Can one missile change a nation’s thinking over night?

Shalom all.

Can a country change its “national perspective” overnight? On the surface, it appears that it can happen, at least in part. Take Iran, for example. Less than a week ago, the multitudes poured out in the streets of Kerman, where Qasem Soleimani was buried. Countless others filled the streets of Tehran and other cities of Iran, revering him, mourning his death and shouting “Death to the United States” and “Death to Israel”. 

And then, almost as if the curtain to Act One was coming down, the curtain to Act Two was beginning to rise. Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752, en route to Kyiv, was shot down near Imam Khamenei Airport, in Tehran, shortly after take-off, killing all 176 passengers and crew members aboard. The incident took place a few short hours after Iran fired missiles at two bases in Iraq that housed U.S. forces, in response to the assassination of Soleimani. The plane carried Iranians, Canadians, Ukrainians, Swedes, Britons, Germans and Afghanis. Iranian officials claimed that the cause of the crash was engine failure. The downward flight of the plane from the time it began to be in trouble until it crashed was captured on film. The Ukraine originally accepted Iran’s explanation that the plane crashed due to engine failure, but later said that it was too early to determine the actual cause of the crash, expecting that Iran would cooperate in the investigation. Difficulties began to emerge when Iran’s civil aviation authority refused to turn over the “black boxes” to the investigators from Boeing, who would usually be the one to examine and analyze the data, or to any other investigative body. The initial refusal of Iran to cooperate with others in the investigation of the plane crash fostered widespread speculation that the plane was shot down by Iran. Only several hours prior to the crash, the Ukraine withdrew its membership in the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the “Palestinian” People, which committee was established in 1975 and which, historically, supported anti-Israel resolutions. Of course, that move was applauded by the Israel Foreign Ministry and it urged other committee members to follow the Ukraine’s lead in this regard.

Supreme Mistake-11Jan20
The Dry Bones Blog 11January2020

After several days of excuses at the highest levels, and following accusations from different countries, including the U.S. and Canada, of causing the downing of the Ukrainian plane, Iran finally admitted, three days after the event, that it was responsible for the crash … by mistake! It was alleged that a missile operator acted independently and mistook the plane for a “cruise missile”. Almost ironically, it was reported that the Iranian military fired a Russian Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, referred to by NATO as the Gauntlet.

And then it happened. At first, hundreds of protesters took to the street in Tehran and very vocally condemned the lies of Iran’s public officials for denying for days that Iran shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane. It started peacefully enough, with university students gathering together to pay their respects to the victims of the crash. Then, the gatherings turned into angry protests, with chants against the government leaders and even tearing up pictures and posters of Soleimani, who only a day earlier had been the reason for national mourning. The students called for the prosecution of those responsible for the downing of the plane, and for those who had covered up the action. Then they began to shout “Commander-in-Chief resign”, a clear reference to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as “death to liars”. This was the golden opportunity for the U.S. to step in and encourage the protesters and to warn the government of Iran that “The world is watching” and that it should not kill peaceful protesters.

The anti-government protests grew and the attitude and language of the protesters changed. “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here” and “Death to the dictator”, again referring to Khamenei. One site stated that along with it those chants, the removal of posters of Soleimani almost became a national sport   and a sudden respect for the flags of the U.S. AND Israel. Note in the link that the university students are walking carefully in line, being sure not to walk on the flags of either country, which, apparently, had been a stomping ground for them only a day or two earlier. Now they tell the individuals who are walking on the flags to be careful where they are walking (translation from Hebrew). Another site said: “The people do not disrespect the flag of USA and Israel. They say all over Iran: We are not the enemy of the USA and Israel.  Our enemy is the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” See Iran Protests.

Criticism of Iranian authorities is nothing new, but such criticism usually stayed within “acceptable” boundaries. When they exceeded those boundaries, the government clamped down, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilian protesters, even as recently as last November. Now, the actions of the government are referred to as “shameful”,  even “unforgivable”. And, as expected, when push came to shove, the protesters were fired upon and blood was shed. Yes, the world may be watching, but Iran has done what it wanted to do in the past and there is no reason to believe that this time will be any different.

Does this signal the beginning of the end of the Islamic revolution in Iran? Far from it. Iran still has its goal of regional Shiite hegemony. It is also clear from the massive turnout for the funeral of Soleimani that considerable numbers of  Iranians continue to be supportive of the clerically-led government. Iran needs to “regain face” in the Middle East. It needs to be careful how it will do so, while staying true to its oft-repeated warnings and promises of avenging the death of Soleimani, which should not be ignored. Iran’s policy has usually been to act when its territory has been violated. It related to Soleimani’s killing, even though it took place in Iraq, as if it took place in an extension of its territory. Usually, it gives orders to one or more of its proxies to act on its behalf, so that Iran itself cannot be blamed for the dirty work performed by one of its dependent, terrorist organisations.

Not an equal footing.png
Credit:  Noam Bennett -A Window to the Renewing Middle East 12January2020

It would be foolish, indeed, for the West to think that the retaliation for Soleimani’s elimination came to an end with a soft-touch (slap) missile attack on two, almost empty U.S. bases in Iraq. His assassination, as welcome as it was, increased an already tense situation in this area of the world and it generated a new reality regarding conflict, both territorial, as well as religious, and those who are on the playing field. The difference in the military capability of the U.S., as compared with that of Iran, is aptly demonstrated in the attached illustration. The boot is a symbol of belittlement; it is something we use to walk on dirt and ground.

Sayyad Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah terrorist organization based in Iran, just urged Iran’s allies to begin working to retaliate for Soleimani’s killing and, particularly, to get the U.S. out of Iraq and the Middle East. Those allies include the government of Syria, the various paramilitary groups that were established in Iraq with the support of Iran, as well as Islamic Jihad and Hamas, in Gaza. Yemen should also be included in this grouping. The Hezbollah was established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, that was headed up by Soleimani, and is an inseparable part of the “axis of resistance” led by Tehran. Nasrallah said that it was “time for the axis of resistance to start working”. He added that retaliation could happen in the “coming days, weeks and months”. Some things are said openly, others are spoken in closed quarters, away from listening ears. Countries in the Middle East have long memories. When an enemy has over a 100,000 missiles at its disposal and threatens to use them, we should not be foolish and ignore the threat. 

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

[My] God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me. (2 Samuel 22:3)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Will Iran “stand down”? Hardly!

Shalom all.

What was left of Qasem Soleimani after his assassination by the United States was buried yesterday (Tuesday) in the city of Kerman, where he was born. His was the largest funeral in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. U.S. Kills SoleimaniEstimates of those involved in the procession range from several hundreds of thousands to millions. The streets were too narrow to accommodate everyone and some dozens of people were reported to be trampled to death, with a multitude of others being wounded. The leader of the Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said during the funeral that Iran would take revenge and “set ablaze” places supported by the United States, which drew shouts of “Death to Israel” from the throngs who were present. He added that as a “martyr”, Soleimani represents a greater threat to Iran’s enemies now than when he was alive and that Iran would revenge and burn “their important places”. His remarks reflected the demands of Supreme Leader Ali Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran President Hassan Ruhani.

According to a report in the NY Times, Khamenei cried at the funeral service and directed that the response against the U.S. be measured and direct and not through its Islamic allies, as it usually does. The U.S. military was put on high alert and prepared for a revenge attack, in the belief that Iran would seek to retaliate against a senior military offier of the U.S., as part of  “an eye for an eye” response. According to one Hebrew media source, Washington expected a “significant” attack within a day or two.

The response came in the middle of the night (between Tuesday and Wednesday), as Iran launched around 15 missiles towards two U.S. bases in Iraq. The attack, labeled “Marytr Soleimani”, that was said to be moderate, was launched from inside Iran at 01:30 a.m., the same time that Soleimani was killed last week. US military based in Iraq attackedThe missiles were tracked by U.S. radar and because they came from Iran, instead of from Iraq, there was sufficient time for the personnel on the base to take cover before the missiles hit. When informed of the attack and that no American lives were lost, President Trump said “All is well….We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.” The missile barrage was the most direct attack by Tehran against Washington since the takeover of the American Embassy in 1979. It could be that both sides will see the attack as a sufficient reprisal to the death of Soleimani, at least for the moment. But, that is not realistic.

Khamenei said that the attack was “a success” and that it was a “slap in the face” of the United States.

Khamenei-We slapped the American on the face last night
We slapped America in the face

He said that “80 American terrorists” were killed in the attack and that the damage was “severe”, which included helicopters and military equipment. He called on the U.S. to withdraw its forces from the region and negated any possibility of discussions regarding a proposed, revised nuclear deal. In his words, “Soleimani’s killing shows that the Islamic revolution is still alive” and added that the U.S. is acting against the Hezbollah (i.e., the terrorist organization in Lebanon), whom he referred to as “the eyes and hands of Lebanon”, in order to help Israel. Tehran further reported that Iran has a “hundred additional targets”, if the U.S. chooses to respond to the attack, while a spokesman for Khamenei said that the attack on the American bases was the “weakest” in their arsenal. 

Israel didn’t reply directly to the events of last night, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this morning,, in response to Iran’s threats against Israel, that whoever will attack Israel will suffer a “crushing blow”. He added that Israel stands behind the U.S. and supports the decision of President Trump to eliminate Qasem Soleimani.

In his speech to the nation this morning (U.S. time), President Trump said that Iran “appears to be standing down” following the missile strikes and, contrary to the claims of Khamenei,  that the attack resulted in “no casualties”. However, the thought that Iran would “stand down” could be more “wishful thinking” than reality. According to one report, just hours after the burial of Soleimani, Khamenei stated: “Military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region … Today Iran is well equipped … More people will join the movement and it will spread outside Iran … The US thought they defeated Iraq … Faith allows us to move mountains … Faith and honour are as important as the military … Solemani was brave and wise, he had a vision.” In an article in the NY Times, it was reported that Khamenei said to a group of imams and others: “What matters is that the presence of America, which is a source of corruption in this region, should come to an end …This region does not accept the US. presence.” The response of the crowd to which he was speaking was “Death to America!” “Death to Israel!” 

These statements should be considered along with that of Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, who replaced Soleimani as Commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. following the elimination of Soleimani, who threatened: “Everyone should be patient a little to see the bodies of American soldiers all over the Middle East.”

Anyone who is familiar with the mentality of this region, and with the events of the last two to three decades that were instigated by Iran and his now-deceased right-hand man, Qasem Soleimani, could not conclude that Iran would wind down its efforts to establish Shiite hegemony over the entire Middle East. Quite the opposite is the case.

It is, or should be, clear that the next confrontation between the U.S. and Iran is just a matter of time. And when it does happen, no one in this area of the world will be immune from the potential fallout. For Iran, a time of “standing down” means it can try to catch its breath from the sudden elimination of Soleimani, to regroup, to  reevaluate its strategies and its future moves. We’ve seen it time and time again from Hamas, one of Iran’s terror proxies that Soleimani helped to establish and strengthen in Gaza, that is dedicated to the destruction and elimination of the State of Israel.

Soleimani's daughter threatens
Khamenei; Soleiman’s Daughter and Ismail Haniyeh

It should come as no surprise that Ismail Haniyeh, the senior political leader of the Hamas terrorist organization, was one of the speakers at Soleimani’s funeral, where he referred to him (at 2:36 minutes into the clip) as “the martyr of Jerusalem”. His speech followed immediately after that of Soleimani’s daughter, who continued the threats of retaliation.

And, in case it wasn’t reported on your local TV station, Iran raised a red flag over an ancient mosque, a flag that symbolizes a call for vengeance. According to Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, the meaning of the red flag is that Iran intends “to sink their enemies in a sea of blood.”

So, for the moment, setting the region ablaze will have to wait for a new match. But, we should keep in mind that Iran can switch hot and cold in a moment. So, we should always be prepared to expect the unexpected.

Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. (Psalm 5:9)

Destruction is in her midst; oppression and deceit do not depart from her streets (Psalm 55:11)

Like flying birds so the LORD of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it. (Isaiah 31:5)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marvin

Iran threatens to retaliate … against Israel

Shalom all.

A war of words, threats and counter-threats followed closely on the heels of the targeted assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. As reported two days ago, the United States rid the world of this Iranian arch-terrorist, along with the deputy commander of the Iran-backed militias, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and a number of others. Iran swore revenge, not just against the U.S., but against Israel as well. It doesn’t seem to matter much whether we were actively involved, passively involved, or not involved at all. Iran’s goals have always included the destruction and total elimination of Israel, a goal that Soleimani spear-headed and pursued for the Iranian Ayatollahs with cunning strategy and zeal. 

Over the last two days, the position that Soleimani held in Iran became more and more clear.  See, for example the report published by Fox News: At one stroke, the U.S. president has decapitated the Iranian regime’s chief terror arm and its most prominent extension in Iraq, where the U.S. Embassy was set on fire last week. Strategically, the killing of Osama bin Laden and, more recently, of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, pale by comparison. In addition to being responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. soldiers during the Iraq War, Soleimani directed a larger state project, which has shaped the geopolitics of the region. It is worth reading the entire article.

It also is reported that Israel was “on the verge” of assassinating Soleimani back in 2015, but its plans were thwarted when details of the plan were leaked to Iran by the administration of then President Barack Obama. The leftist-leaning newspaper, Haaretz, published a report of the leak, citing a Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Jarida. The same news source claimed that Israel was given a green light by the Trump administration to take out Soleimani, a move that was eventually taken by the U.S. a few days ago.

In addition to leaking the information about Israel’s tracking of Soleimani and his possible elimination, the Obama administration is also reported to have transferred anywhere from $400 million to $150 billion to Iran (the exact amount, which included a cash payout, is still not clear), as part of the Iran Nuclear Deal that the U.S. signed with Iran in 2015. See this report.

As a result of the actions of the Obama administration, Soleimani was given an additional four plus years to exert Iran’s influence in the Middle East and beyond, an influence that could have continued for years to come and would only have gotten worse, if he continued to live.

There are a number of consequences that flow from Soleimani’s assassination. Some are obvious, others are not. The not-so-obvious result is the effect that his sudden removal would have on the Iranian regime. Speculation would undoubtedly be high in Iran that something went seriously wrong with its security system. The rule of the Ayatollahs is not warmly received by many Iranians and it doesn’t take much to conclude that the United States was “assisted” in its plans to assassinate Soleimani by “insiders” who were able to provide the information needed to effectuate the strike. This will cause an internal shake-up that could result in the execution of dozens of suspected informants, if not more. Protection of the powers that be will take priority over almost everything else.

An obvious consequence is that Soleimani will become a political issue in the U.S. The left will condemn the elimination of Soleimani as a dangerous move that could drag the country into another Middle East war.

The Iranian Mullahs Last Hope-05012020
The Dry Bones Blog   January 5, 2020

The right will exalt the move as being an ideal act of patriotism, intended to protect American lives. Israel will, of course, side with the Trump administration, a move that could result in a further loss of support from U.S. Democrats.

What needs to be understood here is that Iran does not act in accordance with the rational understanding of “the West”. It has over 80 million people and, in its mindset, if it loses half of its population in a war, but the other half is able to survive and continue to function, it will claim victory. If it doesn’t lose, it wins. And, it must claim victory in order to save face, which is crucial in this part of the world. This, in turn, would enable Iran to have the respect of the Islamic community, as well as to continue to pursue its goal of establishing a ruling Shiite Moslem caliphate, with the Supreme Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, as the ruling Imam.

Another result of Soleimani’s elimination is that the world sat up and took notice of the fact that when the present U.S. administration sets a red line, the one who crosses it does so at his peril.How to Draw a Red Line.jpeg The U.S. has now shown that unlike the previous administration, the present one is not to be trifled with. But, none of this seems to have made an impact on the leadership in Iran. In a speech given in Tehran today, Muhsan Razai, a former Revolutionary Guards Commander, now a senior Iranian official, said that the response against the United States would be severe, leading to the conclusion that Iran will attack U.S. targets, both individuals and installations. Another Iranian military leader said that the U.S. doesn’t have the courage to go to war against Iran. It appears that the present leadership in Iran is not exactly the brightest star in the firmament. The number two person in Iran’s military-political system was just eliminated and leaders in Iran are ignoring America’s resolve to act against those who who attack a U.S. Embassy and pose a threat to its citizens.

Internal and external doubts regarding Iran’s ability to bounce back from Soleimani’s assassination will need to be dealt with quickly in order for Iran to portray that it is still able to act powerfully and decisively as a leader in the Middle East. Therefore, another very real consequence is that Iran would attempt to retaliate against the U.S., by attacking America’s main Middle East ally, Israel. This was already expressed immediately following Soleimani’s assassination, where Iran blamed Israel along with the U.S. If there was any doubt whether Iran was only sparring with words, today’s report out of Iran would appear to make things crystal clear. The Walla (Hebrew) news site referred to the comments of Muhsan Razai (mentioned above), who said that Iran would respond with a serious offensive against Haifa (where I happen to live) and against Israeli military bases. 

It may be that Iran intends to carry out its threat through its “affiliates” in the region, particularly the Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon, which is Iran’s major proxy in the Middle East. This would appear to be the case from a broadcast address given earlier today by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah. In his speech, he said that responding to Soleimani’s killing was not the responsibility of Iran only, but also the responsibility of Iran’s allies in the region. This is a veiled threat that needs to be considered along with the claim of an Iranian military commander that in addition to U.S. targets in the Middle East, Tel Aviv was also within range of Tehran’s missiles.

Needless to say, Israel is taking appropriate defensive measures. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s this: If your enemy says he’s going to kill you, the threat should be taken seriously.

May God strengthen the arms of those who serve by day and by night to protect us, as watchmen on the walls of our land.

In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them…. (The Scroll of Esther 8:11)

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this, I shall be confident. (Psalm 27:1-3)

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper” (Isaiah 54:17)

Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. (Zech. 4:6)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marvin

As we begin a new year …

Shalom all.

It’s a new year and the beginning of a new decade. It has already started off with a bang. But, before dealing with the latest event making headlines around the world, including in Israel, just a few words to consider some of the positive events that marked the last decade for Israel. The 10 items listed are not in chronological order.

1. We celebrated our 70th year of Independence. Yay!

2. The U.S. Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was way over due.

3. The App “Waze” that helps drivers avoid traffic jams and provides alerts to events on the road (car stalled, police ahead or speed camera), accumulated close to 50 million users worldwide.

4. Mobileye – the leader of advanced driver assistance systems and car technologies – was sold to Intel for a record-breaking 15 Billion (yes, billion!!) Dollars. Talk about making an “exit”.

5. Israeli star Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman, the highest grossing superhero film worldwide. I still haven’t seen it.

6. The “light rail” transportation system was introduced in Jerusalem. A modern addition to an ancient city.

7. Two Israeli TV series, Fauda and Shtisel, gained a worldwide audience through Netflix. On my list of things to see at some point.

8. An Israeli won the prestigious Fields Medal award for outstanding discoveries in mathematics.

9. An Israeli was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of quasicrystals

10. Israel opened its second international airport, just north of the southern City of Eilat.

There were, of course, other matters, including a multitude of discoveries in medicine, science and technology that make our lives a little less stressful, that were generated in Israel during the past decade. Most of these discoveries and inventions are used even by our enemies and supporters of the BDS movement (but, of course, they won’t admit it).

So, we entered the year 2020 with hope and with prayers that it will be the beginning of a decade of life, peace and prosperity.

Qassem SoleimaniBut then, we had the events of last night, when the United States eliminated Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to exaggerate the considerable influence that Soleimani had in the Iranian regime and in the entire area of the Middle East. In the same vein, it may be impossible at this time to state with clarity or certainty the full repercussions of his targeted assassination, which was accomplished by a U.S. drone near the international airport in Baghdad, Iraq.

Without doubt, Soleimani’s position, power and prestige were second only to Iranian Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was not only the symbol of power in Iran, but very practically the guiding force of Iran’s terror machine throughout the region. 

Soleimani was the one responsible for Iran’s expansion in the Middle East over the past decade. His involvements and encouragements affected armies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. He was the one who worked to connect and turn all the Arab countries into a Shiite army. He was unquestionably the single most important political-military person in Iran and the significance of his elimination cannot, and should not, be underestimated. It raised the level of potential Middle East confrontations by several notches. He was confident of his position and did not think that his assassination was on the drawing board. So he did not take measures to protect himself.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu supported the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to eliminate Soleimani, stating: “Trump acted swiftly, forcefully and decisively … [adding that Israel] stands by the U.S.” He further stated: “Just as Israel has the right of self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right. Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the deaths of US citizens and many other innocents. He was planning more such attacks, and President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively. Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense.”

The action by the U.S. followed a week of increasing tensions with Iran, which included air strikes against Hezbollah militants in Iraq, followed by Iraqi militants laying siege to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. President Trump blamed Iran for organizing the protests. Iran denied the charge. The U.S. sent armed troops to the the Middle East and Trump said that Iran would pay a “big price” for the attack on the embassy, although adding that he didn’t believe that a war with Iran was around the corner.

The Pentagon issued a statement following the take out of Soleimani, including: “At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani. This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” 

Iran was quick to respond, blaming both the U.S. AND Israel for Soleimani’s death. Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, said: “The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis [deputy commander of Iran-backed militias] and Qassem Soleimani.”

Following the verification of Soleimani’s elimination, Tehran vowed a “crushing revenge” against the U.S. AND Israel.

The Ayatollah Khamenei called for three days of national mourning, stating: “All enemies should know that the jihad of resistance will continue with a doubled motivation, and a definite victory awaits the fighters in the holy war.” Iranian President Hassan Rohani referred to Soleimani’s death as martyrdom, which would result in strengthening Iran’s determination to defend its Islamic values, adding: “With no doubt, Iran and other freedom-seeking countries in the region will take his revenge.”

Indeed, there can be little doubt that Iran is considering how, when and where to carry out its retaliation for the assassinations. Soleimani was considered the king pin in Iran’s Middle East agenda. Israel has repeatedly accused him of being responsible for the deaths of Israelis and of being the instigator of regional terror. 

The issue of Iran’s response against the U.S., when, not if, it comes, is an open question. The U.S. is far from being a small country and, under its present leadership, it is not afraid of confrontation with Iran, even though it does not seek it. So, how things will develop will be initially in the ballpark of Iran. It’s a wait-and-see situation. But, the obvious goal will be to test the resolve and secondary response of the U.S. and to see how far it is willing to go. It would be foolhardy for the U.S. to think that Iran has learned a hard lesson and will not attempt to retaliate. That retaliation, however, may take a little time, as Iran needs to regroup and regain its strength in the light of its unexpected loss.

On the other hand, it is reasonable to anticipate that israel will be on Iran’s hit list. We are also in a wait-and-see kind of situation and we are already preparing for that event. Soleimani’s influence extended to Syria, Lebanon and, of course, Iraq, as well as Yemen and elsewhere. All are potential allies in any plan of retaliation that could be played out against Israel. Iran is presently reeling from the shock of Soleimani’s sudden departure and it will need to plan its strategy carefully. Right now, it is licking its wounds. Although its wounds were serious, Iran was not mortally wounded. It is geographically located close to Israel by its presence in Syria and, of course, it has been the prime mover of the actions of its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon, as well as its proxies, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in Gaza. Iran will pick and choose its opportunity. And then, Israel will pick and choose its response.

And so, we begin a new year and a new decade with increased tensions and the possibility of regional confrontation. Of course, we still have a third national election that is scheduled for March 2, 2020, which adds to the tension and the suspense.

May God be pleased to grant us wisdom upon wisdom and grace upon grace. “Behold, the Keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” (Psalm 122:4) “He is [our] defence; [we] shall not be moved.” (Psalm 62:6)

May the new civil year bring with it abundant good health for you all, with joy that overflows from deep down within you. May your going out and coming in always be in peace.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marvin

A Witness in Uniform

Shalom all,

The past month has been a seemingly never-ending series of political rhetoric, promises that politicians would be hard pressed to fulfil and attempts to create a unity government that were stymied and doomed to failure from the outset. Still, the politicos went through the motions. When it was all over, the country came to the unpleasant realization that it will soon be facing a third round of elections, with no guarantee that the end result of round three will be much different from the end results of rounds one and two. The only difference is that our Prime Minister is now facing a criminal indictment, which undoubtedly will influence some of the voting public. In the meantime, we still have an interim government that is powerless to pass needed legislation and we could be facing administrative shut down if a national budget is not passed by January, 2020 at the latest. But, that should be the subject of a separate post.

Putting politics aside for the moment, I want to share a letter that was written in the shadow of a the Auschwitz-Birkenow concentration camp in Poland last week. The writer is a young Israeli officer in the IDF. He was part of a special delegation of IDF officers to visit various places in Poland as part of a program called “Edeem b’Mahdeem” (Witnesses in Uniform).

Photo outside of Auschwitz-11:2019

Prior to the delegation leaving Israel only a week ago, the parents of the officers were asked to write a special letter of encouragement, which would be given to the soldiers before they complete the five-day tour of camps and various other places. After receiving the letters from the parents, the soldiers found a place apart from the others, where they could read what their parents wrote. From the different reports received, officers wept and did not try to hide their tears from one another. Then, while still dealing with the emotion of the moment, they were instructed to write a reply to their parents. The following is one such reply, written on IDF stationery, by someone very special to us, our youngest son (translated from Hebrew):

“Dear Family,

“How can I begin to reply to you, when I am here on the ground of Poland, less than an hour from Auschwitz, as a free Jew, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces and Messianic?

“I was exposed to horrors here that cannot be expressed and words are not enough to explain what happened here.

“I am less than an hour away from where dozens of members of our family were murdered and the question that kept coming to my mind is: “We will not forget and will not forgive. Is it so to be?”

“You have educated me on the foundations of the Messiah, and when I am here I cannot help but remember that the Son of God, the Creator, the King of the Universe, who came in the flesh, suffered, was beaten, scorned and disgraced, went to the cross and died for me. But He, Who suffered and died, in His mercy forgave those who led Him away, cursed and beat Him. And He forgave me, despite my trespasses and sins!

He who forgave me was willing to die for me and He was also willing to die for the whole world. He forgave and calls us to forgive. Should we? Can we?

“I’m not saying we should forget what was done, but if the Lord forgives when we repent and ask forgiveness, then how much more should we do likewise, when those who sin against us repent and ask for forgiveness..

“It is my privilege as a Messianic Jewish Officer, a free man and one who belongs to the Messiah, to be a representative here, not only on behalf of the army but as the representative of our whole family!

“At the final ceremony here in Auschwitz, before the singing of “HaTikva” (“The Hope”, the national anthem), the shofar was sounded. It resonated throughout the camp and into the forests nearby. And as the shofar was blown, I closed my eyes and imagined the sounding of the great shofar, and I saw in my mind’s eye, how those who had became ashes and dust, literally, were rising to the sky and I held to the hope in the promise that we have that we, too, shall rise heavenward!

“So thank you, thank you for your love and your labors and above all, thank you for guiding me to the Truth from Whom nothing can separate me.

“Love now and forever,

“Your son Aviad

“Witnesses in Uniform Delegation,” November 2019

Forgiveness and hope in the One Who forgives fully and completely. Are the two humanly compatible? Indeed, nothing is impossible with God. He has His witnesses everywhere, even in the concentration camps.

“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice.” (John 5:28)

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Yeshua. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Prime Minister Netanyahu – Down, but not out!

In an uncharacteristic move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday (Monday, 21 October, 2019), in essence, “I can’t do it”. He was, of course, referring to his inability to fulfil the mandate that he received from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, to form a new government. He returned the mandate to Rivlin, thus paving the way for  Kahol Lavan (Blue White) leader, Benny Gantz, to carry the baton to the finish line – if he can. This is the first time in almost a dozen years that Netanyahu will not be the number one figure in the government. Netanyahu had two more days before his deadline would expire, but he opted to end his efforts at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, which was also his 70th birthday.

As of tomorrow, the ball will be in the court of Benny Gantz, who will be given 28 days to succeed where Netanyahu could not. Gantz is a former IDF Chief of Staff and two of his campaign running mates were former IDF Generals. The third co-leader of Kahol Lavan is Yair Lapid, whose involvement with that party causes it to swing left of center.

At the end of the 28-day period, if Gantz also fails to form a coalition government, the door will be open for an additional period of 21 days during which any Member of Knesset can try to get the consensual support of a majority of at least 61 Knesset members, which would allow him to try to form a government. If that period runs out and no government is formed, another election will be the next step – the third one within a year.

Very little changed from the time of the first election in May and the second election in September. Neither the Likud (Netanyahu’s party) nor Kahol Lavan came anywhere close to getting a majority in the Knesset. Even with the support of other parties, neither of the two front runners could obtain the majority needed to form a stable coalition government. The person that could make the difference for either party is Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our Home) party. 

Politics always makes for strange bedfellows. But, this time, major issues and personality disputes take the stage:

Lieberman wants a broad-based coalition government made up of Likud, Kahol Lavan and Yisrael Beiteinu only. He doesn’t want any of the smaller parties to be involved in the government, such as the religious (who side with Netanyahu) and the leftist groups (who are part of the Gantz bloc), which groups, from a numerical point of view, also include the Joint Arab List. President Rivlin will formally announce tomorrow that he is giving the mandate to Benny Gantz. Avigdor Lieberman’s party has already expressed that it’s position has not changed and that it is not willing to recommend either of the above two parties to form a government. For Israel Beitenu, it’s not a matter of who will lead the government, but what will be the policies of the government that would be established.

Netanyahu arranged for the right wing parties to negotiate as a bloc in the formation of a coalition government, so he has the backing of the religious and rightist factions in any potential negotiations with Kahol Lavan. They are expected to be loyal to Netanyahu, as long as he remains loyal to them and does not try to become part of a Gantz-led government without them. 

Gantz does not want to consider including Netanyahu in a coalition government, if Netanyahu will be indicted on any of the pending charges against him. But, if the charges against Netanyahu would be dropped or watered down, Gantz might become flexible and be willing to form a government that includes Netanyahu and even work out an appropriate rotation plan with him to serve as Prime Minister. At this point, both Netanyahu and Gantz want to have the first rotation as Prime Minister. The co-leaders of Kahol Lavan may not agree to be part of a government that allows Netanyahu to continue to serve as Prime Minister, even on a rotation basis. 

Then there is the Joint Arab List to consider. At first, they did not want to be in any coalition government led by former IDF Generals. But, politics being what it is, they could do an about face and try to seize the opportunity not only to get rid of Netanyahu as Prime Minister, but also to try to get positions in the non-Netanyahu-led government, with the hope of causing disruption and damage to the nation of Israel as a Jewish, Democratic state. 

There are other areas of disagreement, particularly between Kahol Lavan and the ultra-orthodox parties, which include, among other things, matters relating to public transportation and operating businesses on Shabbat. Neither side has been willing to budge on its position regarding these matters.

At this time, it would appear that Gantz’s opportunity to form a government is slim. Still, we need to keep in mind that there are all kinds of mix-and-match political scenarios that could develop, including the formation of a “minority government” that would have the support of the Joint Arab List – a highly unlikely event, as well as Lieberman’s party. Netanyahu and Gantz could come to various kinds of agreement with one another. There is still the possibility of the free-for-all 21-day period when any Knesset Member can take a shot at getting a majority of other MKs to back him to form a coalition government. These possibilities, and others, are food for thought for the fertile mind.

A third round of elections looms large on the horizon. This is not good for the country. It is an expensive process. It could well cause the general population to feel that the results would not be much different the third time around, unless the issues and front-runners change. This, in turn, could lead to a serious reduction in the number of votes that would be cast for both the Likud and Kahol Lavan, with an increase in the number of votes for the right-wing and left-wing parties. In other words, the next government could have an increase in the influence of extremist parties, with expected consequences.

But, more significantly, a third round of elections would continue to leave us with an interim government, one that is unable to pass legislation until a new government is formed. Among the problems that would be generated is the absence of an operating budget for 2020 and the resultant governmental paralysis that could impact the entire population. The only one who could actually benefit from a third round of elections wold be Prime Minister Netanyahu, who would remain as Prime Minister for another six months and who could possibly get another opportunity to form a coalition government.

In short, nobody can say with any degree of certainty what will happen in the next month and a half. If a government is formed, we don’t know who the participants will be. If it is not formed, we will be facing some difficult days ahead. What can be said about all this? Just “Oy!” and, for emphasis “Oy, oy, oy!”

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. (Psalm 33:12)

It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. (Daniel 2:21)

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

The Immortality of the Jew

When I published the blog about my experience during my trip to Ostrolenka, Poland, little did I expect that it woud touch the heartstrings of the many who commented, both publicly and privately. It is hard to describe fully the emotions that I felt when we saw the first sign on the road, indicating that Ostrolenka was such and such kilometres ahead. For a moment, it was hard for me to believe that I was actually going to be in the place where my parents grew up, lived and eventually left … almost the night before the outbreak of WWII. There was an anticipation that I would find the graves of three of three of my grandparents, as well as gravestones of other members of the families of both of my parents, who had lived there for many generations. There is something that is built into the fabric of our being that longs for permanence, for an existence that continues beyond our days. Our hosts told us that the cemetery had been destroyed by the Nazis, but none of us knew the extent of the destruction or what was built over it. 

As I began to recite the traditional Kaddish prayer, wearing my father’s kippa, I was filled with emotion. I had to stop and turn away from Orit, the couple who hosted us and their son, and wait a few moments before I could continue. As I wept, they wept with me. As I was reciting the Kaddish, two girls came out from the school that was built on the site. They saw me and laughed as they passed by. The son of the couple asked passers-by where the monument was. The locals who were asked claimed not to know where it was, despite it being around the corner from where we were standing and some 40-50 feet from the corner on Yanusz Korczak Street. [His real name was Henryk Goldszmit – who would not abandon the children in the orphanage that he was the head of and went with them to the gas chambers, even though he was offered opportunities to save himself.] There is no question that the spirit of anti-semitism is alive and well in Poland and elsewhere. The son of our hosts said that he works with people who are anti-semitic. When he asked them why they hated Jews and what Jewish people ever did to them, they could not answer.

In 1898, Mark Twain’s “Concerning the Jew” essay was published in Harper’s Magazine. When his comment about the Jews not serving in the military was later proven to be untrue, he issued a public apology. In the latter part of his essay, he wrote, in part: 

“What has become of the Golden Rule?”

It exists, it continues to sparkle, and is well taken care of. It is Exhibit A in the Church`s assets, and we pull it out every Sunday and give it an airing. But you are not permitted to try to smuggle it into this discussion, where it is irrelevant and would not feel at home. It is strictly religious furniture, like an acolyte, or a contribution-plate, or any of those things. It has never been intruded into business; and Jewish persecution is not a religious passion, it is a business passion.

* * * If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world`s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” (Mark Twain: Concerning The Jews, Harper’s Magazine, March, 1898).

Indeed, the question of the ages has been “What is the secret of the immortality of the Jew?” Clearly, we are but human, fallible, given to every vice and virtue of almost every other people on the earth, whether presently existing or in ages past. We cannot over-simply the answer, nor should we try.  Yet, a question that relates to immortality can only be answered by reference to that which “immortal”, which lives forever, which defies logic and necessitates a reliance upon faith.  

We need to wake up to reality from a Biblical point of view.  A time is coming, and it is not very far off, when the world will turn against this tiny stretch of desert land and its inhabitants and/or will idly stand by as nations gather together in an attempt to destroy us, so that the name of Israel would be no more (Ps. 83:4).  Life for the Jew will be difficult beyond our imagination.  Non-Jews who will come to faith in the Lord Yeshua, the Lord of Glory, the Holy One of Israel, during that time, will have their faith tested by the manner in which they relate to the Jew, as He stated (see Matt. 25:31-46): “***’to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”  This statement was made by the Lord Yeshua before He went to the cross and died as the Passover Lamb that took upon Himself the sins of the world.  His “brothers” were, therefore, according to the flesh, namely, the Jews.  This is not the place to deal with the similarities or distinctions between the wars referred to in Ps. 83; Ezekiel 38:4-5, 10-12; 39:2 and Revelation 16. That is for another time.

Israel as a nation and the Jews as a people, will continue to exist. “Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day, And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 31:35-37).  The wars seeking to eliminate Israel and the Jews are physical manifestations of the spiritual warfare taking place – the spirit of Islam against The Spirit of the Resurrected Messiah, Israel in the midst of a sea of her enemies, who seek to destroy her.  

What is the secret of the immortality of the Jew?  Simply, God!  He is sovereign in all His ways. He sovereignly chose Israel (Deut. 7:7-8) to be kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exo. 19:6).  His gifts and His callings are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).  May we examine and consider our ways and let us return to the Lord (Lam. 3:40) our God and obey Him with all our heart and soul (Deut. 30:2) and not wait for the day of our distress (Deut. 4:30).  For if our ways are pleasing to the Lord, He will make even our enemies to be at peace with us (Prov. 16:7).  And THAT will be the time for which we all yearn. This world, with all of the evil that is in it, is fading away. We have to hold on to that which is eternal and the to One who dwells in eternity. We need to see the whole picture.

Tonight begins the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah, referred to in Leviticus 23:23-25 as the Feast of Trumpets – year number 5780 according to the Jewish calendar. May you all be blessed with good health, strength, a sweet, encouraging, joyful and prosperous year. Indeed, may it be the year that we hear The Trumpet sound.

The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. (Gen. 12:2-3)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin