LIST OF ENEMIES

Up until last week, I had never heard of Heritage House. Located on 7 HaMalakh Street in the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, this heretofore non-descript house of lodging made news, when it was discovered that the proprietors of Heritage House drew up a list of individuals who are not welcome. Among those who need not apply for a night’s stay are Senator Bernie Sanders, comedian Jon Stewart and actress/entertainer Bette Midler. Aside from the fact that all three are American Jews of notoriety, they appear to share political views concerning Israel that are not are not supportive of the government. Because of their views, they have been relegated to the category of “Soneh Yisroel” or enemy of Israel and have therefore been blacklisted.

Lists can be dangerous. Anyone who has made (read planned) a wedding, Bar Mitzvah or other life-cycle event, knows only too well that family relations and friendships have been destroyed because of lists. As a rabbi, I’ve heard more times than I care to recall, why congregants no longer have anything to do with “that side of the family” because a son and daughter-in-law never received an invitation to Mervin and Madeline’s wedding. Even though I have yet to see the list drawn up by those at Heritage House (if in fact such a list does exist), I cannot help but feel that it is entirely possible that some names on the list were erroneously added while other names that ought to be on the list, for whatever reason, never made the cut. A word to the wise at Heritage House: If you must blacklist, keep it to yourself and never, ever commit such a list to writing.

Soneh Yisroel is an elusive term. Much like Anti-Semite, Soneh Yisroel is dependent on the individual and the situation. Dare we equate one’s belief that all Jews should be wiped off the face of this earth with one’s belief that a certain segment of the population in Israel is a victim of apartheid, however naïve and reckless that belief may be? Does the fact that one takes up the cudgel for the enemy, make one a Soneh Yisroel? Provided we permit Israeli officials at Passport Control at Ben Gurion Airport to responsibly carry out their duties, neither those at Heritage House nor any other hotelier/ hostelier need be concerned about any Soneh Yisroel. And should it happen, that the officials at Passport Control are too lax in their standards at filtering out “undesirables,” for the likes of hoteliers/ hosteliers, the hoteliers/hosteliers can always resort to the age-old trick at the time of reservation and feign that they are booked solid and there is no room at the inn.

Perhaps most important of all, don’t those at Heritage House have anything better to do than make lists? Although I have never heard of, much less visited Heritage House, I feel it safe to make the following comparison: The King David, it isn’t! Do those at Heritage House actually believe that anyone on that list has any desire or inclination to stay at the Heritage House? Typically, those that made the list, receive a special “Baruch HaBa” or welcome upon arriving in Israel.

If only the purported list were for a totally different reason! Story has it that during the Civil War President Lincoln had occasion at an official reception to refer to the Southerners as erring human beings rather than as enemies to be exterminated. An elderly lady, a fiery patriot, rebuked the President for speaking kindly of his enemies when he ought to be thinking of destroying them. “Why, madam,” said Lincoln, “do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Perhaps Heritage House’s purported list of enemies was for the purpose of sending them Rosh Hashanah greeting cards wishing them the best for 5779. If only!

A STAIN ON HUMANITY

Israel is a stain on humanity. As incredulous a charge as this may be, there are a goodly number of Jews both in Israel as well as in the diaspora who believe this to be true. Furthermore, these Jews feel it a mitzvah of the highest order to convince you that their belief is sacrosanct. For Palestinian nationalists to hurl such a charge is expected; for anti-Semites to hurl such a charge is understandable. But what causes Jews to view Israel as being a stain on humanity?

For them, it is impossible to replace Jewish plight with Jewish might. Lessons of downtrodden, obsequious and subservient Jews of the shtetl have been firmly etched in their minds and perhaps even in their souls. It is therefore unthinkable to expect these lessons to be replaced in a mere seven decades with the existence of a Jewish state. For them, the term Jew is synonymous with underdog. Their weltanschauung is one where the Jew is the nail and not the hammer. As such, I cannot help but wonder if such Jews celebrate Chanukah, the quintessential festival where a minority population with a ragtag army musters the audacity to go up against a Roman army with state-of-the-art armament.  In their view, Jews do not rock the boat; in their view, Jews seek to ameliorate situations by begging the foreign overlord to find it in his heart to accommodate the Jew. And if such heart-searching is stimulated by financial persuasion, so be it. That’s the price one pays for being a Jew.

Jews, non-observant Jews may have abandoned the teachings of the Torah, but the teachings of the Torah have never abandoned them. It’s no wonder then, that Jews, particularly in this country have been in the forefront when it comes to social action. Show them an oppressed people, either real or perceived; show them suffering masses – it makes no difference whether that suffering was brought on by an outside force or by the sufferers themselves – and such Jews will be among the first to take up the cudgel. They view the widow, the fatherless and the stranger mentioned in Torah in absolute terms. Who turned them into widows, who rendered them fatherless and why they are the stranger is totally irrelevant. For those who recall the definition of chutzpah as being where one murders his mother and mother and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan, such Jews would find it totally incredulous how the court could remain so stone-hearted.

Jews seem to have a knee-jerk reaction when their Judaism is questioned or challenged. And so, the asinine response “I’ll have you know that I’m proud to be a Jew” came into vogue. For a born Jew, being proud to be a Jew makes no more sense than being proud to have black hair and brown eyes. Pride comes about because of what one has worked for and achieved. Pride is commensurate with blood sweat and tears. Unlike those born Jews who parrot “I’m proud to be a Jew,” I cannot help but feel that Jews who charge that Israel is a stain on humanity, are ill at ease at being Jews. Because there is nothing particularly Jewish about their daily lives, their Judaism becomes de facto synonymous with Israel. Because they are uncomfortable with their own Jewishness (Here I go playing psychologist without a license again) they are uncomfortable with the State of Israel. The very same individuals who make a conscious effort not to associate with other Jews and certainly not to incorporate any negative Jewish stereotypes into their behavior, are known for subconsciously maligning Israel on a regular basis.

As of this past Sunday, we have begun to sound the shofar daily. If only the blast of the shofar would penetrate the minds of those who regard Israel as a stain on humanity so that they recognize that that it’s high time they held their heads high, rather than cowering at the sight of the non-Jews. As far as Mah Yomru HaGoyim – what will the other nations say? Quite frankly I don’t give a damn. If only the blast of the shofar would penetrate the hearts of those who regard Israel as a stain on humanity, so that those hearts do not go out instinctively to the widow, the fatherless and the stranger in Qabatiya, Qalqas and Qalqilya without first scrutinizing the reason why the widow, the fatherless and the stranger exist in the first place. If only the blast of the shofar would penetrate the souls who regard Israel as a stain on humanity, so that they become more comfortable with being Jewish through learning and doing. Only then will Israel cease serving as their whipping boy when they engage in self-flagellation. If only the blast of the shofar would cause them to see Israel as a bright spot for humanitarianism, instead of a stain on humanity.

HEY, DON’T YOU WALK OUT!

Close to 25 years ago, Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, prominent American Jews known for their generosity and largesse agreed that something had to be as far as Jewish youth between the ages of 18-26 identifying as Jews. They came up with “Birthright.”

Known in Hebrew as Taglit, or “discovery,” Birthright brings Jewish youth from gateway cities in this country to Israel for a 10-day, all expenses paid trip of Israel, which includes sightseeing, lectures and meeting with Israelis. As a matter a fact, seated across the aisle from us on our recent flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv, were Canadian college students beginning their Birthright experience.

Little did we know, that a mere four days later, five participants (not those on our flight) would walk off their Birthright trip and onto a tour of Hebron led by Breaking the Silence, a group sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. The five participants were also members of  If Not Now,  an American group opposed to Birthright, in that they maintained that Birthright had a “one-sided”  agenda, thereby concealing the “truth” about the “Israeli occupation”.

Pathetic doesn’t even begin to describe what took place, just as Chutzpah doesn’t begin to describe the behavior of the If Not Now members. If there were any justice in this world, other “friendly” Palestinians from Hebron would have greeted the five defectors with a welcoming committee, slingshots armed and ready, tires burning, while screaming “Allahu Akbar.” Heaven forbid that any physical harm would befall them, but I for one would have hoped and prayed that the experience would have left them shaken. Birthright goes out of its way to ensure and guarantee the safety of all its participants, yet a group determined to “save Israel from itself” meanders off to neighborhoods where they could very well be greeted with Arabs chanting “Itbah al-Yahud” (Arabic for “slaughter the Jew”).

Birthright is totally transparent as far as its itinerary and its goal. If that itinerary and goal is too one-sided for your tastes or political views, no one is forcing you to participate. Speaking of one-sided political views, Zehut is a political party in Israel, espousing Jewish sovereignty in all parts of the Land of Israel. Zehut encourages voluntary emigration of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria. Yet, I am not aware of any members of Zehut or any college age students who identify with Zehut ideology signing up for Birthright and then walking off their Birthright trip only to proceed with a tour of Hebron with the express purpose of meeting with nationalist Jewish settlers, living in a city surrounded by hostile Arab neighbors. For them to do so would be an affront to Birthright. To sign up for what amounts to an all expense paid for trip to Israel, only to walk off that trip because of one’s personal political agenda is antithetical to Judaism. My upbringing instilled in me that this is simply no way for a mentsch to behave. Would these same “walkers” accept an invitation to spend an evening with a family, only to get up partway through that evening, to walk over to and visit with a problematic neighbor?

If groups such as “If Not Now” maintain that Birthright is presenting our youth with a jaundiced view of Israel, then let “If Not Now” offer our youth an alternative Israel experience, replete with their own political agenda. They have every right to do so, provided they present themselves honestly. I will be the first to applaud their integrity regardless of how I feel about their orientation. If on the other hand, the behavior of such groups is less than forthright and honest, and their constituents sign up to participate on Birthright only to undermine Birthright, then they’ve reminded me how very repulsive it is when Jews turn against each other. And that, is a shanda of the highest order.

SINS OF THE FATHER

“The die has long since been cast; the fight will take place. The Jews with their backs to the sea, fighting for their very homes, with 101 percent morale, will accept no compromise.”

These words were written mere weeks before Israeli independence was declared and its people having to fight for their very existence in the concomitant War of Independence.

Contrary to one may think, these were not the words of Golda Meir, David Ben Gurion or any of the other founders of the nascent state. These words were penned by a 22-year-old reporter for the Boston Post. Encouraged by his father to travel overseas, but ignoring his father’s advice to steer clear of trouble, a young Bobby Kennedy boarded a flight from Cairo to what was then Lydda airport. It was during that trip to Israel, that the young reporter met with both the Irgun and Haganah (he was actually kidnapped, blindfolded and interrogated by Haganah agents before being released a short time afterwards.)

Two decades later, when Bobby was seeking the presidential nomination, he accompanied Rabbi Shmuel Shrage to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe. “Is there anything, Mr. Kennedy can do for you, in return for the blessing you gave him?” Rabbi Shrage asked the Rebbe. “Yes,” answered the Rebbe. “There are two Jews sitting in jail in the Soviet Union for spreading Judaism. If Mr. Kennedy can get them released and brought to this country, it would be a great thing.” After a couple of weeks, Bobby Kennedy called Rabbi Shrage. “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I can get them out of jail and even out of Russia. The bad news is that I can’t get them into the United States.” Rabbi Shrage was incredulous! The former U.S. Attorney General was able to get the two Jews out of Russia but unable to bring them into the United States (most likely because of anti-Semitism of some individuals in the State Department.) Rabbi Shrage contacted the State Department and threatened them with a media campaign. A short time thereafter, those two Jews were safe and sound on American soil.

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of Senator Kennedy’s assassination, having been felled by a bullet by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a Palestinian resident of Silwan in East Jerusalem. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan chose to kill the presidential aspirant on that exact date of June 5th, because it coincided with the first anniversary of Israel’s stunning victory of the Six Day war. Bobby Kennedy was targeted by the twenty-four-year-old Palestinian, because of Senator Kennedy’s unabashed support for Israel. As such, Bobby Kennedy was the first American victim of modern Arab terrorism.

There is little doubt that any number of Jewish newspapers in this country will carry stories about Senator Kennedy. What really ought to be remembered about Bobby Kennedy as far as I am concerned, is not his support for Israel per se (Lyndon Johnson will also be remembered as a great friend to Israel, as will Richard Nixon,) but his support for Israel and his friendship toward Jews in light of his upbringing.

Raised as the son of Joseph Kennedy, Bobby, no different than his older brother John, as well as his other 7 siblings was weaned on anti-Semitic sentiments and comments. Old Joe Kennedy’s dislike for Jews (yes, David Sarnoff was among Joe Kennedy’s best friends. Having a “good Jew” among your coterie of friends is not in any way unusual for anti-Semites. In no way do such anti-Semites see the dichotomy in this,) was legendary. I am neither a sociologist nor a psychologist. It would seem to me that the vast majority of us are products of our upbringing. Quite often beliefs, mores and behaviors are passed along from generation to generation. Conversely, to be have been raised in such an atmosphere and have the temerity to eschew one’s parent’s belief  because it is simply wrong is the sign of an exceptional human being – all the more so if that parent is still alive. Recall if you will, that Bobby predeceased his father by 16 months.

No doubt, many in this country will remember Bobby Kennedy as one who cared for his fellow human being and dared to make a difference where injustices were addressed and wrongs were righted. Even though sins of the father quite often fall on the children, I would hope and pray that Bobby Kennedy is remembered as one who showed us that in his case, sins of the father fall by the wayside.

EMBASSY BLEATS

 

The words of Samuel II, 7:23, which find themselves in the Shabbat Mincha service, took on a new meaning for me this past Monday: “You are one (of a kind), Your name is one (unique) and who is like Your people, a suis generis nation on earth.”

Without a doubt I’m in the minority, but for me the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was the “Shanda of all Shandas” (Shanda is German/Yiddish for shame or embarrassment.) What it shows is 70 years of Chutzpah of the highest order on the part of governments of pretty much all countries of this world. Would any of these countries have dared to open their embassies in New York rather than Washington D.C. or in Toronto rather than Ottawa? Yet, it was perfectly legitimate for them to open their Embassies in Tel-Aviv rather than Jerusalem. For shame!

As one who has an affinity for a number of Israel’s Prime Ministers, I share with you three different “embassy” responses taken out of context, from three leaders of the modern State of Israel. I do so with full knowledge that these responses are anything but politically correct in the eyes of contemporary culture:

“History has shown us time and time again that what is right is not what is popular.” Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current P.M. could not have been more concise in evaluating the lack of courage exhibited by government after government. Obviously, popular is far more important than right. A modicum of justice would dictate that Israel open its embassy in Sao Paulo rather than Brasilia, in Manchester rather than London and in Leningrad rather than Moscow. Yet, there are those American Jews, who in response to our current president’s decision to open the American Embassy in Jerusalem exult: “Mah Rabbu Ma’asecha!” or “How great are you deeds!” (Psalm 104.) No doubt, I’m a lone voice, but as far as I’m concerned, such effusiveness smacks of the shtetl Jew beholden to the Poritz (wealthy Polish landlord) for the slightest of accommodations.

From my point of view, it behooves us to borrow from Golda Meir who turned to Anwar Sadat on his first visit to Israel over four decades ago and remarked “What took you so long!” All countries of the world, including these United States, have had over half a century to come to terms with the reality that Jerusalem is no longer a divided city. All countries of the world have had over fifty years to accept the reality that the unity of Jerusalem is non–negotiable. Refusing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is tantamount to refusing to recognize New York City as being on American soil.

There is a speech made by Menachem Begin taking Helmut Schmidt to task for having the audacity to lecture Israel about the rights of the Palestinian people.  “Of all people, for you Germans to speak about human rights is a sham. What gives you the right to speak about minority groups? We Jews should be the ones lecturing you Germans about human rights and not the other way around. We are the people who introduced the notion of human rights to the world.” Given his conviction, given his boldness, it’s quite likely that Menachem Begin would have lectured the world by saying: Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel, long before any of your countries came into existence. If history has taught us anything, it’s that countries come and go. So do their capitals.  But Jerusalem is eternal. We welcome those who relocate their embassies to Israel. But know one thing. With or without your embassies, Jerusalem has been and will continue to be the capital of the Jewish State.

MEMO TO MAHMOUD

What’s the matter with you? I think your brain is going soft with all that comedy you are playing with those “Poor Palestinians.” Never invoke the Holocaust in an attempt to cast Israelis in a bad light! Ever!

Imagine that! A Menachem Begin adulating rabbi, dispensing advice to a Palestinian thug who treats his own with nothing but contempt and disrespect. Abu Mazen! If you are so drawn to the Holocaust, better you should learn from the best! I’m infatuated with Menachen Begin. Chances are that you are infatuated with Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany. Better you should commit the following Goebbels quote to memory: If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. Continue to lie to yourself, your people and the rest of the world about how oppressed the Palestinians are because of the Zionist imperialists. The fact that you no longer have any credibility with your own people, the fact that other Arab countries see you for the phony and crook that you really are, shows that you haven’t done good enough job of telling a lie that was first promulgated decades ago.

Mahmoud Abbas! The sharpest knife in the drawer, you aren’t. Don’t you realize that by invoking the Holocaust, you are leaving yourself as well as the populace you feign to care for extremely vulnerable? The legacy of the Holocaust is that when Jews suffer a terrible blow, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, move on and create productive lives and promising futures for themselves. Can the same be said for your people who continue to live in squalor? You and your people are an embarrassment to humanity! Rather than encourage your people to muster their human resources and build better lives for themselves, you and your people have wasted these past 70 years wallowing in self-pity. You want Holocaust comparisons Palestinian Authority President? I’ll give you Holocaust comparisons! Hitler set out to destroy a people. You and your predecessors have set out to destroy the integrity and self-worth of a people. Hitler extracted gold from the mouths of Jews; you extract food from the mouths of your own people. If I were you, I’d think twice before I make any Holocaust comparisons.

Father of Mazen, Yasser and Tareq! At the same time you were studying law at the University of Damascus, singer-songwriter Cal Perkins was telling young Americans: “You can do anything you want, but don’t step on my blue suede shoes.” As far as Israel is concerned, trash it any way you wish, but don’t you ever accuse Israel for the Holocaust or liken Israeli leadership to the Third Reich. When will you ever learn that we are living in the age where there is zero tolerance for anti-Semitic remarks? Repeat after me: Israel bashing? Kosher! Jew bashing? Treif! Refer to the Prime Minister of Israel as “Bibi the Butcher” and no one will even raise an eyebrow. Call Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman “the Mad Russian” and there will be those who might even chuckle. But don’t even think that the Jews were responsible for the Holocaust. That’s one place you don’t wish to tread!

Mahmoud Abbas! I can’t help but feel that you would greatly benefit from a class in firearm safety. Enrolling in and successfully graduating from such a course might just prevent you from shooting off your mouth as well as shooting yourself in the foot as you seem to be able to do with such great aplomb.

3 M COUNTRY

If people know anything about David Ben Gurion, it’s that he was the George Washington of the State of Israel. On May 15, 1948 corresponding to 5 Iyyar, 5708 (this year celebrations take place on Thursday,) David Ben Gurion proclaimed the birth of the State of Israel.

What precious few don’t know about David Ben Gurion are the feverish activities that he was very much part of during the three years that led up to that historical event. I would like to single out three such activities. To me, they will be remembered as the “three M’s”:

“Population, population, population,” argued the fictitious Ari ben Canaan (played by Paul Newman) as he debated his uncle Akiva in the movie Exodus. David Ben Gurion did not need Ari ben Canaan, or anyone else for that matter, to remind him that population was the sine qua non for the establishment of a country. So there stood David ben Gurion in Zeilsheim, Germany, at a Displaced Persons Camp addressing hundreds of Holocaust survivors. For Ben Gurion, this was no easy task. As one who had utter contempt for Europe, as well as those who lived there, Ben Gurion swallowed hard and addressed the survivors in…Yiddish! Only in (what was to become) Israel, he argued, could Holocaust survivors rebuild their lives. They desperately needed to settle in Israel, Ben Gurion attempted to convince them, because Ben Gurion knew that Israel desperately needed them. Ari ben Canaan chose to call it population; Ben Gurion chose to call it manpower.

If I were ever to draw up a list of the top ten places in Israel to visit, the Ayalon Institute  would most likely be among them. In 1945, Ben Gurion knew that statehood would be proclaimed sooner than later. Ben Gurion also knew that the neighbors, viz. Arabs, would not be bringing bread and salt or any other housewarming gifts. With the British in charge, there was no way to import any WWII surplus for a soon to be born army of Israel. Ben Gurion, therefore, approached members of a kibbutz on the outskirts of Rechovot. The plan was to construct a clandestine underground bullet factory. A laundry (with the noisiest washing machines and drying machines available) would serve as their cover – both literally and figuratively. Each day, right under the noses of the British who would bring in soiled garments for cleaning, forty-five volunteers would go underground to manufacture thousands of bullets. Ben Gurion knew that the new state would not stand a chance of surviving without munitions.

Protektzia is a word so common in Israeli society that it is often referred to a “Vitamin P.” Protektzia is what many refer to as having connections to either call in favors or get things done. As far as I’m concerned, protektzia is what we call moxie.

On a sultry Sunday in July 1945, Ben Gurion was at a brunch at the home of Rudolph Sonnenborn on East 57th Street in Manhattan. Addressing a group of seventeen Jewish industrialists, developers, and businessmen who were in attendance, Ben Gurion explained the predicament of those who managed to survive Hitler, the grim prospects of the United States accepting the refugees, and the promise a new Jewish State would surely hold for those whose only desire was to start a new life.  Ben Gurion was looking to the group of seventeen for protektzia. What ben Gurion didn’t realize, is that he had just won the protektzia lottery, a lottery that included an aircraft carrier despite the fact that Israel did not yet have an air force. But that lottery did have the makings of an airline to fly the Jewish refugees out of Europe to the Promised Land, thanks to Al Schwimmer, a young flight engineer at TWA. So what if none of that fleet never actually made it to Israel? Al Schwimmer ultimately made Aliyah and founded Israel Aerospace Industries. Most of all, the protektzia lottery ended up with William Levitt, of Levittown fame, handing Teddy Kollek (who would ultimately become Mayor of Jerusalem) a check for one million dollars, made out to the Provisional Government of the State of Israel. William Levitt did not ask for any collateral, in that the Provisional Government of the State of Israel could offer no collateral. It was to be born bankrupt.

Manpower. Munitions. Moxie. All three were indispensable as far as Ben Gurion was concerned. And should it happen that Israel lagged in one of these three ingredients, Israel could always turn to the other two ingredients. As it celebrates seventy years of independence, Israel has every right to glow with pride as it basks in incredible achievements that trace their roots to manpower, munitions and moxie.

M’GOSH M’GOLLY MEGILLAH

In all likelihood, the vast majority of Jews throughout this world will not be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this Shabbat. The amount of our people who will make a point to hoist a “McGuiness” at any of the three Shabbat meals later this week will undoubtedly hardly constitute a minyan. Nevertheless, it might behoove us to know that the monopoly for smiling does not belong to Irish eyes.

I have no idea how many Jews in this country know who served as the first Chief Rabbi of the nascent State of Israel. Whatever that number might be, I’m certain that far fewer Jews are aware that Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog (born in Lomza, Poland in 1888) served as the Rabbi of Belfast and ultimately rose to the position of Chief Rabbi of Ireland, before moving to Israel in 1936 to succeed Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook as Chief Rabbi of Israel. Rabbi Herzog’s fluency in Irish was such that he was dubbed the “Sinn Fein Rabbi” (literally “We ourselves,” it was adopted as the name for the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.) Rabbi Herzog’s Irish-born son later served as Israel’s sixth President; his grandson and namesake, aka Bougie, rose in political power only to lose to Benjamin Netanyahu in the last national election.

A great affinity toward Israel on the part of the Irish government, there isn’t. One would think that, politically speaking, Irish leaders would look at Israel for inspiration; one would think that Irish leaders would see the daily struggle of Israel against terrorism ever since its founding 70 years ago as something they could relate to. Unfortunately, Irish leaders have instead chosen the “poor Palestinians” as their soulmates. This perhaps explains why formal relations between the two, Ireland and Israel, were not established until 1975 and why it wasn’t until the very end of 1993 that Ireland permitted Israel to open its embassy in Dublin. You know things could be much better when a few years back, unnamed sources from the Israeli Foreign Ministry claimed that “Ireland (is the) most hostile country toward us in Europe.” Politics, however, is politics and business is business. In 2010, Israeli imports from Ireland approached $520 million and exports to Ireland stood at $81 million. Israeli exports to Ireland include machinery and electronics, rubber and plastics, chemicals, textiles, optical/medical equipment, gems, and fruit and vegetables. Irish exports to Israel include machinery and electronics, chemicals, textiles, and foodstuffs.

However representative a government ought to be of its people, it’s heartening to know that not all Irish have adopted such a cool attitude toward Israel. In fact, there is a group of Irish people committed to understanding and supporting Israel’s security needs. That group proudly calls itself “Irish 4 Israel.” Among other objectives, its raison de etre is to counteract much of the hatred and lies spread in the name of “truth” within certain segments of Irish society and to ensure that Israel’s conflict with Palestinian terrorists along with their sponsors and enablers receives fair and impartial coverage from the Irish media.

As Erin Go Bragh rings loud and clear this Saturday in Irish neighborhoods throughout this country, as well as elsewhere in the world, it might very well be a propitious time for us to invoke Am Yisroel Chai. Whether the wish is “Ireland forever” or the “Jewish People Lives,” the sentiment is pretty much the same. May the Road of Peace rise up to greet us both.

GET A LIFE

The other week, Karen and Mike, known to some of us as Vice President and Mrs. Pence were in Israel. During their relatively brief stay, they visited Yad VaShem, Israel’s memorial to the six million whose lives were snuffed out by the Nazis and their henchmen. It was there in front of the eternal flame, that Mr. Pence inflamed more than a few of our people. While paying his respects to the six million, he remarked: “…three years after walking beneath the shadow of death (they) rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future.” Faster than you could say “shalom aleichem” Mr. Pence was being excoriated for introducing Christian terminology into his metaphor.

Is it such a sin to take Mr. Pence’s remarks at face value? Personally speaking, I’m amazed that the very same Jews who in all probability never heard of Rashi, much less have ever looked into even one of Rashi’s commentaries are so quick to offer commentary on the remarks of an American leader. I shudder to think how these same individuals would have reacted, had Mr. Pence remarked: “As a non-Israeli and a non-Jew, I cannot help but feel the holy spirit of the six million throughout this edifice that memorializes them.” Any number of Jewish and/or Israeli publications would have accused him of sullying the souls of the six million by invoking the trinity!

There is a disease rampant among our people. Unlike other diseases, it does not distinguish between Ashkenazic and Sefardic Jews. That disease is ignorance. As a people, we are woefully ignorant of our tradition. Jews, who have no trouble providing the name of the mother of Jesus, are completely stumped when it comes to providing the name of the mother of Moses. Mention “resurrection” and immediately Jews associate it with an event that purportedly occurred three days after the crucifixion. Yet, the very same individuals do not realize that resurrection is a concept that it is profoundly Jewish. There is a discussion in the Talmud, not whether we Jews believe in resurrection – that ought to be a foregone conclusion- but whether the source for resurrection is biblical or rabbinic. Surprise! Surprise! Resurrection of the dead is found in our prayers minimally three times a day virtually every day of the year. Why then the uproar?

Last but not least, a big “al chet” (for the sin that I have committed- part of the Yom Kippur confessional) is in order on the part of all the accusers. For argument’s sake, suppose for a moment, that Mr. Pence did in fact have Jesus in mind. If so, then I caution his accusers to think carefully before they use phrases such as: “wash one’s hands of the matter”, “blind leading the blind”, and “go the extra mile” in their daily parlance. All three expressions come from the Book of Matthew! Why then is it kosher for the same Jews who take Mr. Pence to task for using a term that is inferred being connected with Jesus, to use phrases that are unmistakably Christian in origin in their everyday speech?

Within a short time period of his Yad VaShem visit, Mr. Pence addressed the Knesset. In addition to his adulatory remarks for the Jewish State, Mr. Pence invoked the following five words: “Shehechiyanu, V’kiyimanu, V’higiyanu lazaman hazeh” (who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this moment in time). Instead of a slap in the face for a questionable reference at best, perhaps Mr. Pence deserves a slap on the back for his successful and some would dare say beautiful gesture of quoting a Hebrew prayer in its original.

VITAMIN A

Back in the day, Jews living outside Israel – especially Jews in these United States – discovered a new vitamin. It was assigned the name Vitamin I. Although Vitamin I was not available in any Drug Store, or through any pharmaceutical firm, it was believed that Vitamin I (“I” stands for Israel) was just “what the doctor ordered” for any difficult Jewish teenager. A month or two in Israel – preferably working on a kibbutz – would surely straighten out your “rebel without a cause.” Unless one was under the influence of another substance, one should have realized that Vitamin I was little different than taking a few swigs of “Dr. Good.”

There is another Vitamin that was also being marketed, although not exclusively by Jews. It was assigned the name Vitamin A (not to be confused with the pre-existing Vitamin A, which is believed to have beneficial effects for the retina.) Much like Vitamin I, it was believed that Vitamin A (“A” stands for Auschwitz) was just what the doctor ordered. Not only was Vitamin A seen as being beneficial to Jewish High School students, in that it added a unique dimension to their Holocaust studies, Vitamin A was also seen as being beneficial to counteract antisemitism. Take a group of avowed anti-Semites on a tour of Auschwitz and “here comes contrition.” Unless one was under the influence of another substance, one should have realized that when dealing with anti-Semites, Vitamin A was little different than taking a few swigs of “Dr. Good.”

There is a teaching handed down to us by our rabbinic sages: “Tsarot rabbim chatzi nechamah” or “learning that there are others out there suffering with the same issue is half the battle.” We call it self-help groups. As a rookie rabbi, I recall speaking to a local chapter of Compassionate Friends, a group of parents attempting to deal with the loss of a child. At the very worst, such parents see themselves as victims of divine cruelty. Anti-Semites on the other hand, see themselves as being victimized by Jews. All the problems that plague anti-Semites are caused by Jews. Victims of that variety are not in the least bit interested in self groups; victims of that variety find it reprehensible for someone to tell them that Jews were also victims. Don’t even try to educate anti-Semites about the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a hoax! Auschwitz was part of that hoax. Bringing anti-Semites to Auschwitz, introducing them to vitamin A, is an exercise in futility.

Anti–Semites, true and tried anti-Semites, revel in self-pity and hatred of Jews. Anti-Semites, true and tried anti-Semites, are happiest when they are miserable. Their existence is predicated upon getting themselves worked up over the world-wide Jewish conspiracy of planning to take over the world. Even if bringing anti-Semites to Auschwitz isn’t an exercise in futility and actually does have a modicum of efficacy, anyone planning such an outing would be subjecting anti-Semites to cruel and unusual punishment. Introducing anti-Semites to vitamin A would be depriving them of their happiness.

Sawsan Chebli, a Berlin state legislator (Ms. Chebli is of Palestinian heritage), recently proposed that any perpetrator of antisemitism (being caught painting swastikas on synagogues and other Jewish owned buildings) be required to visit Auschwitz or other Nazi concentration camp memorial. Apparently Ms Chebli is also a firm advocate of vitamin A. I applaud her for her sincerity, but I am amazed at her naiveté. If someone is truly dedicated to fighting antisemitism, if someone really believes that an anti-Semite has an open mind and is willing to listen and learn, then why on earth would you want to take an anti-Semite to see where Jews died? For heaven’s sake, take an anti-Semite to see where Jews live! Take anti-Semites to see Israeli doctors treating Palestinian children. Take anti-Semites to visit descendants of survivors of Hitler to learn what they have on their minds. Take anti-Semites to a synagogue to hear the subject matter of a rabbi’s sermon. Chances are excellent that they will never hear any hatred being spewed at anti-Semites, much less non-Jews. Let Auschwitz serve as a memorial for those who wish to learn and remember. Let those who truly believe in combating antisemitism, expose the anti-Semite not to the way Jews died, but to the way Jews live.