Thursday, May 29, 2014

Water: the blessing, the curse—and Israel

Humans need water. Without water, we do not survive.

 We need water to drink. We need water to grow our food.  We need water to cleanse our sewage. We need water to make cement. We need water to run factories. We need water to cook our food.

But in America, the European Union and the Arab Middle East, water supplies shrink. It becomes a depleting asset. Its absence has become a curse.

The Arab Middle East is dry as bone.  Europe suffers from an extended drought. America is looking at some of the worst drought conditions in history.

It’s a curse. Crops don’t grow. Cattle don’t feed. Forest fires rage, threatening not only land, but human life and property.  

In Europe, drought is turning into a major disaster (“Press Release: Europe to suffer from more severe and persistent droughts”, European Geosciences Union, January 2014). It threatens to create social and environmental catastrophes.

In the Arab Middle East, the sun is unrelenting, unforgiving. The Arab Middle East is cursed by a process called, ‘desertification’.  Every year, Arab farmland transforms, slowly but inevitably, from arable land to desert sand.

In America, water has become so scarce it has a name: the 2010-2014 drought. This is at least the second major drought of the 21st century—and we’ve barely begun the century. It spreads across most of the USA—with no signs that it will end any time soon (“Map: U.S. struggles through four years of drought,” Aljazeera America, March 24, 2014).

The American drought has affected more than 90 percent of the High Plains and over 60 percent of the West (ibid). California, which leads all other states in farm income (“What happens if US loses California food production?”, The Farm Press, October 31, 2013),  is on pace to have its worst drought in history (“Map: US struggles…”, above).

But in Israel, drought does not threaten to become a disaster. It doesn’t eat up cropland. It doesn’t force farmers out of business. It doesn’t threaten to reduce food growth.

In Israel, water is not a curse. It’s a blessing.  Desertification does not happen in Israel. The reverse happens:  barren desert becomes farmland (“Israel turns barren desert into useful and arable land”,, July 19, 2012).

Water issues do not devastate Israel’s agriculture. Israel’s agriculture growth is 4 per cent higher than the United Kingdom, 7 per cent higher than France, 37 times higher than Egypt.

Israel’s agriculture doesn’t suffer because of water issues. It thrives.

Israel is blessed. You can see that blessing when you drive south into the parched, tan Negev desert. On both sides of the highway, you’ll not only see the burnt tan tones of desert sand, you’ll also see the green of farmland crops—sometimes, as far as the eye can see.

That’s not just a blessing. That’s a miracle.

If water is one instrument through which the G-d of Israel blesses or curses us, the world’s weather patterns show us clearly who is blessed and who is cursed. You become very much aware of that Holy calculus when you see the startling green farmland of Israel’s Negev.

The desert in the Negev shows you how G-d blesses the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The droughts of America, the Arab Middle East and the European Union show you how G-d has the Power to use water to curse.

The Jewish Torah told the world more than 3,000 years ago that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed (B’reisheet 12:3). That has never been a secret.

It’s also no secret why the Arab Middle East—sharing the same dirt, desert and weather as Israel—suffers a horrible desertification. They curse Israel.

The Arab curses—and his land tranforms to dust. Why should you be surprised by that?

It’s no secret that much of Europe has turned against the Jewish people. Many in Europe curse the Jew. Europe’s land dries. The land withholds its bounty. Weather patterns seem to curse the European landscape.

Why should you be surprised?

In life, you always reap what you sow. Why should the Arabs and the Europeans be exempt from that?

Finally, it’s no secret that the current American Administration does not bless the Jewish state. It’s also no secret that too many of America’s farms turn into dry, cursed dirt.

Yes, these water--and environmental--problems all derive from natural phenomena. But G-d controls those phenomena.

Water: it can be a blessing. It can be a curse.

If you want proof of the blessing, look at Israel.

If you want proof of the curse, look at the Arab—and the Europeans, and the Americans.

What does the blessing of water teach you about Israel? What does the curse teach you?


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Jerusalem Day: the Pope, the Muslim--and Redemption

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 is Jerusalem Day. It is the day Israel celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem from Arab occupation some 47 years ago. It is the day Jews commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem as the undivided Jewish Capital of the Jewish nation.

In 1948, when Israel declared its Independence, Jerusalem was to be a special City. It would be undivided. It would be open to Jews and Muslims alike. It would be a place that protected religious freedom for all.

But the Arabs didn’t want that. They didn’t want a Jewish Israel. They didn’t want a Jewish Jerusalem.

They attacked. They wanted to get rid of the Jews. They wanted the British Palestine Mandate territory to be Islamic and Judenrein—Jew-free.

They were optimistic. Israel had no trained army. Its military was more a civilian militia than an armed force. It had little heavy weaponry. It had little-to-no training.

By contrast, the Arabs had six armies. Each had been trained and equipped by the British. Some had British advisors to manage the battlefield. Some had British officers to lead in battle.

But a miracle occurred.  The Arabs failed. Despite an American-British arms blockade against Israel, and despite the training and equipment the Arabs brought to the battlefield, Israel won. Israel, which couldn’t even afford dog-tags for its fighters, beat back the Arab armies. The new state of Israel survived.

Jerusalem wasn’t so lucky. The Arabs had cut it in half. They occupied the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. They captured the Temple Mount.

They expelled the Jews under their control. Arab occupation meant that the Old City was now Judenrein—Jew-Free.

The Arab occupation ended freedom of religion for Jews. Virtually all the Jewish synagogues in the Old City were destroyed. No Jews were allowed on the Temple Mount. Judaism’s holiest site was Judenrein.

That anti-Jew occupation lasted 19 years. Then another war broke out. During that War (1967), Israel paratroopers took control of the Temple Mount. The words, ‘The Temple Mount in in our hands!’ rang out across the land.

Suddenly, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, our holiest place was once again in our possession. Suddenly, our holy City was re-united.

That’s what we remember on Jerusalem Day. That’s what we celebrate.

Now, 2014, we have something else to celebrate on Jerusalem Day: G-d’s Redemption prophecy.

You see, on May 26, 2014 that prophecy moved closer to reality. Leaders of the two greatest enemies of Judaism met on the Temple Mount.  

It was an historic meeting. The Muslim and the Pope joined together to celebrate their presence at the spiritual center of the Jewish world. They were there to seek social justice.  They were there to exclude the Jew.

Muslim officials told the Pope that Israel hinders Islamic worship on the Temple Mount. The Pope was interested in this. Muslims did not tell the Pope that they forbid Jewish worship on the Mount. The Pope didn’t ask about this.

Politically, Jerusalem is in danger. The Temple Mount is endangered. The future Jewishness of both is in danger.  

Nations want the Jew gone. So do the Arabs. So do Islam and Christianity.

Read their documents. It’s all there. They don’t want Jews in Israel.

According to a recent Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Global Anti-Semitism study, some 25 per cent of the world’s 7 billion people harbour anti-Jewish beliefs.  When the Muslim and the Catholic Pope walk upon a Jew-free Temple Mount, they send a message all those Jew-haters.  

It’s a message of hope. It’s a message that says, if we can walk so freely upon the Jew’s holiest site while the Jew is banned, we are close to triumph over the Jew.

The Jewish Tanach prophesies that Jerusalem will stand at the center of the war against Israel. It says Jerusalem will become the main prize Jew-haters want.  

That’s exactly what Jerusalem is today.

The Temple Mount is the house of the G-d of Israel. It is where the G-d of Israel reveals his sovereignty over the world.

The enemies of Israel want the Jews gone. They want the G-d of Israel gone.

When a Muslim religious leader meets a Christian leader on Judaism’s holiest ground, the message they send to the world is, ‘Look at us. The Temple Mount is in our hands!’ Their handshake at that Jewish site is a sign of that triumph.

More than 2,500 years ago, Israel’s G-d predicted that, in the days just before the Jewish Redemption, the enemies of G-d will come together to conquer Jerusalem. Two days ago, those enemies came together to stand on Jerusalem’s heart. They smiled.

The war against G-d is real. The war against Jewish Jerusalem is real.

This is how Jerusalem Day becomes part of the Jewish Redemption story. If you want to find out what happens next, open your Tanach.

It’s all there.


Monday, May 26, 2014

The Pope travels to the man of peace

The Pope likes to travel. But he doesn’t travel alone. He travels with security, aides and a specially-built protective vehicle.

Most of the special vehicles he uses are bullet-proof—for good reason. In 1981, a Turkish Muslim, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot the then-Pope (John Paul II) while the Pope was being driven in an open, unprotected car through St Peters Square, in Vatican City. Since then, the Vatican has used several different vehicles to transport the Pope so that he could be visible to his worshippers but seated within a protective ‘chamber’.

The designs of these ‘Pope mobiles’ vary, but the basic principle is to carry the Pope in a bullet-proof glass-enclosed ‘box’ that sits behind and above a driver and security guard. In this manner, the Pope rides above the normal car level, can be seen from all angles, and is both protected and comfortably seated.

The purpose of these ‘cars’ (some of which look like a highly-modified pick-up truck) is to elevate the Pope’s seat, cruise at very low speed, and deter acts of violence against the Pope.

But the current Pope, Francis, has a reputation for avoiding his Pope mobiles. He doesn’t like them. Instead, he prefers to travel in an ordinary car including, we are told, an old Ford Focus with an estimated 186,000 kilometres on the odometer.

Now, he comes to a region where Christians are heavily persecuted by Muslims. Being Christian is so dangerous within Arab-controlled areas (the Palestinian Authority and Gaza), that most Arab Christians have fled. Will he travel here with a bullet-proof Pope mobile?  

No, he won’t. He wants to be close ‘to the people’ ( He will shun bulletproof vehicles.

NBC said that when local security officials requested that the Pope use a bullet-proof vehicle, the Vatican over-ruled them.  A Times of Israel report suggested that those ‘local officials’ were not Jewish (“Pope to drive in open-top cars on Middle East trip”, may 15, 2014). They were Arab officials in Amman and Bethlehem.

They have reason to want higher security for the Pope. Christians aren’t welcome in Arab territories. In fact, because Muslim persecution of Christians is so intense, a recent Pew report makes the striking observation that ‘Christians today are the world’s most oppressed religious group (“Pope Francis’s Visit to Israel”, Rabbi Benjamin Blech,, May 25, 2014). The Human Rights group, Open Doors, has also recently published a World Watch List to rank the top 50 nations that persecute Christians. The overwhelming majority of countries making the list – and nine of the top ten worst offenders – are Muslim, including several Arab countries (ibid).

In the end, the Pope did in fact bring a Pope mobile—but it wasn’t glass-enclosed. It didn’t protect him with a bullet-proof chamber. It was, essentially, an open-air vehicle.

Israel should not have allowed it.  

One of the lessons Israel has learned in the weeks leading up to this Papal visit is that the Catholic Church is very quick to blame Israel for actions taken by Muslims. Catholic officials in Jerusalem have even gone so far as to demonize Israel by calling anti-Catholic graffiti ‘Jewish acts of terror’—even though no Jews have been arrested for the graffiti.

If you missed the point of this accusation, consider this: vandalism in the form of painted graffiti is not ‘terror’. What Arab Muslims do to Arab Christians is ‘terror’. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church in Jerusalem does not blame Muslims for anti-Christian attacks in Arab-held areas. It blames Israel.

It claims that Muslim anti-Christian attacks are caused by Israeli policies. Israel’s presence and its need to protect itself  provoke those attacks.

The Catholic Church in Israel is anti-Israel. The Pope may not be far behind. On this visit, he has called Mahmoud Abbas a ‘man of peace’ (“Pope to Abbas: You are known as a man of peace”, Ma’an news service, May 25, 2014).

Abbas is not a man of peace. Abbas calls convicted and often self-confessed Jew-killers ‘national heroes’. His new Fatah Party logo does not show ‘Palestine’ side-by-side with Israel. The logo shows the Arab ‘Palestine’ replacing Israel.

That’s not peace. It’s conquest. It means the destruction of Israel.

Is that what the Pope supports?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Pope, King David and Israel

Christianity and Islam are not natural allies. They appear to have little in common.

True, they both read the Old Testament. They both refer to Moses.

But Islam does not accept the Christian Trinity. Islam doesn’t believe that god can be split into three ‘entities’. Islam says that’s a sin.

Christianity and Islam seem more like natural enemies. In fact, they have been killing each other since the Crusades. Today, inside Arab-held territories, Muslims still kill Christians.

Muslims kill Christians. Muslims drive Christian Arabs away from their homes. Muslims bomb Christian churches.

The Pope will not condemn the Muslim. He condemns Israel.

The Pope won’t condemn the Muslim because of the Jew. The Jew is more dangerous than the Muslim. He’s more dangerous because he controls Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is holy. Christians want Jerusalem because that is where they claim their god was resurrected. Muslims want Jerusalem because that is where they claim their prophet ascended to heaven.

Both want what they cannot have--because of the Jew. The Jew owns Jerusalem.

The Muslim claims the Jew is a foreign occupier. The Pope agrees.

The Pope and the Muslim want the same thing. Zion must shrink.

As the Pope arrives for a visit in the Middle East (May 24-26, 2014), he is scheduled to demand that ‘Palestine’ become a  sovereign state—at Israel’s expense (“Vatican Says Pope Will Demand 'Sovereign Palestine’ ”, Arutz Sheva, May 22, 2014). Among other things (see below), he will demand that the Jew divide Jerusalem.

On this trip, the Pope will exercise Catholic diplomacy. He will ignore Muslim attacks against Christians. He will criticize Israel. He might even overlook the Muslim reign of terror against Arab Christians that has become so bad it threatens to make all Arab-controlled territories Jesus-free.

The Pope will not confront the Muslim. He will join with him. In the name of a Muslim ‘peace’ he will blame Israel for the Muslim terror against Arab Christians.

He comes to Israel to energize the Church’s friendship with the Muslim. That friendship began with the 1965 Second Vatican Council.  During that Council, the Church declared a new position towards Muslims. In a document titled, “NOSTRA AETATE”, the Church made it official: it would regard the Muslim ‘with esteem’. It would put aside old quarrels and hostilities.  It urged Catholic and Muslim alike to forget the past and to work together “for mutual understanding… and…social justice”.

On May 24, 2014, the Pope landed in the Middle East to do just that—promote justice for the Muslim. He will do that by demanding that Zion be chopped in half.

He will demand that Jews surrender ancestral Jewish land. He will demand a Church ‘presence’ in the Jewish King David’s Tomb.

The Pope has much to like about the Arabs he visits. For one thing, the Church and the ‘Palestinians’ are UN soul-mates: only the Vatican and ‘Palestine’ are called UN ‘Non-Member observer States.’

Second, the Vatican shares a special distinction with Saudi Arabia and other Arab Muslim countries: only the Vatican and these countries are, essentially, Judenrein--Jew-free.

Mahmoud Abbas, ruler of the Palestinian Authority, is eager to join this exclusive club. He has already stated that when his ‘Palestine’ becomes an official state it, too, will be Jew-free.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Still, a Christian-Muslim alliance is uneasy at best. But in Israel, such an alliance works—for now.

Church officials openly join with Muslims to blame Israel for Arab anti-Christian attacks. The Pope will join with Mahmoud Abbas and refer in his speeches to the ‘State of Palestine’.

Arabs control more than 99 per cent of the Middle East. Israel is surrounded by a sea of hate. But the Arab is unapologetic. He wants more. He wants Israel. He wants Zion. He wants Zion’s heart, Jerusalem.

The Pope agrees. He will help. The Muslim is that ‘esteemed’, the Jew that un-esteemed.

The Jews don’t count. They are no longer the people of G-d. As the Second Vatican Council declared, Christians are the new people of god.

The new people of god want the old people of god to leave.

More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish King David of Israel wrote about the Pope and the Arab. He did that when he wrote of Edom and Yishmael. Our Heritage teaches that the Church descends from Edom and the Arab descends from Yishmael.

Kind David wrote (Psalm 83):

“O G-d, do not hold yourself silent…behold, your foes are in uproar and those who hate You have raised their head. Against Your nation they plot deviously; they take counsel against those sheltered by You. They say, come, let us cut them off from nationhood…they take counsel against You…they strike a covenant against You—the tents of Edom and Yishmaelites.”

Edom is the Church. Yishmael is the Arab.

O, G-d. Be not silent.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The difference between Zionism and Anti-Zionism

Updated: May 22, 2014

If you read essays about Israel by ‘important’ Jews, you might conclude that most of the world’s Jewish elite do not support Israel. They betray Israel. They say they support their Jewish state. But they demand that Israel surrender ancestral Jewish land to Islam.  

Arabs claim that Israel is not Jewish. They claim it’s Muslim ‘Palestine’. They claim that this ‘Palestine’ must be liberated from the usurping, occupying, foreign Jew. They claim there is no place for the Jew here.   

Is this Israel’s destiny? Is this the future we should support?

Our Jewish elite support a ‘two-state’ solution. But ‘two states’ means more land for Islam. ‘Two states’ means Islam’s land mass in the Middle East increases to something like 99.99 per cent.

Zion would shrink to nothing. Is this what Israel’s destiny should be? Is this what we should support?

We shouldn’t be surprised that our elite betray Zion. Treachery has dogged Zionism since Theodore Herzl (1860-1904). When Herzl wrote of a national homeland for Jews, the Jewish elite mocked him. They laughed at him. They attacked him (Georges Yitschak Weisz, Theodore Herzl: a new reading, Gefen Publishing, Jerusalem, 2013, pp 4-6).

Nevertheless, his Zionism survived. It blossomed. It created modern Israel.

Like all ideas which are destined to change the world, Herzl’s Zionism pushes you. It always has—because when you become a Zionist, you automatically identify yourself as a Jew.

That’s a problem. Most elite Jews don’t want to be reminded they are Jewish.

They cannot stand up for Israel. They’re too busy trying to win favour with gentiles. 

They are delicate. They do not want to offend their gentile ‘peers’.

For too many, Zionism makes you sound ‘too Jewish’. Such self-identification is repulsive. How can a Jew who yearns to be important to non-Jews express such love for who he is, where he comes from and where he belongs?

It’s unseemly. It’s crude. It’s an affront to genteel sensibilities.

Zionism offends because it declares to the world that you are proud to be Jewish.  You are proud to have your own national homeland.  

But Zionism offends most because it defines a national homeland as a self-sufficient Jewish entity. Jews aren’t supposed to be self-sufficient. They are supposed to depend upon the non-Jew.

 Zionism offends because it means that you commit to the survival of the Jewish people (ibid, pp 26-7, 34). That’s an affront because according to both Christian and Muslim theologies, Jews aren’t supposed to survive.

For more than a hundred years, elite Jews have joined with Christians and Muslims to oppose Zionism. Against all odds, Zionism has survived. Indeed, it doesn't just survive. In a vibrant, successful Israel, it thrives.

For too many, that success is an embarrassment. It’s humiliating. For far too many, that success feels more like the mark of Cain than the mark of survival.

Remember Cain? He was the Biblical figure who killed his brother. His punishment was that he was forever to have a mark on his forehead, to remind the world of the evil he had committed.

For too many Jews, Zionism is an evil because it threatens their status with non-Jews. It marks them as one who wears a disfiguring scar. That scar brings disgrace.

When you yearn to be important to non-Jews, the last thing you want to be known for is a link to your Jewishness. This is why anti-Zionism makes sense to these Jews. It helps them reject their Jewish identity. It helps them shrug off their ‘disfigurement’.  It helps them bond with their gentile friends.

But the truth is, these elite, articulate-but-ignorant Jews hurt Israel. They weaken Israel. Sometimes, they lead the attack against Israel. They serve the enemies of Israel.  

Zionism, on the other hand, serves the Jewish people. It links us to our past. It connects us to our future. It energizes us.

Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, has recently suggested that Israel’s Destiny will not be fulfilled by turning against Zion. Rather, it will be fulfilled through our love of Zion--and by our support of Zionism’s goals.

Zionism gives us pride. It ennobles our Jewishness. It empowers our Future. It makes us strong.

It brings to life the prophesied blessings of our Torah. Given the reality of modern Israel’s stunning successes, Zionism reminds the world that we are truly G-d’s Chosen people.

Zionism is no disgrace. It is no curse. It is the Biblical blessing that makes our modern Israel blossom.

Anti-Zionism, however, is the rejection of that blessing. It is, ultimately, the rejection of the only G-d who has actually fulfilled His prophesied Promise.





Friday, May 16, 2014

David, Zion, the Muslim and the Church

Christians and Muslims awaken. They see Biblical prophecy come true. That prophecy frightens them.

They know that the G-d of Israel removed His Presence from the Jews. They know that, almost 2,000 years ago, the Jews of Israel were punished with a horrific exile.

They have seen that when the G-d of Israel removed His Presence from the Jew in Israel, a vacuum filled the Holy Land. That vacuum gave them hope. If G-d was gone, they could replace Judaism. They could fill the vacuum with their own religion.

The Holy Land could be theirs.

For much of the last 1,000 years, Christians and Muslims have pursued a dream to replace Zion. The dream burns within them.

Their religions depend upon what happens in Israel. Their Messianic visions depend upon replacing the Jews and their Torah. Their individual ‘End of Days’ requires that Zion be erased.

During the Holocaust, their dream came close to fulfilment—very close. Jews everywhere were at risk.

Then, the unexpected happened.  The Jews returned to Zion. An extraordinary Biblical prophecy came true.  

Before the Holocaust, there were perhaps 400,000 Jews in British Palestine (today’s Israel). Seventy-six years later, Israel has more than 6,100,000 Jews.

For the first time in almost 2,000 years, there are more Jews in Israel than in any other country. For the first time in almost 2,000 years, there is more Torah-learning in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

The Jews and their religion have returned—big time. That frightens Christians and Muslims.

When Jews return ‘replacement’ evaporates. If Jews and their Torah can once again flourish in Israel, how will Jews and their Judaism be ‘replaced’?

Christians and Muslims bet the house on their ‘replacement’ theologies. They have lost that bet.

Some Christians, along with some Muslims, won’t accept that loss. They’re not accustomed to losing.

Their religions say they will undo G-d’s prophecy. They will erase Israel. They will claim the Holy Land as their own.

They have similar Messianic visions. Their theologies require that Israel be theirs alone.

That’s why some Christians and Muslims need to demonize Israel. It’s why some need to boycott Israel. It’s why some remain silent when they see maps showing a new Palestine replacing Israel.

They want Israel. They will do anything to get it.

Muslims cart off more than 10,000 tons of debris from the Temple Mount, then declare that no evidence exists to validate Jewish presence there. They replace the names of Jewish Holy sites with Arabic/Muslim names. They call Jerusalem Muslim.

Christian officials in the Middle East declare that the Jewish people are no longer the Chosen. Christian historians argue that the Jewish King David—from whom the Jewish Messiah descends—never existed; he’s a fiction.

It’s a simple process. Deny Zion. Deny Jewish history. Take Zion away from the Jew.

To do that, they must first dismantle Zion. They must erase Zion.

In Zion, we now prepare for a Papal visit. Some say that the Vatican wants Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give King David’s Tomb to the Catholic Church. Do you know about King David? He is Zion. He stands at the center of Jewish history in Israel. He represents the soul of the Jewish nation. His poetry is the primary source of Jewish prayer.

He is the key player of the Jewish Redemption. His Zion will be our future. His descendant will bring the Jewish Redemption to its fulfilment.

Is the rumour about the Vatican true? Does the Catholic Church want Jews to give away what has been so intimately associated with Zion’s greatest king? For the Church, that would be a victory--a perfect strike against Zion’s soul, another step to erase Zion.

It doesn’t matter that David probably isn’t buried in ‘David’s Tomb’. What matters is, that place is a reminder that Israel is Zion.

The rumour of the surrender of David’s Tomb to the Catholic Church won’t go away. Israel’s government has been forced to deny it. Just this week (see “Liberman Denies King David's Tomb Transfer”, Arutz Sheva, May 13, 2014), Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman declared emphatically that there was no substance whatsoever to rumours that Israel was going to hand over any part of David's Tomb to the Vatican during the Pope's upcoming visit (May 24-26, 2014).

We’ll see what happens when the Pope arrives. What part of Zion will he take home?

Christians and Muslims see Israel’s leaders indifferent to Zion. That indifference empowers them.

They see a vacuum.  They see a chance to become the new Zion.   

They’ll do anything to get it.




Monday, May 12, 2014

Another look at Herzl, Jabotinsky and Zionism

In this week’s Torah portion, B’hukotai (Va’yikra 26:3-27:34), the G-d of Israel speaks to the Jewish people. His message is simple: if you follow my commandments, I will bless you.  If you reject me, I will do the same to you.

G-d’s blessing takes many forms. Rain will appear in its proper time. The land will give produce. Prosperity will be so great we will still be busy threshing grain when the time comes to harvest grapes (see The ArtScroll Chumash, commentary, Va’yikra 26:5).

We will eat bread to satiety. We will dwell securely in our land. We will have peace. When we lie down, none will frighten us.

A sword will not cross our land. Our enemies will fall before us.

We will be fruitful. We will increase.

But if we reject G-d, He will treat us in a like manner—although unlike us, He will never abandon us, only punish us.

His punishment takes many forms. The heavens above Israel will become like iron. The land will turn to copper. There will be no fruit or produce. Cities will be ruined. The roads will be desolate. 

Conquerors will come. They will dwell upon our land (commentary, ibid, 26:32).

We, meanwhile, will be struck down before our enemies. We will be scattered among the nations.

Those who hate us will subjugate us. Jews who become scattered will become weak-hearted in the lands of their foes. These Jews will flee before the sound of a rustling leaf as one ordinarily flees before the sword. They will flee even when there is no pursuer.

Jews will become lost among the nations. The lands of their enemy will devour them.

Jews among those nations will, in other words, lose their sense of self-worth. They will become frightened of the gentiles. They will become cowards.

We saw this cowardice a hundred and twenty years ago when Theodore Herzl began to dream of a Jewish national homeland. Herzl spoke often of his dream. He wrote about it. But his Jewish audience was scattered among the nations. They were lost.

The Jewish elite cringed before the sound of a rustling leaf. They feared their own Destiny. The lands of their enemies had devoured their hearts.

They declared Herzl to be insane. He was ill. He had lost his mind. The idea of gathering the Jewish people into a single national homeland was seen by some as “intended to eliminate the Jewish people—not its physical existence, of course, but its identity” (George Yitschak Weisz, Theodore Herzl: a new reading, Gefen Publishing, Jerusalem, 2013. p4-5).

The cowardly Jewish elite rejected Zionism. They said any restoration of the Jewish national sovereignty would require Jews to abandon their religion (ibid, p6, footnote 15). A month before the first Zionist Congress meeting (1896), the Union of Rabbis of Germany published a manifesto to declare that the establishment of a national state in Palestine ran counter to “the Messianic prophecies of Judaism” (ibid, p6). In Hungary, Herzl accomplished the seemingly impossible: he got two sworn enemies—the Liberal and Orthodox Jewish communities—to join together to reject Zionism as “a dangerous spiritual folly” (ibid, p7).

Jewish leadership today suffers from the same cowardice. In Israel, Tzipi Livni, Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, Yitzchak Herzog and others all declare—in one way or another—that Zionism is a dangerous folly. Zionistic ‘settlers’ are not just insane; they are, as Leftist anti-Israel writer Amos Oz has recently put it,  ‘neo-Nazis’.

Exile, and its bastard-child, the exile mentality, have turned Jews world-wide into cowards. Exile has devoured Jewish self-identity. It has melted Jewish courage.

This week’s Torah portion predicted all of this more than 3,000 years ago. We have sinned. We have been exiled. We have become cowards.

But this Torah portion also predicts that Zion would once again rise. G-d promises here that He will never abandon us. He promises our return—to religion and land.

That is what has happened. We have returned. Despite the cowardice of Jewish leadership, we return to G-d and land. We build Israel. The Jewish elite has been unable to stop us.   

A hundred years ago, Jewish leaders rejected Herzl’s Zionism.  Seventy-five years ago, Jewish leaders rejected Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Zionism, even as he predicted that super-progroms were coming to Europe—and the lives of 5–7 million Jews were at risk.

The Jewish elite didn’t care. They rejected Zion. The lands of their enemies had devoured their hearts.

But we, the Jewish people, were not cowards. We heard Herzl. We heard Jabotinsky. We did not reject Zion.  

Unlike our elite, we the Jewish people understand Zion. Unlike our leaders, we turn to Zion; Israel’s population figures prove it.

Unlike our elite, we embrace Zion. We know Zion is our Destiny. We know that Destiny is close—very close.

 We know something else: our Destiny comes from us—not our elite.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Yom Ha’atsma-oot: Israel Independence Day, 2014

Today, ancient Israel celebrates a modern-day rebirth anniversary: we begin our 67th year since the nations of the world united to accept this modern version of Israel as a ‘State’.

Jews have lived on this land of Israel for more than 3,000 years. We were building homes and communities here when most nations were still forests--or empty, wind-swept landscapes. We had national kings when many others had scattered, struggling tribes. We were a ‘somebody’ when Europe and America were ‘nobody’.

We have an ancient history on this land. We have a staying power no one else can match. We have been conquered, beaten, enslaved and exiled. The world’s most powerful nations—Assyria, Babylonia, Rome—have tried to destroy us. But we have always survived. We have always had Jewish feet on this Jewish land.

We attract a lot of attention. Apparently, nations love to hate us. They can’t stop trying to kill us.

That tells us something. It suggests that we have something the nations want but cannot get. They seem to hate us because of it. What do you think it is?

Israel is a nation crowned with distinction. We are the only nation in history which can produce a 3,000+ year old deed to its homeland. We are the only nation in history whose story has been told and retold before billions upon billions of people for more than 2,000 years. We are the only nation in history whose land-deed appears as a public record in the best-selling book of all time—the Bible. We are the only nation in history whose land is proclaimed to be ours by nothing less than the world’s greatest religions.

The Jewish Tanach proclaims Israel to be the land of the Jews. The Christian Bible shows Israel to be the home of the Jewish people. The Muslim Koran declares that the land of Israel was given to the Jews as a gift from G-d.

We are the only nation in history whose homeland has been so endorsed. We are the only nation in history whose title to land ownership is so distinctive, it’s been validated by foreign gods.

Nevertheless, despite the power of our deed and the universal acknowledgement of our right to ownership, our rights to this land have never been more in question. In 1948, Arabs alone rejected our right to ownership. The nations accepted our rights. But today, it isn’t just Arabs who reject our deed and our rights to that deed.

Today, Jihadi Muslims reject their own Koran to promote their call to destroy Israel. Christian denominations reject their own Bible to demonize Israel. Unbelieving Jews reject their own historic narrative to demand that Israel abandon portions of its ancient national homeland.

The most widely-read book in history—and what are called the world’s greatest religions—may indeed proclaim Israel to belong to the Jews. But today, after 66 years of extraordinary success and miraculous achievements, Jewish Israel stands isolated and demonized.

‘It’s not yours,’ the world says of Israel’s ancient, Biblical national homeland;  ‘give it up!’

The nations reject their own religions. They become apostate against their own beliefs. They become hypocrites in order to attack the land of the Jews. They do this because their hate is stronger than their religion.

Today, as we begin our 66th year of modern life, we appear increasingly to be surrounded by enemies. We seem to hang on for dear life—literally.

It doesn’t matter. Our enemies will not control us.

They can try. Jews will even help them. But they will all fail because we have become distinct, separated from the world of lies that surrounds us.

We cherish life. We honour liberty to honourable men. We stand up for what is right. We serve the G-d of Israel.

Others can do as they please. We will stand firm—and we will celebrate.

We have good reason to celebrate. The G-d of Israel has shone His favour to us. He has blessed us—just as He said he would in the 3,000 year-old Jewish Bible.

Look it up. It’s a public record. G-d made promises to Israel. G-d has fulfilled those promises.

The nations of the world may attempt to criminalize us—and unbelieving Jews may join in that attack—but this Jewish nation of Israel is stronger than them all. We are stronger because G-d has given us a crown. He has made us distinct among the nations.  

Our Tanach says that in the days of Redemption (or, perhaps, in the days just before Redemption), Israel will stand like a lion before its enemies. Today, as we look at how the nations  treat us, we know exactly what that means.

Happy birthday, lion of Zion.




Monday, May 5, 2014

Yom Hazikaron: Israel Memorial Day, 2014

Memorial Day in America is a US federal holiday. It is celebrated on the last Monday of May.  It is the day America remembers the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces (Wikipedia, ‘Memorial Day, USA’).

But Memorial Day in America is not what it used to be. Many Americans forget the meaning of their Memorial Day. Many cannot tell you whom they are supposed to remember. At cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are often abandoned. Many who died for their country now lie neglected, forgotten (Memorial Day history,

In Israel, Memorial Day is called, ‘Yom Hazikaron’—Day of Remembrance. It, too, is a national holiday. It, too, is celebrated on the same (Hebrew calendar) day each year (with exceptions). It, too, is the day to remember soldiers who have died while serving in the Armed Forces.

Nevertheless, Israel’s Memorial Day does not imitate America. Consider the following scene. You may not see this in America.

Enter a supermarket, one in a chain of markets. Walk towards the vegetable displays. There, in an open spot, standing by itself, alone, is a single round table, large enough to sit perhaps three people. On it is a black tablecloth. It drapes over the table to the floor. In the middle of the black tablecloth sits a single item--a simple memorial candle. Behind the candle is a block-lettered sign, black letters on white. The sign reads, ‘Remember’.

That’s it. It’s simple. It’s uncluttered. But it’s also a stark reminder of the Day we observe. Its message cuts through you: remember those who can’t shop any more, it seems to say. They died so you can.

Since 1948, some 20,000 soldiers and civilians—including women and children—have been killed by those who hate Israel. In American terms, that’s the equivalent to more than a million Americans killed and murdered over the last 66 years.

Can you imagine how Americans would react to that kind of loss?

In Israeli terms, such loss means that every Israeli has met,  seen, experienced or discussed death at the hands of our enemies. We understand what it means to be murdered because you live in Israel.

Israel’s Memorial Day is different from America’s because we do not just mourn the men and women who died fighting for us. We remember civilians, too. We remember them because Israel’s wars are not like America’s wars. Israel’s enemies have not stopped fighting against us.  

They war against us continually. They target women and children. They give out celebratory candy when they kill us.

Since 1948, there have been more than a thousand terror attacks against Jews in Israel. Actually, we may not know exactly how many terror attacks we have suffered because Israel’s government has sometimes been hesitant to identify an attack as ‘terror’—for political reasons. But we do know this: whatever the true number of attacks, the enemies of Israel have killed, injured and traumatized us-- men, women and especially children.

They love attacking our children. They call our children, ‘military’ targets.

Families have been changed forever by such terror, often with tragic consequences. All of us have met such families. All of us feel their loss.

In Israel, unlike America, Memorial Day is not neglected. It is not abandoned. It is not a day we forget.

It is a day we remember.