundel’s “claim to fame” was that he was deported from Canada and then the United States. Back in his native Germany, Zundel spent five years in prison for the crime of “Folkverhetzung” or incitement of the masses. I, for one, see a certain sense of poetic justice when a Holocaust denier is in turn denied citizenship – not once, but twice, and then denied freedom. But rather than waste my time on Ernst Zundel, I feel that it is important for us to understand what makes Holocaust deniers tick. Accordingly, I offer three reasons:

Holocaust deniers have a pride and love for their “Vaterland” that is second to none. Because of such extreme pride and love, Holocaust deniers simply cannot allow for an everlasting stain to sully the history of Germany. Unlike others who protest, “I was just following orders,” Holocaust deniers claim that there never were any orders, because the Holocaust never existed. Forgive me for saying so, but if Holocaust deniers knew the term “lashon harah,” which can be understood as besmirching a reputation, Holocaust deniers would maintain that Jews worldwide are guilty of “lashon harah” for besmirching the sterling reputation of a country (Germany) that is simply beyond reproach in any and every way.

They love attention. By knowing how to push all the “right” buttons, Holocaust deniers are in all their glory. It matters little, if any, to Holocaust deniers if they achieve fame or infamy, just as long as they get media coverage and Jewish dander up. Holocaust deniers instinctively know that there are two subjects that are bound to set Jews off – Israel and the Holocaust. Both (the Holocaust outranks Israel) go directly to the emotions. Never accuse Israel of violating human rights of Palestinians; never accuse Jews of fabricating the Holocaust. The very same people who would ignore any lunatic, who claims the French Revolution never happened, refuse to ignore any lunatic who claims the Holocaust never happened. Instead, we Jews give that lunatic every bit of our attention and then some, even though we feel our blood pressure rising by the minute.

Whether we are prepared to admit it or not, the Holocaust has become the raison d’etre for a good many American Jews. Rather than inculcate Jews with “thou shalt not grant Hitler a posthumous victory,” the Jewish philosopher Emile Fackenheim should have left as his legacy “the Holocaust must not become the sum total of our Jewish existence.” As a rabbi, I can’t tell you the amount of times students have equated Hebrew School experience with learning about the Holocaust. Heaven forbid that Adolph should replace The Baal Shem Tov or The Chofetz Chaim or Sarah bas Tovim or Gluckel of Hamlen! Yet, because of our inability to realize that our national nightmare was but six years of our 4000 year-old history, this is exactly what has taken place!

Holocaust deniers are an extension of “Der Fuehrer.” “Der Fuehrer” came awfully close to eradicating Jews. Holocaust deniers are coming dangerously close to eradicating Jewish education in that Holocaust education seems to have come dangerously close to usurping Jewish education. The Holocaust must never be forgotten!  By the same token, we Jews dare not forget that the Holocaust must never obliterate the rest of our history and heritage.

Living at a time when saying nasty things (unless they are against Israel) is a deadly sin, let the rest of society and our lawmakers deal with Holocaust deniers. Let descendants of World War II veterans take up the cudgel. As far as we Jews are concerned, let us ignore Holocaust deniers. Seeing that they cannot evoke any reaction, much less anger on our part, Holocaust deniers will eventually slink away with their tails between their legs.

 

BACK TO THE WALL

Bibi’s (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayu) back is to the wall –in the most literal sense. Earlier this week, he had to renege on an agreement adopted 17 months ago with Jewish leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel, along with a Jewish feminist group Women at the Wall that was supposed to restore harmony at the Kotel (Western Wall). Did Bibi really believe that he could bring the Orthodox around to permitting a section at the Kotel to be used for non-Orthodox davening? Or perhaps Bibi was just biding his time by wasting the time of the non-Orthodox leadership that negotiated. Perhaps those who negotiated knew what the outcome would be before going into negotiations, but they felt that they had nothing to lose and that they would be gaining momentum. Dream on!

Politics is politics and religion is religion and for the foreseeable future in Israel, the two will continue to meet and mash, as they have for decades now, blend nicely and yield power that their grandparents could never have fathomed. Like it or not, the Orthodox control the Kotel. That’s not to say that a Bar Mitzvah or Aufruff (the calling up to the Torah of a groom prior to his wedding, where HaShem’s blessings are invoked upon him and his bride) of non-Orthodox cannot take place at the Kotel. It can, it has, and it will continue to take place as long as the Bar Mitzvah or Auffruf along with any participation is acceptable to Orthodox guidelines and standards. Given the political reality of Israel, anyone who thinks that the status quo at the Kotel is likely to change any time soon is … off the wall.

Speaking of change, the non-Orthodox refuse to acknowledge (I’m sure they realize this – they cannot possibly be so stupid) that the only way that they can affect change at the Kotel is to pattern themselves after the Orthodox. The non-Orthodox  have to be prepared to make Aliyah (move to Israel) en mass, up their birthrate significantly, become politically involved  – that is to say start their own party, gain seats in the Knesset and… stop being so politically correct. Political prowess all too often requires resorting to “shtick” (questionable ethical behavior). Unfortunately, this seems to be to be especially the case in Israel. Until the non-Orthodox are prepared to reform themselves, any negotiations they enter into concerning the Kotel will be tantamount to talking to the wall.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism was quoted as saying: “We all care deeply about Israel…” Puhleese! Never has such a meaningless, vacuous statement been uttered. As a rabbi, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard grown children tell me how much they “care” about their frail and aged parent. For some children, caring for a parent  means visiting more often and becoming more involved in the parent’s well-being; for other children it means visiting the parent as little as possible, and letting others step in when it comes to the parent’s well-being. But let’s give Rabbi Jacob’s the benefit of the doubt. Let’s accept his “we all care about Israel” as being truly genuine. Let’s accept his fantasy as fact (even though no religious leader in his right mind would be careless and reckless enough to speak on behalf of the masses proclaiming “we all care”). Let us then suggest the following bumper sticker to Rabbi Jacobs: The Reform care about Israel; The Orthodox care about the Orthodox. To believe otherwise, to believe that an Israeli Prime Minister whose very political existence is dependent upon a coalition with the Orthodox parties, is about to offer concessions to non-Orthodox at the Kotel is utter nonsense. Why the non-Orthodox continue to beat their heads against the wall, is beyond me.

FREE PALESTINE

It’s been over a quarter of a century since “Mr. Sam” (Walton, founder of Walmart) departed this world. From what I have read about him, Mr. Sam was a simple, down to earth, no-nonsense guy, whose greatest joy in life was hunting quail. Admittedly, I know absolutely nothing about his political views, particular with regard to the Middle East. I would however be stunned beyond words if “Mr. Sam” mixed politics and merchandise. Whether he ardently supported or adamantly opposed Israel or the Palestinians, I cannot help but feel that “Mr. Sam” would shelve his views when it came to what was being stocked at Walmart stores; I cannot help but feel that when it came to Walmart, Mr. Sam’s sole interest was product, not politics.

Accordingly, it was more than with a modicum of revulsion that I recently learned that Walmart was selling over two dozen styles of T-shirts, supporting the plight of the “poor Palestinians” with slogans such as “Free Palestine” brazenly emboldened on them. For the record, I would be equally revulsed if Walmart were to sell T-shirts with messages printed on them along the lines of “Free Israel from Palestinians.” Does Walmart really want to go that route and enter an imbroglio about which it apparently knows nothing?
The buyers for Walmart must be supplementing their diets with daily doses of stupidity pills. Less than two years ago, Walmart offered an Israeli toy soldier dressed in uniform for sale. Predictably, no different from the T-Shirts, the reactions to the Israeli toy soldier were split: evangelical Christians and politically conservative Jews loved the soldier; those opposing the “occupation” were incensed. “The fact that you have chosen to carry ‘Israeli soldier costumes’ for kids on your website and in your stores is highly offensive, not only to millions of Palestinian-Americans that shop in your stores, but to anyone who has an ounce of humanity in their bodies (sic). I urge you, as an American-Jew, a wife of a Palestinian, a shopper and most importantly as a human being, that you reconsider your decision to sell these costumes and pull them from your shelves,” wrote Sarah Amor Itayem.

Like so many others, Walmart still cannot absorb the fact that that when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, facts and logic mean bupkiss. Supporters of Israel will tell you that Palestinians brought all of the “suffering” on themselves. That’s patently false. Their corrupt leadership is to blame. The sooner Palestinians are freed from Hamas, Fatah and other murderous, thuggish leadership who poison innocent minds with hatred and brainwash those same innocent minds with victimhood, the healthier Palestinians will be in mind and spirit and the more prepared they will be to govern themselves. That’s when “Palestine” will be free. The sooner Palestinians are freed from Europeans, Americans and others whose hearts bleed for them, (have you ever wondered why any of these bleeding hearts have not traveled to so called Palestinian territories and volunteered their time to help these “poor humiliated people deprived of their future”), the sooner Palestinians will realize that they are responsible for their own future. That’s when “Palestine” will be free. The sooner the Palestinians are freed from drowning in self-pity that no one cares about them (there is much truth to that, Arabs from other countries don’t give a damn about the Palestinians. What does that tell you?), the sooner Palestinians will realize that they ought to take a stab at building homes, setting up businesses and begin acting like other normal societies in this world. That’s when “Palestine” will be free. Personally, I can’t help but feel that Israel will be the first country to lend its Arab neighbor guidance, support and anything else it will need.

As for Walmart? Strange isn’t it, that it stocks no T-shirts depicting a North American Indian with the following logo: “This land is my land”. It would be perfect for the fourth of July.
* since writing this article, I have learned that Sears joined the fray and stocked the same incendiary T-shirts but quickly removed them.

JFK AND ISRAEL

Last week marked the centenary of J.F.K., the 35th president of the United States. Because of his life being cut short by an assassin, because we choose to remember his 1,037 days as president as a twentieth century Camelot, it behooves us to take a look at his life in relationship to Israel.

While so many American Jews of today’s generation have come to expect our President to involve himself in the Middle East, particularly by standing behind Israel as well as attempting to initiate some sort of peace plan, it ought to be kept in mind that similar efforts have been in place for well over half a century.

J.F.K. launched two (unsuccessful) initiatives aimed at brokering peace between Israel and its neighbors; this was before Arab claims over east Jerusalem, the West Bank and “refugees redux.” J.F. K. sent personal letters to the heads of all the Arab governments, offering the services of the United States as an “honest broker” to help them establish peaceful relations between themselves and the then-nascent Jewish State.  J.F.K. also dispatched emissaries to seek a solution to “one of the key obstacles to peace,” the refugee problem.

Jewish attachment to the “shmatte business” (literally rag business, but also covers the clothing trade and the textile industry) served Israel well. Back in the late 1950s, Israel began to construct a nuclear power plant in Dimona, a city south of Be’er Sheva. It was one of Israel’s “best kept” secrets, known to all including the American government. (Yes, Americans spy on Israel and vice versa.) When confronted by the (outgoing) Eisenhower administration, Israel explained that the site was a textile plant. The Kennedy administration was neither mollified nor amused. Instead, Israel’s Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion was denied an invitation to the White House (J.F.K. met with Ben Gurion at the Waldorf Astoria) in May 1961.  The Kennedy administration was not prepared to turn a blind eye. In a personal letter dated May 18, 1963, J.F.K. issued the following ultimatum: “Either Israel allows American inspectors to visit the site, or Israel finds itself totally isolated politically.” Within a month, David Ben Gurion resigned from the position of leadership; within half a year, J.F.K. was felled by an assassin. To be sure, the United States would continue to pressure Israel, but with a new Prime Minister (Levi Eshkol) and a new president, “the times, they were a-changin’.”

Most American Jews believe that L.B.J. was the first president to sell arms to Israel. While L.B.J. was truly magnanimous in seeing to it that Prime Minister Eshkol was able to check off all items on the “shopping list” when he visited the United States in January 1968, it was J.F.K. who agreed to sell Israel Hawk surface-to-air missiles in August 1962. Dismissing advice from the State Department that the sale of Hawks might trigger an arms race in the Middle East, the President followed the recommendation of the Department of Defense, that selling the Hawk missiles to Israel would offset recent deliveries to Arab states by the Soviet Union.

The Hebrew word Yad is a homonym. In addition to the well-known meaning “hand,” yad also means memorial. (I will give them… yad vashem – a memorial and a name far greater than sons or daughters could give. Isaiah 56:5.) On July 4th 1966, Yad Kennedy, the Kennedy Memorial in the shape of a felled tree, was dedicated in memory of the slain president. My impression is that Yad Kennedy is typically not on the itinerary of most American tourists to Israel. But it should be – especially this year. I can think of no better way of recognizing the centenary of the birth of this nation’s 35th president.

BOMB SCARES

No one likes bomb scares – especially Jews who are at their local JCC. A phone call is placed by either a lunatic or Jew hater … or both, to a local JCC, alerting it that a bomb has been planted. The entire Jewish community remains on red alert long after the premises have been declared to be bomb free. For Jews, bomb scares and anti-Semitism are inextricably intertwined.

As serious as bomb scares are, there are other bombs waiting to go off in our very midst, to which the vast majority of American Jews seems to be inured. How ironic! Yet that very same Jewish community that has been shaken to its core because of a bomb scare ought to be alerted to bomb scares of a totally different nature that threaten our existence as Jews.

Jewish communities throughout the nation have consistently refused to acknowledge that our very Judaism is at risk. This too is a bomb scare. Close to four decades ago, Morris Arthur, later to be known as Moshe Yess, was very much aware of the bomb scare which confronts American Jews. Accordingly, he included the following lyrics in his song My Zaidy: “I don’t know why it came to be – it happened slowly over many years, we just stopped being Jewish like my Zaidy was. And no one cared enough to shed a tear.”  Moshe Yess was far too kind. He should have said: “And no one cared enough!” Period! American Judaism does not need tears. American Judaism needs a wake-up call, a red alert. The best of sermons dealing with this bomb scare have fallen on deaf ears; the most revealing of sociological studies concerning this bomb scare leave no impact whatsoever. The vast majority of American Jews appear to be totally apathetic to any and all alarms of the bomb scare concerning our Judaism, while those who do sit up and take notice seem to adopt a “What can we do?” attitude and consequently do nothing while the bomb scare of Judaism disappearing remains a most serious threat.

American Jews who profess to care a great deal about Israel from a political standpoint have every right to be smug. We are living at a time of a pro-Israel Congress. Yet when it comes to Israel, Congress is also a bomb scare in the making. To believe that Congress will always remain staunch in its unwavering support toward Israel is both delusional and dangerous. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s members of Congress. Today’s students are being brainwashed by college professors who consider it a mitzvah of the highest order to inject politics into their curriculum and infect the minds of impressionable students. “Inject and infect” is the motto of a good many professors, so that students are ultimately “convinced” of the draconian steps that Israel adopts against the poor Palestinians. “Inject and infect” is the motto of a good many  professors, so that today’s college students are taught to view Israel as an apartheid state run by a supremacist government. “Inject and infect” is the motto of a good many  professors, so that Congress of tomorrow will no longer remain Israel’s “amen corner” in Washington.

Golda Meir once said that “One must not try to erase history merely because it does not fit the present.” However, history has a life expectancy of its own and in time fades into the past, only to be supplanted by events far more “attention grabbing.” We are living at a time when for so many of us, the Holocaust is the sum total of our Jewish history. Whether we are prepared to admit it or not, there will come a time when our focus on the Holocaust will have run its course, as difficult as this may be for so many of us to accept.  And neither Holocaust museums nor Holocaust curricula will be able to combat this change. Meaning no disrespect whatsoever, our interest in the Holocaust is a bomb scare. And sad to say, our leaders, both religious and lay, do not appear to be working on any contingencies to deal with that scare.

Lagophthalmos is a condition where one’s eyelids are unable to be shut. As a result, there are those who actually sleep with their eyes open. “Jewish lagophthalmos” is a requirement as well a necessity for us as a people. As Jews, we need to keep our eyes …and ears open at all times, not only to ensure that our future is safe and secure, but -equally important – to be alert to bomb scares that require our immediate attention as well as our top priority.

THE PLAGUE OF DARKNESS

Palestinians living in Gaza taking to the streets is no longer newsworthy. Palestinians living in Gaza taking to the streets to demonstrate against their own corrupt leadership causes one to sit up and take notice. Such was the case a few days ago, when 10,000 Palestinians protested on the streets of Jabaliya for having being kept in the dark by Hamas. The protesters were speaking out against the three to four hours a day of electricity that they receive in their homes. “I cannot read or study in my home”, lamented a 19-year-old student. What the student neglected to mention is that in his house he also cannot take his coat or jacket off, because there is no electricity for the space heaters.
Electricity rationing aside, so many Palestinians living in Gaza have been kept in the dark for as long as the State of Israel has existed. Corrupt Palestinian governments – whether it is the current Hamas government or any other group of thugs that preceded Hamas have always kept so many Palestinians in the dark, as well as in abject poverty because it suits their purpose. Hamas, along with its various predecessors have consistently refused to appeal to their own Palestinian population to improve their lives. Hamas, along with its various predecessors has consistently refused to shed light on an attainable better lifestyle that is within reach of its own Palestinian population. Instead of encouraging its people, instead of providing its people with the necessary resources, instead of showing its people how they can improve their lot in life, Hamas as well as previous Palestinian leadership in Gaza has deliberately poisoned the minds of so many of its people against the Zionists and what the Zionists have done to ruin the lives of poor Palestinians.
To be sure, there are roughly 100,000 Gazans who have managed to see the light, despite the attempts of Palestinian leadership. On a daily basis they cross into Israel, where gainful employment awaits them. Working for Israelis, they earn over fifty dollars a day. Others, who for whatever reason do not or cannot make their way out of Gaza into Israel, end up earning a mere 45% of that amount. Added to these obvious economic benefits, those who do work in Israel for Israelis, tend to focus on building better lives for themselves and think about  things such as bigger and better homes, nicer furniture, a car or if they already own one, trading up to a newer model. They have plans of sending their children to college, so that the next generation of Palestinians will be a generation of professions and not be limited to entry level jobs. Rarely if ever, do these gainfully employed 100,000 Palestinians think about terrorism. Their minds are much too occupied with constructive thoughts.
The Hamas government, as well as the similarly corrupt governments that have ruled the Palestinians ever since the establishment of the State of Israel, must at all costs keep their people in darkness. To do otherwise, would shed light on the fact that the real enemy is not Benjamin Netanyahu nor any other Israeli Prime Minister, but Ismail Haniyeh along with all his predecessors. So many Palestinians in Gaza cannot see that no different than all previous Israeli Prime Ministers, Benjamin Netanyahu has everything to gain if Palestinians are gainfully employed, looking forward to receiving their paycheck and focusing on improving their standard of living. Without government brainwashing and incitement, Palestinians are no different than any other people. Similarly, so many Palestinians in Gaza cannot see that no different than all previous Palestinian leaders in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh has everything to gain if Palestinians are kept in darkness. The more Palestinians are deprived of hope for the future, the more Palestinians are taught to despise the Zionist enemy, the more Ismail Haniyeh along with his corrupt leadership can abuse the masses and abscond with funds earmarked for the people. Hatred directed towards the Zionist enemy displaces hatred directed towards  the Palestinian thug.
For Jews, the plague of darkness took place over 3,000 years ago in Egypt. For so many Palestinians living in Gaza, the plague of darkness remains a daily event.

UNBELIEVABLE NEWS FROM THE UNBELIEVABLE UNITED NATIONS

For those of us who begin January by hoping for a better year ahead of us, than the year that is now behind us, fret not. The United Nations assures us that 2016 was one spectacular year. The public health arm of the United Nations, known as the WHO or the World Health Organization brings tidings that that the physical, mental and emotional health of the citizens of the world is beyond reproach. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the countries that constitute this world seem to be in compliance with the standards set forth by the United Nations.
Unfortunately, there is one country that is the proverbial “fly in the ointment” thereby shattering this perfect record. That country is Israel. Last year, Israel was singled out by the World Health Organization of the United Nations, as being the only country on this planet that violated the physical, mental and emotional health of those living within its borders. By the way, that’s United Nations “code speak” for Israel violating the physical, mental and emotional health of the Palestinians living within its borders.
The United Nations has another arm, less well known than the WHO. It is the International Labor Organization or the ILO.  Just as the WHO concerns itself with health standards, the ILO concerns itself with labor standards. The ILO brings us good tidings as well. Last year was a banner year for labor standards around the world. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, all countries seemed to have been in compliance with the standards set forth by the ILO – all countries but one. Again, Israel was the sole violator of the standards established by the ILO. For a country that calls itself a democracy, for a country that purports to have been established guided by biblical tenets, one has to wonder why Israel draws the ire of the ILO and is singled out by the ILO for its unacceptable standards . For shame! Why can’t Israel learn about labor standards from third world countries that serve as role models?
Women of this world are also a concern of the United Nation. Accordingly, the United Nations has established a Commission on the Status of Women or the CSW. The CSW ensures that women are not treated as second class citizens…or worse and watches out for their well-being. Thanks to the CSW, women are no longer abused or ignored. They are protected. Much like the WHO and the ILO, the CSW also has good news for us concerning 2016. As hard as it may be to believe, all countries throughout the world from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe seem to have accorded women the rights they deserve – except for Israel. When it comes to women’s rights, the CSW found Israel, and only Israel to be deplorable! Given little choice, the CSW singled out Israel for violating the rights of women. If only Israel could look to Arab societies and see those Arab societies as societies to be emulated when it comes to the treatment of women, this world would be a Shangri-La. Then the CSW along with the ILO and the WHO would not be in the unenviable position of having to single out Israel for the unacceptable way it treats those that live within its borders (read poor Palestinians).
Perhaps this explains that of the twenty-four resolutions passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2016, twenty were against Israel.  It kind of makes you think how truly barbaric Israel would be towards those who live within its borders, if it weren’t for the watchful eye of the United Nations. When all is said and done, those United Nation’s anti-Israel resolutions are for Israel’s own good, you know.

JUST BEYOND THE BORDER

I very much doubt that any of you reading this article will be surprised to learn that an Israeli grassroots initiative is underway to raise 600,000 Israeli Shekel or $150,000 dollars  in order to purchase emergency aid including food, medication and supplies for refugee Syrian children. Within the first forty- eight hours after launching the campaign, over a quarter of a million shekel or over $60,000 dollars was raised from over 1,600 donors.
As much as digging deep into our pockets whenever disaster strikes seems to be part of our Jewish DNA, perhaps some introspection is in order to find out why we behave the way we do:
Without even realizing it, Jews proudly espouse the adage that life is not fair – in the very best sense. Whereas most others resort to this adage in order to lament, Jews subconsciously celebrate the fact that life is not fair. Jews instinctively realize that had the tables been turned and Israel found itself with thousands of refugee children as a result of civil war, our Arab neighbors would be dancing in the streets and firing rifles in the air to celebrate. Jewish reaction to the suffering of children and other human beings – including enemy children and other human beings is to figure out how much aid is needed and what is the best way to provide that aid. When disaster strikes an enemy, Arabs celebrate; Jews calibrate. It’s as simple as that.
There’s a fabulous phrase in the Torah that most Jews are completely unaware of. Yet, for us Jews, it is second nature. Hagar and Ishmael are driven way by Abraham. Ishmael is about to expire from thirst. There are those who question Divine intervention at that point, in that there is no question in their mind that today’s world would be so much simpler had Ishmael been left to die in the wilderness. But rather than simply tell us that HaShem heard Ishmael’s cries, the Torah reports that HaShem heard Ishmael’s cries where he (Ishmael) was at the time. Ishmael was saved irrespective of the type of person he would grow into as an adult; Ishmael was saved because he was a child on the brink of death. Money is being raised for victims of Syria’s civil war irrespective of the fact that quite possibly some of the recipients of this emergency aid may one day become terrorists or at the very “least” enemies of Israel; money is being raised for victims of Syria’s civil was because they are children who are suffering.
It is the Book of Proverbs (Sefer Mishlei) that teaches us not to rejoice at the downfall of one’s enemy. Most see this as a most obvious teaching. Perhaps the Book of Proverbs falls short. Perhaps the Book of Proverbs should have also taught us not to cry at the downfall of one’s enemy. Sympathy or even empathy is totally useless when others are in need, especially when they are in harm’s way and are crying out for help. As beautiful as shedding a tear may be and as heartwarming as an embrace may be, hold back the tear and save the hug until after medical aid is administered, those in harm’s way are given nourishment, wounds are tended to, bathing takes place, clean clothes are provided and the victims are safe and secure from harm including the scorching heat of summer and the dreadful cold of winter. What so many seem to fail to understand is that in a crises situation, motion trumps emotion.
My yarmulke goes off to those responsible for this initiative. At present, they refer to their campaign as JUST BEYOND THE BORDER. My fervent hope and prayer is not that more Israelis and Jews throughout the world come on board and participate and donate – of that I haven’t the slightest doubt. My hope and prayer is that Syrian communities throughout the United States, Canada and Europe go just beyond the border and begin to help their own people as well.

THE VISION OF JOHN GLENN

I highly doubt that I was the first Jew or even the first rabbi to go to the computer to see what information I could get on former astronaut and Senator John Glenn and the Jews. No, I did not learn that John Glenn was a staunch supporter of Israel. And no, I did not learn that John Glenn peppered his conversations with Yiddish words. I was however vindicated, in that while researching Senator Glenn’s life, I was reminded yet again that Jewish eyes differ from American eyes. Furthermore, we Jews have no right whatsoever to expect non-Jews to see things our way.
Senator John Glenn had American eyes. As one who supported negotiations between Israel and the P.L.O., Senator Glenn was drawn into a heated political discussion on the topic. In the midst of that discussion, Senator Glenn compared Menachem Begin and the Irgun with the P.L.O. In his eyes, the Senator was unable to see that he was making an odious comparison; in his eyes, the Senator was unable to see that he was committing “political suicide”. A good many American Jews (including Rabbi Zell) find it difficult, if not impossible to be dispassionate about Israel. I would suspect that Senator Glenn was either unaware of this or couldn’t for the life of him understand why we Jews get so worked up over the Jewish State.
Senator John Glenn had American eyes. When Senator Glenn voted in favor of selling F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, American Jews saw red. Senator Glenn on the other hand saw red, white and blue. He reasoned that if The United States did not sell warplanes to Saudi Arabia, the Saudis would turn to France for similar French made fighter jets. Unlike the United States, France would sell its warplane to Saudi Arabia without any restrictions attached. Such reasoning did not sit well with American Jews. Whether American Jews are willing to admit it or not, love is blind and American Jews have a deep love for Israel. It would be totally unrealistic as well as grossly unfair for American Jews to expect a non-Jewish (Presbyterian) Senator from the Buckeye State to harbor the same degree of love towards Israel.
Senator John Glenn had American eyes. He had a best friend Henri Landwirth who was also his business partner. Henri Landwirth was a Holocaust survivor. Henri Landwirth had numbers tattooed on his arm to prove it. Some Holocaust survivors find it hard to go through life with such numbers tattooed on their arms. Henri Landwirth was one of them. He tried to hide his tattooed arm whenever possible. Senator John Glenn was unable to understand the nightmare that was Henri Landwirth’s. He saw Henri’s discomfort and maybe even the shame that he bore, but he was unable to understand it. Senator John Glenn once told Henri Landwirth, “If it were me, I’d wear that number like a medal with a spotlight in it.”
Senator John Glenn had American eyes. It was those American eyes that piloted his plane both in World War II where he flew fifty-nine combat missions and then again in Korea where he flew ninety combat missions. Those same eyes viewed the earth from space aboard the spaceship Friendship Seven close to five and a half decades ago, when he was the first American to orbit the earth. Years later, Senator Glenn set his sights on serving the State of Ohio, serving as a four term Senator. From my point of view, that makes him a true American hero…even if from a Jewish viewpoint we Jews and Senator John Glenn may not have always seen things eye to eye.

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE MENACHEM BEGIN?

Menachem Begin has always been and in all likelihood will remain my hero. I miss him more than one can imagine. In response to the resolution passed by UNESCO last Thursday which charged Israel with a long list of violations regarding Haram al-Sharif and al- Aqsa Mosque and  purposely omits the sacred connection that exists between  the site of the two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem and  Jews, I can hear Menachem Begin standing up and proclaiming: “The people of Israel have existed 3,700 years without defamatory resolutions passed by UNESCO and will continue to exist far beyond 3,700 years with or without defamatory resolutions passed by UNESCO.” After delivering the proclamation in a fashion typical of an orator of his caliber, in all likelihood Mr. Begin would have turned to his trusted aide Yehuda Avner and exclaimed in Yiddish: “Hairst a Myseh (have you ever heard of such Chutzpah)!”
Menachem Begin would have also considered the source. Drafted by seven Arab countries, Mr. Begin would have understood that the resolution was purely to bolster the Palestinians and was in all likelihood authored by Palestinians. For only Palestinians could author a resolution containing such a ludicrous claim, given that less than twenty four hours earlier, hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout the world attended Yom Kippur services, where a reenactment of the one day a year service by the Kohen going into the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. Being an anti-Semite is one thing; being a stupid anti-Semite is quite something else. If the Palestinians want to insist that Jews have no connection to the two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, then they would be well advised to make their claim in January or February, but not on the heels of Yom Kippur.
Menachem Begin would not have been surprised that the resolution passed twenty-four to six, with twenty-six abstentions. If anything, he would have been mildly surprised that Britain, Germany, Estonia and Lithuania were among those who voted against the resolution. Given his formative years in pre-war Poland where anti-Semitism all too often reared its ugly head, he saw the need for an independent Jewish country precisely because Jews could not nor should not count on others for support or friendship. It was a young Menachem Begin who led a massive demonstration in the early years of Israel, damning the government for negotiating with Germany on the matter of reparations or “blood money” as he called it. His attitude was, as Jews in a Jewish State, we will focus our energies on that what is moral and proper; we will not waste our time worrying about the censure of the rest of the world nor will we concern ourselves to seek its approval.
Menachem Begin in all likelihood would have grabbed his tallis and tefillen and shown up at the Kotel for Shacharis. No stranger to the Shacharis service – or any prayer service for that matter, Mr. Begin would have offered a lengthy explanation to the news media how Jerusalem and the holy Temple were integral parts of Judaism and that no Muslim should even think of making statements that would impugn the historic and religious connection between the holy Temple and Jews. Why, Mr. Begin might even have added, that as a gentleman he refrains from making any negative or incendiary remarks about Moslems and Mecca. Hopefully what he did not follow up with, would have been heard loud and clear by the Palestinians.
When all is said and done however, Menachem Begin would have stood before the Knesset and excoriated Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority for instigating the resolution. After telling members of Knesset that given the life he lived and the suffering he endured, he fears no one and that he is prepared to speak out and give anyone a piece of his mind, especially a Palestinian leader who incites hatred.  Mr. Begin would then have concluded his tirade by borrowing from a Yiddish maxim which could be best translated as follows: And if Mahmoud Abbas gets his nose out of joint from what I have to say to him, then let him walk around the rest of his life with a disjointed nose.