Last week was a bit of a difficult week. The Prime Minister underwent surgery to repair a hernia and while he was recuperating, a special ministerial team decided on the release of 26 terrorists, all with blood on their hands, who either killed or assisted in the killing of 35 Israelis. “Under Cover of Darkness” was the front-page caption of Yediot Aharonot, one of Israel’s major Hebrew dailies, on Tuesday morning. It referred to the release of those terrorists, at night and in sealed vehicles so as to prevent photos of victory by the “Palestinian” Authority. The same front page showed pictures of some of the victims, while their families claimed that freeing the terrorists was a betrayal of those who were murdered. Of those who were released, 14 were sent to the Gaza Strip and 12 to the “West Bank” (i.e., that part of Judea and Samaria that is under the control of the “Palestinian” Authority). In the shadow of the raging controversy, negotiations were set to be resumed Tuesday morning.
The pain and sense of loss that do not go away.
Our nation has been attacked. Families have been torn apart by the sudden and violent taking of the lives of our loved ones by terrorists, cold-blooded killers, whose ideology compels them to repeat their crimes. And the perpetrators are being released to return to their families and continue their lives, which were interrupted for a season, while they were accommodated by Israel’s prison system. Israel’s Security Service revealed that more than 60% of them will continue to pursue terrorist activities against Israel.
Although it is said that “time heals all wounds”, many, like Rose Kennedy, disagree: “The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. but it is never gone.” Indeed, the scars that remain are a constant reminder of the damage that took place. Some of the scars are visible, while some remain seared on the hearts and in the minds of the families whose lives were forever disrupted by the untimely deaths of their loved ones, brought about by the hatred of those with whom we are now trying to reach a another peace agreement. A desperate, spur-of-the-moment, last-minute protest took place on Monday in Tel-Aviv, opposite the Ministry of Defense, to prevent the release of the terrorists. One of the protesters expressed the anguish of the families, stating: “These are people who murdered a Holocaust survivor with an axe, who stabbed soldiers to death with pitchforks like stacks of wheat. Their release is a yielding to terror.”
Proponents of the release of the terrorists claim that although the terrorists were sentenced to life imprisonment, they are what is referred to as lower-echelon terrorists, who are not the leaders or masterminds behind the incidents that resulted in the deaths of the victims. They added that most of them are now senior citizens and they are just a light shadow and that their release is in keeping with the government’s good-will gesture towards the “Palestinians”, as promised. Is this supposed to comfort the families of the victims? A slightly closer examination may reveal just how truly empty this so-called “gesture” really is, causing the pain to be even greater for the bereaved families. With the prisoners being released under cover of night was obviously intended to minimize celebrating a “Palestinian” victory in “Israeli territory”. This would not warm the cockles of the heart of “Palestinian” Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. But, with more than half of them being transferred to the Gaza Strip, any celebration in Gaza over the release of those who were there would be to the benefit of Mahmoud Abbas, at the expense of Hamas. So, on the one hand, Israel still tries to bolster Abbas, while on the other hand, it tries its best to put a damper on his “victory” of getting these terrorists released. In order words, he’ll have to work a bit to celebrate this “victory”. This move, at this time, does nothing to draw the two sides closer, nor does it serve to encourage the population of Israel to stand behind the present peace initiative.
A more realistic appraisal of the release is that it is a political ploy to gain time for the “peace talks” to fail honorably, rather than to bring about a situation where the diplomatic efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry would fail immediately. This scenario would boost Israel’s position vis-a-vis the U.S. and the Quartet, as not being the one who blocked the peace efforts from getting off the ground. It saves face for Kerry and, of course, for U.S. President Obama, as well as P.M. Netanyahu. If, in fact, that is the case, then the choice of these particular terrorists does not serve to demonstrate either support for Abbas or optimism regarding the outcome of the talks. Instead, it constitutes nothing more than a crude political game, where the immediate losers are, again, the bereaved families of the victims. Yes, the scars remain, but they are also a reminder that we continue to survive.
Of the many stories of the victims and their families, I chose to briefly share the following:
1. Mofir Canaan was 49 years old, married and the father of six children, five of whom are sons. He was also a Druze from the Village of Archah. He served in the I.D.F. as a Border Policeman and after being discharged, worked for the Prison Service. After he retired, he was stabbed to death in a nearby village. His murderer was apprehended, tried and convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The then Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, wrote a letter of condolence to the family, in which he praised Mofir and said that “there is no forgiveness and no pardon”. When they grew up, Mofir’s sons followed in their father’s footsteps and served in various special units in the I.D.F. One of his sons, Fahad, said that Netanyahu, who at the time of his father’s death was serving as Deputy Foreign Minister, promised the family that his father’s killer would be caught and would remain In jail for the rest of his days. Fahad added: “We all love the country and are proud of it. But why are killers being released? They should rot in jail. Is this the compensation for a mother who raised us by her own strength? To release dad’s killer?” Another son, Keinan, wrote a letter to Netanyahu requesting that he keep his promise and not release his father’s killer. Another son, Forsan, was only 4 when his father was murdered. He said: “The murderer will be able to walk free in the street. I served 5 years in the I.D.F., this is the reward for my contribution to the State?”
To close out this story, last Monday, Yair Shamir, the Minister of Agriculture and the son of the late P.M. Yitzhak Shamir, said: “The moving letter of my father only strengthens what was and remains my position in principle that the negotiations with the “Palestinians” must be without preconditions and there was no basis for freeing the terrorists. The decision that was reached obligates me along with the other members of the government.”
Actually, the issue is of such importance that power politics should not come into play and each Member of the Knesset should have been given a green light to vote his conscience. To force an MK to vote against his conscience is unconscionable.
2. When Gilad Shalit was released in exchange for a thousand-plus terrorists, the nation took a hard swallow. Among those who were released were three terrorists, who were responsible for the planning, preparation and carrying out of bus bombing in Haifa in 2004, which took the lives of 17 people, many of them students on their way home from school. The fourth terrorist blew himself up along with the bus and the victims. One of those students who was killed was only 14 and a friend of our two oldest children, who were then 15 and 13. They were all in the same school and the night before the bombing, they were all together, with others, in a special group activity. Her parents are friends of ours and we mourned with them as they mourned. The government granted the family permanent residence status (which up to that point they did not have), as a result of being victims of terror. But, that could never compensate them, as they daughter would not return to their home. The wound was re-opened when their daughter’s murderers were set free. It is difficult to put into words the renewed pain and anguish that they suffered and continue to suffer.
Another victim of that terrorist incident was Smadar, a 17-year-old student. Her mother stated the situation this way:
“All of Israel rejoiced together with the Shalit family [when Gilad was released], but for us it was a jolt…We had lost everything, and there was a small comfort in the knowledge that at least the perpetrators would never see the light of day. Their release went against any possible perception of justice. When your child dies it sentences you to life without any possibility of parole. You remain a grieving parent for the rest of your life, without any possibility of relief. A more accurate statement than ‘would I had died for thee’ (2 Samuel 19:1) has not yet been written. For nine years [following the bus bombing], [my husband] was dying. He didn’t want to go to the ninth anniversary of Smadar’s death while the terrorists were free and she was not.” She added that during his last nine years of life, “He was in deep mourning. When people asked him, ‘How’s life?’ he would say, ‘We’re just breathing, not living’.” When his daughter’s murderers were released, “It finished him. He took it very hard… He wasn’t angry at Shalit, but at the government and the state for releasing murderers.” After he visited his daughter’s grave, the next night he suffered a heart attack and passed away.
At least Shalit was returned home as part if the prisoner release. This time, we received nothing, except a willingness to sit down and talk. The blood of the victims of these terrorists cries out from the ground. Even as the polls here show that close to 80% of the people are opposed to the release of the terrorists, the will of the people is ignored and the cries of the victims and the pleadings of their families go unheeded. “Now the LORD saw and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.” (Isaiah 59:15)
Can we imagine the United States releasing terrorists as a “good will gesture” to make peace with its enemies? Or Norway releasing mass murderer, Anders Breivik, who took the lives of 77 Norwegians and injured 242 others, many of whom were teenagers? Or any other so-called civilized country voluntarily releasing its enemies, who killed and butchered men, women and children in cold blood? Of course not! While no civilized country in the world would consider releasing terrorists and murderers as a “good will gesture”, we are expected to do so. And we are also expected to uproot our own citizenry and give away our territory to our enemies to live in our midst. Apparently, when it comes to Israel, the double standard is the only standard.
Bloodbath in Egypt
It appears that the news regarding what is happening in Egypt is being covered fairly well my the main-stream media. People are not only being killed, they are being slaughtered by extremists, who want to restore Mohammed Morsi to power and, along with him, the Muslim Brotherhood. While most of the media emphasis is on the mayhem and murder taking place, little attention is being given to the fact that the millions who took to the streets did so to protest the take-over and attempt to create a state ruled by Islamist extremism.
At least 900 people, including 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in a crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood during the past week alone, making it Egypt’s bloodiest civil episode in decades.
Erdogan is a strong backer of Morsi as an example of a democratically elected Islamic leader. But, he either fails to understand, or chooses to ignore, the fact that democracy means more than having an election. It means that after the election is over, there is a responsibility to behave in a democratic fashion and not to immediately turn into a dictator, as happened with Morsi. What is Erdoğan’s real concern? If the people in Egypt could remove their leader and take him directly “from the palace to prison”, it could happen in Turkey as well. He probably doesn’t sleep as well these days as he did before the military coup in Egypt.
Before we leave the subject of Egypt, a brief word about former President Hosni Mubarak. It is to be recalled that Mubarak, 85, was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to prevent the killing of demonstrators. An appeal’s court overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial. News reports today indicated that an Egyptian court released him from custody and he could be released as early as tomorrow, Thursday. There are concerns, however, that Mubarak’s release could spark a new wave of protests that would cause millions to take to the streets again and once again, a move that could cause Egypt to plummet into chaos and instability.
Syria continues to suffer
The forces of President Bashar Assad’s were accused by opposition activists of launching a nerve gas attack that killed at least 650 people, a situation, if confirmed, would be the worst use of poison gas in the Syrian civil war, that is now two and a half years running. According to the opposition activists,
Activists said rockets with chemical agents were fired into the suburbs of Damascus just before dawn. According to a report from one emergency medical facility: “Many of the casualties are women and children. They arrived with their pupils dilated, cold limbs and foam in their mouths. The doctors say these are typical symptoms of nerve gas victims.” Photos of victims were widely disseminated on the Internet, with many of them being children.
As expected, Syrian state television denied the reports and officials of Assad’s government said that if they had such chemical weapons, they would never use them against Syrians. This, of course, leads to the question: Against whom would Syria be willing to use deadly nerve gas? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that Israel is within the target range. Syria is not a signatory to the international treaty that bans chemical weapons, and it is widely believed that it has caches of undeclared mustard gas, sarin and VX nerve agents.
There are conflicting opinions regarding the logic of using such chemical weapons at this time, namely, only three days after U.N. chemical experts arrived in Damascus. But, given the heavy concentration of Sunni Islamist rebels in the area that was attacked, who are allied to al-Qaida, the use of such weapons should not be dismissed for reasons of “logic”. Fanatics do not operate on the basis of logic. That is one of great failings of the West, which likes to think that terrorists operate out of reason.
Peace Talks “Under the Radar”?
The French news agency AFP reported that according to “Palestinian” sources, negotiators were meeting “secretly” for additional talks. After meeting twice in Jerusalem, another meeting is scheduled to take place in a few days in Jericho.
The official position of Yair Lapid, the Treasury Secretary and head of the Yesh Atid Party, is that Jerusalem should not be divided. But, not everyone in his party agrees with him. MK Ofer Shelah expressed his opposition this way: “I don’t see an agreement in which the Arabs of Judea and Samaria won’t be able to call east Jerusalem their capital…There won’t be an agreement — and every intelligent person knows this — that isn’t based on the 1967 borders.” The fall-out from that statement has yet to be seen, although with the attitude of our chief negotiator, it might be the handwriting on the wall.
Israeli Minister of Justice, Tzipi Livni, who is also the chief negotiator for Israel, expressed that she would prefer that the Labor Party replace Habayit HaYehudi, which is headed up by Naftali Bennett. In her opinion, “If Labor replaced Habayit Hayehudi, there would be broader support for the negotiations within the government.” Bennett responded to her comments on his Facebook page saying, “Get over it.” Short, simple and to the point.
And, surprisingly, Dalia Rabin, the daughter of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, said she would “not rule out the possibility” that in retrospect, her father might have viewed the Oslo Accords as a mistake. Now, that is a statement worth mulling over.
Turkey and Latkes – Giving thanks on the Festival of Lights
The prophet Micah stated: “Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me.” (Micah 7:8)
Despite his circumstances, Micah focused his thoughts on the light that only God can provide. Clearly, he was thankful in the midst of a difficult situation, surrounded by spiritual darkness. Can we find something for which to be thankful? Certainly!
There is the yearly, worldly Festival of Thanksgiving and a yearly, more spiritual Festival of Lights. On both occasions, we take time to reflect and to be thankful. On rare occasions, the solar cycle and the lunar cycle allow for celebrations to take place in proper sequence (such as Passover preceding Easter, rather than the other way around). Then, there are the exceptional moments, that happen once and, in all probability, will not happen again. Such is the situation with the following, which was received from a long-time friend, who lives in the U.S.:
Hanukkah and Thanksgiving… Turkey and Latkes…
What a great combination!
Hanukkah will be on Thanksgiving this year, for the first time ever, and never again!
We will be celebrating the first night of Chanukah on Thanksgiving, so expect turkey and latkes on the table.
This is the only time it will ever happen, read below to see the explanation!!!
Thanksgiving is set as the fourth Thursday in November, meaning the latest it can be is 11/28.
11/28 is also the earliest Hanukkah can be.
The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7 year cycle. You would therefore expect them to coincide roughly every 19×7 = 133 years.
Looking back, this is approximately correct the last time it would have happened is 1861.
However, Thanksgiving was only formally established by President Lincoln in 1863.
So, it has never happened before. Why won’t it ever happen again?
The reason is because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000 years! This means that while presently Hanukkah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Hanukkah can be is 11/29. The next time Hanukkah falls on 11/28 is 2146, which is a Monday. Therefore, 2013 is the only time Hanukkah will ever overlap with Thanksgiving!!!
Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, then it will slowly move forward through the Gregorian calendar, until it loops all the way back to where it is now.
So, Chanukah would again fall on Thursday, 11/28…in the year 79,811.
Given our trajectory with global warming, it is fair to say humans wont be here then. And if there are no humans, the holidays will be cancelled.
So on November 28th 2013, enjoy your turkey and your latkes. It has never happened before, and it will never happen again.
And That Was The Week that Was.
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:2)
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path…The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:105, 130)
“It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light to the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
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: http://www.twtw.co.il
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