Israel is in the middle of a Middle-East morass – TWTW … Ending 13 July, 2013

Shalom all,

These are interesting times, but very challenging for Israel. “Syria is bleeding and in Lebanon the flames have started to creep up on Nasrallah”, while in Israel, the Iron Dome anti-missile battery has been set up in Haifa, again! Egypt is once again going through the pains of dictator removal and most recently, intelligence reports indicate that missiles in Saudi Arabia may be aimed not only at Iran, but at Israel as well. Believe it or not, Iran and Syria both tried to get a seat on the U.N.’s Human Rights Council. The Interior Ministry has started finger-printing Israeli citizens for biometric IDs and Israeli technology triumphs once again, by coming up with a non-invasive, glucose monitor for diabetics. Archeologists find an item dating back to the time of King David, as well as parts of a mini-sphinx, while Prisoner “X2” file creates a media divide. Finally, today is Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av), a day to be remembered. Summer is definitely here and it’s hot, in more ways than one!

Israel is in the middle of a Middle-East morass.
To our immediate north is Lebanon, where the Hizb’allah, an Iranian tool, wants to pummel Israel with missiles from “Dan to Beer Sheva” (i.e., from north to south), but whose leader is said to be suffering from cancer and who appears to be suffering more from popular distrust than from physical illness. To our northeast is Syria, where the “Arab Spring”-civil war has taken the lives of some 100,000 people over the last two plus years, and has allowed terrorist activity on the Golan Heights, including occasional “random” missile “misfirings” into Israel during the last few months. To the southeast we have Saudi Arabia, whose multi-billionaire sheiks have spawned the likes of Osama bin Laden and whose defensive measures against Iran has also resulted in positioning missile pads pointed towards Israel. In the heart of Israel, we have the “Palestinian” Authority based in Ramallah, which most of the governments of the world, including our own, are trying to help to set up an anti-Israel state in our midst, even as the text books of the P.A. teach geography with Israel no where existing. To the southwest within our physical border, we have the Hamas terrorist organization, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction and, consequently, to never making peace with us. To the southwest beyond our physical border we have Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, where the former is in the throes of trying to cope with a second overthrow of its government in two years, while the latter has become a breeding ground for all sorts of terrorist organizations, whose overriding goal in life is the destruction of Israel. Then, of course, we have Iran, who is working hard to develop a sufficient nuclear capability to blow us away. What a neighborhood!

Some geopolitical strategists try to tie everything together and connect the dots to point the finger at Iran, as the ultimate reason for the Arab Spring and as the ultimate military target for war. I can somewhat agree that Iran is to be blamed for much of the upset in the Middle East. After all, its deep pocket and military assistance has benefitted Hamas and Hizb’allah, and Iranian fighters have physically joined the Syrian civil war on the side Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, along with the Hizb’allah. And, while I could agree that many nations would love to put an end to the threats posed by Iran by doing away with Iran, I cannot agree that the immediate, ultimate purpose of the Arab Spring has to do with developing a war strategy against Iran, which has not been the focus of pan-Arab, local turmoil. On the other hand, the removal of Israeli sovereignty and Jewish presence from this tiny stretch of desert sand has been and remains the single factor that can unite, even temporarily, Ayatollahs and Sheiks, Shiites and Sunnis, Hizb’allah and Hamas and, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood and a multitude of seemingly independent terrorist organizations. But, it is difficult for the dust to settle to allow the world community to see the picture clearly, because efforts are constantly being made to destabilize the region, which is the biggest security challenge facing Israel. And, because of the instability in the region, much of it stemming from the Arab Spring, the community of nations doesn’t know how to cope with it and so, it takes a back seat, all the while talking, but hoping that events will play out without their involvement.

Israel’s primary concern is two-fold: first, stay out of the fighting (in Egypt and in Syria, as well as Lebanon, where the Syrian civil war has spilled over) and second, making sure that our security, which is borderline threatened, is not compromised. While it sounds simple, it is much easier said than done.

The fighting in Syria and the renewed revolution in Egypt have serious consequences for the entire region, Israel included. Some like to think it is just a case of cousin fighting cousin, Shiite versus Sunni Moslems in Syria. But, Syria is a stage, where the players are controlled by Iran and aided by its progeny, the Hizb’allah (being Shiite) on the one hand, and the Gulf states and Turkey (being Sunni) on the other. Then, we have the superpowers, the U.S. and Russia, who appear to be lining up on opposite sides of the Syrian civil war. Not to be excluded are the multitude of Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist groups, who are all involved in one way or another. The outcome of the conflict in Syria could greatly impact the region, particularly Israel, if Assad manages to remain in power. He would be indebted to Iran and to the Hizb’allah, who would be only most happy to instruct him how to reward them for their faithful support of his regime and influence him to focus his military energies, alongside their own, in the direction of Israel.

The situation in Egypt, on the other hand, poses interesting possibilities. First, it shows that the people are not willing to wait another few dozen years before challenging an oppressive government. It took two and a half weeks to overthrow Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but only four days to overthrow Mohammed Morsi. Second, it shows that the people are looking for leadership that will move the nation forward to care for its citizens, rather than to take advantage of them. Third, it demonstrates that a successful outcome in Egypt could turn winter into spring and begin to reverse the effects that the Arab Spring has had on the various nations where it has occurred. In this regard, it could, conceivably, begin to halt the growth of political Islam in Egypt and bring about the possible downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood there. If successful in this regard, it could considerably weaken the Brotherhood’s illegitimate child in Gaza, namely: Hamas.

As a result of the Muslim’s Brotherhood’ present “fall” from power in Egypt, Hamas has lost an important ally in the region (particularly former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi) and Egypt has increased its efforts against  weapons smuggling along the border with the Gaza strip. This is turn, has caused additional financial strain in Gaza, because of the decreased smuggling of fuel that was brought into the area through the underground tunnels. If the situation continues, we might see an “Arab Spring” uprising against the leadership in Gaza. Now that is something to look forward to.

But, there is another possible outcome of this second Egyptian revolt: a real desire on the part of the people to change the very nature of Egyptian society, to bring it into the 21st century, to establish jobs and security for the nation, including freedom of religious worship and expression. At some point undefined, Egypt will become one of the three nations that will constitute a highway of holiness: “they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. Thus the LORD will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the LORD and perform it. The LORD will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the LORD, and He will respond to them and will heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance’.” (Isaiah 19:20-25) Could we be witnessing a genuine political and social upheaval in Egypt that could lead to a spiritual revival? Maybe, maybe not. But, it is definitely something to consider.

I won’t discuss at this time Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, other than to mention that he is the Chief Justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitution Court and a relatively political unknown. At his swearing-in ceremony, he stated: “I swear by God to uphold the republican system and respect the constitution and law …   and safeguard the people and protect the nation.” Later, he added: “It is a great honor and gratitude to receive the honor of being the interim president of the government in an interim period. I swear to preserve the system of the republic, and respect the constitution and law, and guard the people’s interests. The revolutionaries of Egypt are everywhere and we salute them all, those who prove to the world that they are strong enough, the brave youth of Egypt, who were the leaders of this revolution.”Nice words and very challenging. But, he has his work cut out for him, particularly when the Muslim Brotherhood has no respect for any of the things that he has sworn to preserve, respect and guard.

However, lest we tend to become over-zealous in our thinking for “pie-in-the-sky” military coups and interim leaders who “respect the constitution and law and guard the people’s interests”, we should be brought back to the reality of the savagery that has taken place in Egypt during its present mass outpouring into the streets and its yearning for the establishment of a concerned government and for a prosperous society. There have been at least 100 reported cases of attacks upon women during the gatherings at Tahrir Square in Cairo and elsewhere, including numerous instances of gang rapes, in public, with no male having the courage to try to intervene and stop it. Is this supposed to be an expression of outrage against an oppressive government? Obviously not. It is base, vile and dehumanizing. But, just in case we forget, Israel is trying to enter into negotiations with a people group, who organize murder, who publicly butcher people and tie their bodies to motorcycles to be dragged through the streets to the cheers of on-lookers. And when we complain, we are told, very seriously by our President, who once said that we need to understand them. He added that lying is part of their culture and that we should give in to the demands of the “Palestinian” Authority to release cold-blooded killers of Israeli men, women and children, so that we can sit down and discuss the establishment in our midst of a state, whose ideology spawned such beings. The present uprising in Egypt has also taken its toll in life. It is a price to be paid for “seeking” democracy. I suppose that everyone should be thankful that only approximately 40+ people have lost their lives so far, as opposed to the over 800 who were killed during the ouster of Mubarak. I can only wonder what the final price will be in human lives to achieve the intended goal.

To put it bluntly, the situation in Egypt is a disaster waiting for a greater disaster to happen. Military leadership is not the answer, not in the long run nor in the short run. It needs economic revitalization and leadership that knows how to go about making that happen. My concern is that things will get worse, before they get better. And, one of the “worse” scenarios includes a military confrontation with Israel, which Egypt cannot win, but which would bring about international involvement to bring it to an end, with economic incentives being offered to Egypt in the process. 

For Israel, the test of whether the present, new leadership in Egypt will succeed or not, will be gauged by how Cairo will be able, or unable, to control those various terrorist groups that have tried to make the Sinai their base of operations. As stated by Avi Dichter, a former Israeli public security minister and a former head of the Shin Bet security agency: “We live in a neighborhood that when things happen they usually reach us too. I don’t see the Muslim Brotherhood taking the arrest of its leadership quietly for very long. They have a long history of producing terrorism to get their points across. Sinai always pay the price. We saw it after Mubarak’s ouster and we’re likely to see it after Morsi’ ouster. Sinai is a no-man’s land and Israel will pay the price for Sinai’s situation.” The Egyptian army is making efforts to deal with terrorist groups in the Sinai, but the border between Israel and Egypt is already heating up. It takes cool heads to turn the heat down.

Talk, negotiate and then give in and give away?
What is it with Israeli politicians who are in power? It is a dangerous game that they play when they talk about making “painful concessions” to attain a peace that is unrealistic, unsustainable and unwise at this time. Some think that just because I oppose the present efforts to revive the dead “peace process” that I am also against efforts for peace. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am all in favor of genuine peace with our neighbors, but disagree with the means of achieving that peace, particularly when it ignores the Biblical perspective that God will judge and condemn those who scatter His people and divide His land (Joel 3:1-2).

Israel has always extended her hand to her neighbors for peace, but her hand has always been slapped away. Should we beg them to enter into negotiations? If reports emanating from various sources are true, P.M. Netanyahu is prepared to give away about 90% of the territory of Judea and Samaria, on the condition that Israel’s security demands were satisfied. This is wishful thinking and very naive. If we have learned anything from our experience with terrorism, it is that terrorists are not to be trusted. Period. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that he is prepared for a military option against Iran, if Tehran crosses Jerusalem’s “red line”. How can someone so determined to protect Israel from attack from outside the country be so willing, at least verbally, to allow Israel to establish an enemy state in its midst? It has been made clear to all parties concerned, as well as to the world community, that the “Palestinian” Authority is not interested in negotiating, but only in making demands for concessions by Israel that would enable the P.A. to give the appearance that it was interested in talking, but then walk out when demands will be made upon it, or when the talks start to become difficult. The left-wing media like to refer to the “peace process” as “stalled”. It is afraid to call the child by its name, namely: “dead”. Every opportunity to revive it, at the expense of Israel, is like trying to inject blood and electricity into a corpse that will at some point respond to the stimulus and turn into a Frankenstein monster. 

It’s one thing to have pressure placed on us from Uncle Sam and from our various uncles in the European Union and the “un” community at the United Nations. It is something else entirely when one of our own gives “tips” to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry how to succeed at the negotiations with the P.A. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave just such advice, by saying that Kerry should present to Netanyahu a list of pre-conditions for Israel to agree to and if they are refused, then Kerry should call off U.S. efforts to get the process started again. These include, among others: clarification whether Jerusalem would agree to withdraw to pre-1967 borders and “swap” territory with the “Palestinian” Authority; to re-start negotiations at the point at which the last talks ended; to define at the outset “what the conditions are that will end the talks”. Maybe Olmert should be awarded honorary membership in the “Palestinian” Authority and become its spokesman, as well.

Netanyahu seems to be moving away from the political right. That means he has only one direction to go – to the left. He is becoming a broken record with his repeated efforts to convince “Palestinian” Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to sit down and negotiate. He called him this past Saturday and offered his blessings at the beginning of the Moslem month of Ramadan. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu also told Abbas: “I hope we will have the opportunity to speak with one another not only during festivals, and will start negotiating. It’s important. I hope Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts will show results.” But Abbas is not really interested in talking with us. Instead, he thinks that he can pursue his unilateral track with the U.N., which granted the P.A. observer status last year. And, given how much the world loves to blame us for all of its own shortcomings, he may be right.

There is clearly something inherently wrong with the type of thinking that makes the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict the panacea for all of the world’s ills, particularly the turmoil in much of the Arab world. It is disillusionment on a broad scale, with a clear misunderstanding of the realities in the Middle East. From a strictly worldly point of view, a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict will not solve the woes of the present turbulence in this area of the world. Its resolution in a positive way, without dividing the land, could reap major rewards for the leadership and for the people on both sides of the issue. But, the other problems will remain because they are local matters, affecting specific populations and will be considered more or less as tribal, rather than pan-Arab.

Kerry, for his part, wants some demonstrable progress before September, when the U.N. General Assembly will resume its debate over the Middle East. The main issues have not changed: borders of a future “Palestinian” state, the fate of “Palestinian” prisoners and refugees, Israeli security and the status of Jerusalem. But, the people who negotiate those issue do change, as we have regrettably witnessed over the past 20 years or so.

Syria bleeds while flames get closer to Nasrallah
While speaking at an Air Force graduation ceremony, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz referred to both Syria and Lebanon in these words: “Syria is still bleeding, and in Lebanon the flames have started to creep up on Nasrallah…[The Israeli Air Force is] the strategic arm of the IDF; it can make our enemies pay, anytime, anywhere…All fronts – from south to north – are turbulent…In the face of a changing reality, we are required to be more prepared than ever.”

In line with the assessment of potential, volatile activity from our neighbors to the north and northeast, an Iron Dome battery has again been deployed in the Haifa area. 

The Prime Minister also addressed the IAF graduates, as did other senior officials. Netanyahu stated: “The future of the Jewish people depends on the Jewish State, the future of which primarily bears on the IDF and security forces.” Unfortunately, our P.M., along with other senior officials, again place trust in the arm of the flesh and not in “the Keeper of Israel” (Psalm 121:4). This is not to say that the IDF should not be the best that it can possibly be. But, there should be a recognition, particularly by our national leadership that although the horse is prepared for day of battle, the victory belongs to The Lord (Proverbs 21:31).

The spill-over from Syria’s civil war has almost everyone in the region concerned, including Jordan. Our neighbor to the immediate East is presently hosting 900 U.S. military personnel to bolster its defense capabilities against potential chemical attack, as well as to operate a Patriot missile defense system and F-16 fighter jets which Washington has deployed there in case the situation worsens. The primary concern is the use of chemical weapons against Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and other neighboring countries, or worse, that the weapons stockpile would fall into the hands of terrorist groups if Assad’s regime falls. Then, our headache will become the world’s worry.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hizb’allah, is also feeling the heat. Despite reports of his suffering from cancer, he continues to provide military support for Assad’s regime. This has cost him dearly. Once regarded as the hero of the struggle against Israel, he is now looked upon by many as having divided loyalties that are more in favor of Syria’s president than to his own country. And he has become the enemy of the Sunni people, who are fighting to overthrow Assad. He continues to threaten massive missile assault upon Israel, but knows that if Assad falls, he will be next. It could be that while Assad continues to hang in there, Nasrallah’s own body will ultimately do away with him, before an “Arab Spring” arises in Lebanon, particularly against the Hizb’allah.

Israel is accused of destroying Russian Yakhont missiles in Syria.
On July 5th, a Syrian arms depot located in the port city of Latakia was destroyed. The depot housed Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles, which Israel feared would jeopardize its naval forces. Although official sources in Syria first claimed that the attack was carried out by a terrorist group aligned with al-Qaida, that “fired missiles of European design”, various foreign media later reported that the Israeli Air Force attacked the site from the air, while others reported that Israel had done so from the sea, from the Israel Navy’s Dolphin-class submarine. Israel has declined commenting on the reports, making every effort to remain outside of Syria’s two-year civil war, except for actions taken to intercept weapons transfers. 

If, in fact, Israel was behind this latest strike, it would be the fourth time this year that Israel moved against targets inside of Syria. It would also show that Israel is living up to the pledge made by P.M. Netanyahu not to allow Syria’s weapon stockpiles to fall into the hands of the Hizb’allah or other terrorist groups. However, Assad has previously threatened to “retaliate” against Israel, if it makes another attack against Syria. There is a difference between a threat to attack an arms shipment and an attack upon an weapons storehouse.Israel has no choice but to maintain silent regarding any involvement in the Latakia incident in order to help Assad get down from the branch that he crawled out on and avoid a military confrontation between the two countries. The likelihood is that additional Russian weaponry would be transferred to different points along the Syrian coast from the Russian warships in the area. The story is far from being over.

A military option against Iran is still on our table.
America’s “red lines” against Iran appear to have faded, as the Obama administration is planning to try to hold direct “talks” with Tehran over the latter’s nuclear program. But, as has already been pointed out, talk is cheap and the leadership in Iran will only respond when it feels threatened. Israel’s position, as stated by P.M. Netanyahu, is that “[a] month has gone by since the elections in Iran and Iran is still galloping forward rapidly toward developing military nuclear capability. It is expanding and enhancing its enrichment facilities while simultaneously building a plutonium reactor with two channels of obtaining material for a nuclear bomb. At the same time, it is also expanding its stores of ballistic missiles, again, and threatening not only us, but also the entire West as well as the East.” In light of that situation, he added that we are “determined [to] stand firm behind our demands, which the international community should be making as well: first, to end all enrichment; second, to remove all the enriched material [from Iran]; and third, to decommission the illegal nuclear facility in Qom. We believe that now, more than ever, in light of Iran’s advances, it is important to step up economic sanctions and present Iran with a credible military option.” (emphasis mine) According to a report in The Wall Street Journal this past weekend, Iran has installed and activated IR-2 centrifuge machines, which are able to triple its nuclear fuel production rate and drastically reduce the time needed to manufacture its sought-after nuclear weaponry.

Adding his two cents to the equation, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week that the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program could easily be resolved if the West were to stop being so stubborn:“Some countries have organized a united front against Iran and are misguiding the international community and with stubbornness do not want to see the nuclear issue resolved…But if they put aside their stubbornness, resolving the nuclear issue would be simple.” Of course, this was mere rhetoric and he did not indicate what specific concessions he wanted Western nations to make. Khamenei is convinced that the West is determined to remove him and to destroy Iran’s system of clerical rule, over which he was appointed for life in 1989: “The Islamic Republic has acted legally and transparently in the nuclear debate and offers logic in its arguments, but the aim of the enemies is through constant pressure, to tire Iran and change the regime and they will not allow the issue to be resolved.” According to U.S. intelligence sources, if left unchecked, Iran’s long-range rockets could hit America by 2015. Given this information, it would seem to be an easy choice – survival or destruction. It is difficult to understand why decisions can’t be made accordingly.

Saudi Arabia targeting Israel, as well as Iran? Apparently so.
According to Robert Munks, deputy editor of IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, there is not much chance of mis-construing satellite analysts that one of the launch pads in Saudi Arabia “appears to be aligned on a bearing of approximately 301 degrees and suggesting a potential Israeli target, and the other is oriented along an azimuth (bearing) of approximately 10 degrees, ostensibly situated to target Iranian locations.”(my emphasis) Munks added, however, that although the satellite photos show that there is activity at the site, the journal did not have any images of missiles or launchers there.

Syria and Iran try to get a seat on the U.N.’s Human Rights Council.
It’s hard to believe, yet two of the most blatant violators of human rights made efforts to obtain a seat on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. The “Asia group”, which consists of seven countries from the Middle East and Asia (China, Iran, Jordan, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Vietnam) will challenge each other for 4 seats on the Council that will be available for a 3-year term, beginning in January, 2014. Rosemary DiCarlo, the Acting U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., said that neither Syria nor Iran belonged on the Council, who said: “Attempts by either country to join the Human Rights Council are highly inappropriate given existing Human Rights Council mandates to investigate human rights violation in these countries, their egregious records on human rights, and their on-going collaboration to suppress the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people”. Israel’s U.N. Ambassador, Ron Prosor, agreed with DiCarlo, but added somewhat more colorfully: “This might be a new world record for lunacy at the United Nations”, adding that putting countries like Iran and Syria on the Human Rights Council was like “putting the Godfather in charge of a witness-protection program.” Iran later withdrew its candidacy, without an explanation. 

Israel’s Ministry of the Interior launches a biometric database program.
Wherever we go in Israel, we are required to carry our I.D. cards, which contain our picture, our I.D. number (like a social security number) and certain family information, along with a supplement containing address and additional family information. The Ministry of the Interior has come up with a two-year pilot program, “on a voluntary basis” – for now, and offers the option of a “smart ID” card for Israelis seeking to obtain or renew their identification cards. The “smart ID” will include biometric information, such as fingerprints and digital facial photos, which will replace the format presently used. At the end of the pilot program, the government says that it will review the results and decide whether to “compel” all Israelis to provide biometric information for identification purposes. 

Obviously, opponents of the program claim that forming a biometric database constitutes a major violation of civil rights, particularly the right to privacy. A major t.v. channel reported that according to an internal Justice Ministry memo, which was “leaked to the media”, the integrity of the database was at risk of being compromised due to alarming security failures, including a lack of basic protection measures, such as a firewall and anti-virus program. The public was urged by an attorney with the Digital Rights Movement “to refuse to take part in this program”. Sounds like good advice to me.

Israeli firm comes up with a non-invasive glucose monitor for diabetics.
An Israeli company, Bio Impedance General (“BIG”) developed a non-invasive, blood glucose meter, which can drastically change the life and day-to-day treatment of diabetic patients. The measuring devices that are currently on the market are invasive, non-continuous and require patient intervention, which leads to partial information about changes in glucose levels during the day, but which the patient is not able to use in order to take preventive steps. The company’s goal in this regard is to develop a continuous, passive, non-invasive, digital, self supported, watch-like, personal measurement device for non-stop use by diabetic patients. This will be a major encouragement to all those who suffer from this diabetes.

BIG also has a word of encouragement for those who are into sea diving. One of the greatest dangers faced by divers is decompression sickness that is caused by the appearance of gas bubbles in the diver’s blood stream while ascending from a deep dive. The company is working on developing a “real-time, non-invasive, passive, continuous engineering prototype, to monitor the danger of decompression sickness, along with the diver’s vital signs such as cardiac pulse, heart rate, and breathing”, that will be beneficial for combat forces, underwater engineering personnel and underwater commercial applications such as commercial scuba divers.

Archeologists find an artifact with an inscription from the time of King David.
During excavations at the Ophel, the City of David national park that is next to the southern wall of the Temple Mount, At the City of David, archaeologists found a clay pitcher, containing an inscription dating from the 10th century B.C., i.e., from the time of King David. It is said to be about 250 years older than the earliest known Hebrew inscription, which had been from the time of King Hezekiah at the end of the 8th century B.C. Although the inscription is said to be “incomplete”, nevertheless, it resembles writing that was characteristic of the 10th and 11th centuries B.C. This historic discovery was made in December, but only just revealed, and came after harsh “Palestinian”-Jordanian criticism of Israeli excavation and construction in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Part of an Egyptian Sphinx found in northern Israel.
A statue dedicated to Egyptian ruler Mycerinus (also known as Menkaure), who ruled around 2,500 B.C. and was the builder of one of the 3 Giza pyramids, was found last week in the archeological dig at Tel Hazor, in the Galilee region of Israel. Some have referred to Tel Hazor as the most important archaeological site in this country, because it was the capital of southern Canaan that was established around 2,700 B.C. It was home to about 20,000 Canaanites and covered an area of around 200 acres, before it was destroyed in the 13th century B.C. It was resettled by Israelites in the 11th century, who resided there continuously until it was destroyed by the Assyrians in 732 B.C. The how and the why this particular statue reached Tel Hazor is unknown. It could have been taken by those who plundered Egypt or was sent as a gift by an Egyptian ruler to a counterpart in Canaan. The portion of the statue that was found is about 50 cm (20 inches) long and includes the paws of a broken granite sphinx, as well as some of the forearms of this mythical creature. The entire statue was estimated to be about 150 cm. (60 inches) long and a half meter (20 inches) high.

Prisoner “X” No. 2 – again balancing the right to know against the need to remain silent.
When the story of the first Prisoner “X” first broke, the “system” needed to explain how we, as an enlightened country, could hold unnamed prisoners in our jails. Eventually, all of the explanations came forward and there was considerable debate on both sides of the issue, although there was obviously great weight given to the need of the country to protect state security. The story of Ben Zygier, the first Prisoner “X” of recent vintage and of his ability to commit suicide while in a maximum security facility occupied the media for weeks and caused no small amount of damage to Israel’s reputation and its relationship with Australia, in particular. Now, like a good drama that left a question mark at the end of the show, we have the sequel with a second Prisoner “X”, whose story is said to be even more sensational and more fascinating than the first one. 

In referring to this second case, Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beytenu party), who heads the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said: “Regarding all the baseless chatter and talk I’ve been hearing about Prisoners X, Y and Z, Israel is a country that upholds the law.” Even the leftist Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni (HaTnuah party), reported on Army Radio that “without getting into the specific case – it is important that Israeli citizens know that there are no prisoners in Israel who disappear without atrial, without legal defense and without their families knowing…I can say with complete confidence, we are not South America.” Similarly, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beytenu party) repeated thatthere are no “anonymous prisoners” held in Israel, adding that “there are cases that cannot be made public and this is to avoid harming the state’s security; and this [is] done through court-issued gag orders…There are also cases in which we have held a prisoner under a false name, but also in these cases all of the prisoner’s rights are strictly upheld, and certainly these prisoners don’t disappear from the court’s eyes”.

Like the first Prisoner “X”, the second one is alleged to have committed severe security offenses. In both cases, they were provided access to a prominent defense attorney, who also knows how to keep a secret, and their families knew, but would prefer that people know as little as possible. Still, the news media went on another warpath and wants to let the public know everything about everything, often ignoring the greater damage that such press overage could cause.

What is the best thing to do in the circumstances? Let the story fade, along with the headlines. We don’t live in a perfect society, but it’s the only one we have right now and it is considerably better than most. Also, there are a lot of other matters of considerable national importance that should occupy the attention of the media.

Tisha b’Av – destruction, restoration and … the media
Last night, Monday, at sundown on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av (or Tisha b’Av), Jews around the world gathered in synagogues and recited various prayers of mourning and the reading of the Book of Lamentations (Ay-chah’), accompanied by a day of fasting. In Israel, thousands of mourners arrived at the Western Wall (of the Second Temple, known as “the Kotel’) to participate in the prayers. The Kotel was packed and many who came sat on the ground, in a traditional gesture of mourning. 

This date, according to the Jewish calendar, marked 1,943 years since the Second Temple was destroyed. According to the Talmudic tractate of “Ta’anit”, no fewer than five tragedies befell the Jewish people on the 9th day of the month of Av, namely: (1) the generation of Jews who left Egypt was forbidden to enter the land of Israel (2) the First Temple was destroyed (3) the Second Temple was destroyed (4) the city of Beitar was captured and (5) Jerusalem was razed after the Second Temple was destroyed.

But, there’s more: The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on Tisha b’Av. In 1492, not only did Columbus sail the ocean blue, but what was considered to be the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered the expulsion of the Jews, which took effect on the 9th of Av of that same year.

Tisha B’Av is the culmination of the 3-week period that begins with the fast of the 17th of the month of Tammuz, which commemorates the first breach of the walls of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the First Temple. During this period, according to Jewish tradition, festive celebrations (such as weddings or other parties) are not permitted, including hair cuts. There are other customs and restrictions relating to Tisha B’Av, which are similar to those on Yom Kippur, such as a full fast (food and water – which does not apply to people who are sick and who need to eat), shaving or wearing cosmetics, performing ordinary work and bathing, among other things.

But, God said He would bring His people back to the land (not to England or to Spain or Portugal, who expelled the Jews in 1497) and He is doing just that. The process is not over and many more will come as part of the unfinished physical restoration of Israel. But, as with the “dry bones” (Ezekiel 37), after the physical restoration, there will be spiritual resurrection. We are witnessing the early stages of this in our own day and this, too, will be fully completed, hopefully, before much longer.

For the past eight years, some have marked yet another tragedy – the expulsion of Jews from the Gush Katif settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip. Interestingly enough, a common thread seems to run between the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the current media attempts to prepare the people for another expulsion, this time from Judea and Samaria. Then, as now, the media was recruited to shape popular opinion. Then, it supported former P.M. Ariel Sharon and his policies, whereas today, it supports the leftist philosophy and movement that says we have no choice except to agree. Then, the media told us not to criticize Sharon or his government, and to avoid any mention of government corruption. When a wave of protests against the expulsion swept the country, not one news channel sent its reporters to cover the events. When the heart of Tel-Aviv was flooded with some 300,000 protesters against the disengagement, the news media did not report on the mass rallies, but preferred to air a basketball game instead. The events that followed the withdrawal from Gaza showed that the media bet on the wrong horse. The media won, but the country lost. It persuaded the majority, but in that case, the majority was not only wrong, it was dead wrong. Years later, after thousands of missiles were fired from “Palestinian”-controlled areas into populated cities in Israel, we finally went into Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, for which the world criticized us. That was followed by Operation “Pillar of Defense”, for which the world again criticized us and which resulted in our willingness to end the campaign before putting an end to the reason for the operation. Various segments of the media, encouraged by present and former politicians, are doing their best to convince us, once again, that we need to make more “painful concessions” and this time give away the heart of our ancient homeland. Will we look back on these days and rejoice, or will we again weep? 

Maybe we tend to seek compromise because we still suffer a form of national separation anxiety after approximately 2,000 years in exile. Lots of excuses and explanations could be made for why we’ve agreed to compromise, even against out own interests. But, they are all beside the point. The question is: Where do we go from here? Like our national anthem, HaTikvah (“the Hope”), there is hope that Israeli society will seek its identity, its direction and its future from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, without Whom we have no identity or national calling.

And THAT was The Week That Was.

“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (Psalm 137:5-6)
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls and prosperity within your palaces’.” (Psalm 122:6-7)
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning.” (Isaiah 62:1)

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Have a simply great week.

p.s.: In case anyone missed prior updates of The Week That Was, copies of updates that were sent out from the end of January, 2013, until now, can be viewed at:

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