So, who won the election?

Shalom all.

Well, this really IS the land of miracles. And miracles amaze us. Even the media moguls from all sides of the political spectrum were amazed. Why? Because Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving  Prime Minister, is again the front-runner to try to get the nod to set up the next government – for the third time in less than a year. Will he succeed the third time around after failing to succeed the first two times? He is definitely closer to making it happen this time than he was the last two times.

We are definitely a democratic country, with democratic institutions and democratically elected officials. It seems that everyone wanted to vote this time around and all of the final votes won’t be in for another day or two. How else could we explain an election victory for a serving Prime Minister who in two weeks time will be the defendant in a criminal trial where he is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate matters? The results of yesterday’s election was a vote of confidence for a right-wing government. But, yesterday’s numbers left Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the rightist bloc two votes short of a majority. So, although he once again pulled a rabbit out of a non-existing hat, Netanyahu still has his work cut out for him. And as for the criminal trial, the legal system has no choice but to treat him as innocent until proven guilty. 

The consequences of choosing a right-wing government will undoubtedly give impetus to the efforts to curtail the power of the Israeli Supreme Court. It is also a message sent to the government that the people, at least those who will enable such a government to be formed, are in favor of establishing sovereignty in Judea and Samaria (what the world refers to as “the West Bank”). It is on the drawing board, but will not be given serious consideration, or consideration at all, if the needed additional Knesset seats are not found at the bottom of Netanyahu’s hat.

But, as the saying goes: “It ain’t over until it’s over.” And it certainly isn’t over. This morning, the right-wing bloc woke up to 59 out of a needed 61 mandates (seats in the Knesset) for a majority. Along with the unexpected, but nevertheless clear, victory for Netanyahu over Blue and White Party’s Benny Gantz, the Joint List of Arab Parties became the third largest political party, garnering 15 seats and making its mark on the political landscape of Israel. More on that for a later post. As of this writing, with some 97% of the votes counted, the rightist bloc lost one seat (from the Likud Party), dropping its total to 58 and the Joint List gained another seat, giving it a total of 16. Netanyahu needs 3 more seats and he needs to get them from the camps of those who fought tooth and nail to unseat him. He will need all of his experience in negotiation to approach political rivals and attempt to turn enemyship into friendship. All of the political contenders are aware of the fact that Netanyahu will have to make it to the finish line, if we the nation is to avoid a fourth round of very costly elections.

Defection from the Center-Left camp, if it comes, will not come cheaply. Position and power will be the starting price and ideological compromise may follow in its wake. Netanyahu needs to come up with his own “Deal of the Century” in order to make it happen.

There are still some three percent of the votes that need to be counted. So far, Netanyahu is still holding the reins of government, even though it is an interim government. He needs to solidify his position before his trial starts in two weeks. Three times the people of Israel have given him a victory at the polls, although an incomplete victory. God forbid that we would have to go through this a fourth time, as there is absolutely no reason to think that the results would be different from what they were up until now. This is the time for the members of the “other” political parties to do some soul-searching and consider making some compromises of their own for the sake of the nation as a whole. We can’t act properly as a nation if we don’t have a functioning government.

Despite it all, the sun will come out tomorrow. “After all … tomorrow is another day.” (Scarlett O’Hara, in “Gone With the Wind”).

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Prov. 16:7) How much more would this be true of a nation, our nation?

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

It’s Election Day in Israel … Again!

Shalom all.

Some of you may recall or be familiar with the lines from the song “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell, 1966): I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow, it’s cloud’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all“.  Having undergone two cataract operations in the last few weeks, I can definitely relate to seeing “clouds” from both sides, from up and down, and illusions flowing from seeing people like trees walking. Maybe the fuzziness and haze that continued for about a week in each eye helped to avoid my reading all the nonsense that was published in the tabloids about the political rivalries leading up to Israel’s election today. 

Yes, the rumours are true. Israel is having national elections today, for the third time in less than a year. In a few hours time, reporters will be scrambling to put out a story about the election and write about the “anticipated” and “unexpected” results. Eleven months ago, neither of the front-runners – Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu of the Likud Party and retired army General, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party – was able to gain a majority of 61 seats and, therefore, neither one was able to form a government, in line with the way things work here.

Accusations continued to fly across the political spectrum, with finger pointing and accusations of wrong-doing on “the other side”. It is the way of politics, oftentimes focusing more on the dirt of the opponent than on the merits of one pointing the finger.

תנועה
Shlomo Cohen, appearing in Israel Hayom Newspaper     2 March, 2020

The public is tired, frustrated and even angry that we are in round three of elections, with a tinge of anxiety that we may possibly be in for round four.

 

Unless there is a major shift in the party faithful (for whatever party it may be), it is not “expected” that the results of round three will be significantly different from the outcomes of rounds one and two. But, then again, this IS the land of miracles. So, we’ll soon know.

Notwithstanding that two weeks after the election Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be facing the beginning of a criminal trial on charges of alleged bribery, fraud and breach of public trust, he remains confident that the voting public will give him another vote of confidence and allow him to remain Prime Minister, a position that he now holds longer than any P.M. who preceded him.

Benny Gantz is hoping for a large voter turnout, similar to what happened in September, when his supporters turned out in greater numbers than the supporters of Netanyahu. A significant voter turnout will undoubtedly shift the scales of the results one way or another.  Gantz has contended that it would be improper for an indicted Prime Minister to form a new government, a move which would weaken democratic institutions and undermine public confidence in the legal system that would allow this to happen.

And then, there is Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the Yisrael Beytenu (“Israel Home”) Party, who had been referred to as the “king pin” in the last two elections, who could have helped Netanyahu to form a right-wing government. Lieberman is the one blamed for the ongoing political crisis. He was the former Minister of Defense under Netanyahu, who resigned following a major flare-up with the Hamas terror organization two years back. The seats that his party won could have supported Netanyahu or Gantz, but he withheld endorsing either of them because of ideological conflicts. Still, he has pledged that there will not be a fourth election, although the reasons for making such a statement are anything but clear. He has, however, said that there will be “surprises”, which is not a word that is looked upon favorably in political circles. Lieberman has consistently vowed that he would not help form a government that is dependent upon religious parties (right) or the support of the Joint List of Arab partiers (left). He cannot now back-track on either position, as it would spell political doom for his party and, possibly, for him personally. So, what are the surprises? We’ll have to wait and see.

What are the possibilities that will emerge in the next few hours? 

1. Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz will succeed to garner enough votes to enable their respects politcal blocs to form a new government. And, in short order, after another few months of unsuccessful attempts to form a coalition government, we would be headed for a fourth round of elections. In such an event, Netanyahu would continue as the interim Prime Minister, while Gantz would be hard-pressed to go back on his campaign promise not to sit in a government with a Prime Minister under indictment. While not winning the election, Netanyahu will not have lost either. With the possibility of still another election in less than six months and a possible serious health crisis because of the coronavirus, Gantz would be pressed to compromise and fulfil one of his campaign slogans of putting the country first.

2. Netanyahu and the right-wing bloc (Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yamina Parties) could together generate enough votes to have a majority. But, he would probably face legal challenges that would cause the victory to be short-lived, unless he can somehow stymie the legal establishment and prevent his ouster.

3. Gantz and a left-wing coalition of parties (Blue and White, Labor, Gesher and Meretz) could gain the most votes, but not enough to form a majority government. Gantz might choose to form a minority government (fewer than 61 seats) without the Joint Arab List of Parties, whose existence will constantly be threatened by Likud and the right. However, this possibility would not appear very likely.

4. Blue and White (Gantz) become the largest party, short of a majority, but the need to form a government to avert another election will press Gantz to compromise with Netanyahu and for a unity government – not ideal for either of the front-runners, but workable. The open question would be whether Netanyahu can remain a member of the Knesset if he is convicted, or if the legal manoeuvring will allow him to keep his position until the next, regularly-scheduled election.

There are, of course, other possible outcomes. We’ve seen them happen in the past, notwithstanding campaign pledges and ideologies “etched in stone”. But, we are not yet at the point when the lion will lie down with the lamb. For now, we continue to pray for wisdom and for a resolution to the political stalemate that has caused our government to be in a holding pattern until one side runs out of gas or we’re given a clear runway for us to get back on track. With the polls set to close shortly, it may be a long night before we know whether we will wake up to another Groundhog Day.

‘Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ (Deuteronomy 1:13)

“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll [a]in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his [c]countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

The “Deal of the Century”

Shalom all,

The long-awaited Peace Plan (“the Plan) of President Donald Trump was revealed this evening (7:00 p.m. Israel time). President Trump was accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as both men entered the hall and delivered their presentations to repeated applause and standing ovations. There was a lot of name recognition, position recognition and nation recognition, as part and parcel of the introductory and closing remarks of both President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During the course of his presentation, Trump stated to a very receptive audience: I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems.”  

The Plan itself is a multi-page document, which is attached. It appears to be presented in the form of a business agreement, stating how each side would benefit from it and what are the requirements, particularly from the “Palestinian” side, to establishing statehood and receiving recognition and support from the United States. It contains territorial division maps and a lot of historical and social explanation, as well as what could pass for an economic business plan. The essential content and terms, referred to by both Trump and Netanyahu in their speeches, are to be found in different locations and some of them are expressed plainly. That does not mean that all that glitters is gold. In the rush to “make a deal”, we may not fully apprehend what are the short-term and long-term pitfalls that are hidden in the document.Trump’s Peace Plan

Trump expressed that it is the best plan that was ever presented in an attempt to bring about an end to the Israeli-“Palestinian” conflict. Netanyahu said he is willing to embrace it and enter into peace negotiations with the “Palestinians” on the basis of that Plan.

A lot was said, some points were laid out, others remain to be read, interpreted, argued over and worked out. The aspects of the plan that were expressed are clear. The written language will take some time to understand, to digest and, if accepted, to implement. Acceptance and implementation are the two problem areas. Opposition has already been expressed by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the President of the “Palestinian” Authority (P.A.), as well as by the leadership of Hamas. Within an hour of the conclusion of the Plan’s presentation, Abu Mazen said to his advisors: “I never pushed myself to die, but I am prepared to die for my nation.” Earlier, he said that “Jerusalem is not for sale, the conspiracy will fail.” In one of Israel’s Hebrew dailies today, Abu Mazen was quoted as saying that in the few remaining years of his life, he would not want to be considered a traitor. That is, he would not depart from the ways of his predecessors, who refused to come to terms with the State of Israel that would necessitate a recognition of it. He would rather die as a martyr than be remembered as a traitor. In typical fashion, his threats are like clouds without water. However, there is widespread outrage within the P.A. over the terms and conditions of the Plan, which was rejected by the P.A. long before the details were released. Demonstrations have already started in the streets of Gaza and Ramallah, and ambulances arrived at different places to treat some of those who were injured while taking part in the demonstrations. In addition, before the television broadcast was over, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued a security alert and travel advisory.

The major points include some of the following, that is part of the proposed two-state resolution of the conflict:

1. Jerusalem will continue to be the undivided (emphasized by Trump) capital of the State of Israel;

2. Israel will agree to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state, whose capital will be in parts of East Jerusalem and whose area size will be approximately double its present size;

3. Establishment of the “Palestinian” state is conditioned on guarantees of security conditions for Israel;

4. The various parts of the “Palestinian” state will be connected by roads, bridges and tunnels;

5. The establishment of the “Palestinian” state is conditioned on the “Palestinians” ending their terrorist activities and taking steps towards self-government, including recognising man’s dignity and human rights, freedom of the press and setting up reliable institutions without corruption;

6. The Hamas terrorist organization is to be disarmed and Gaza is to be completely demilitarized. This is a non-starter, as the very basis of its existence is to eliminate the State of Israel;

7. The “Palestinian” refugee problem is to be resolved “outside the State of Israel”;

8. The P.A. is to cease brain-washing school children and teaching them to hate. This is like asking the leopard to change its spots;

9. All of the settlements in Judea and Samaria will be annexed by, and made part of, Israel;

10. Israel will freeze new, settlement construction for a period of four years, in exchange for the U.S. recognizing all of the settlements in Judea and Samaria;

11. The Jordan Valley will be annexed by Israel, giving the country complete security control west of the Jordan River. This will not sit well with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and could jeopardise the “peace treaty” that exists between Israel and Jordan;

12. Religious sites are to remain accessible to all faiths;

13. The status quo is to remain regarding the Temple Mount.

There are, of course, other aspects to the Plan, which will not be discussed at this time, including financial considerations that are intended to be beneficial to the “Palestinians”.

The Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza, one of Iran’s proxies, wasted no time in denouncing the Plan, calling it both “aggressive” and “nonsense”, adding: “The ‘Palestinians’ will confront this deal and Jerusalem will remain a ‘Palestinian’ land.” 

The Israeli cabinet will also meet this coming Sunday to vote on applying Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in Judea and Samaria.

There is no denying that President Trump’s presentation was very pro-Israel. This was clear when he stated, in part: “It is time for the Muslim world to correct the mistake they made in 1948 when they chose to attack and not recognize the State of Israel.” However, he took time to express concern for the “Palestinian” people and indicated that the Plan is designed to help them achieve their potential. The Plan and the way it was presented goes far to remove the incentive of the “Palestinians” to refuse its terms. But, as in the past, the likelihood is that the “Palestinians” will pull out all the stops to cause the Plan to fail. Somewhere along the line, there will be an attempt to twist what was offered to them into an accusation against Israel.

There is reaction to the Plan on the Israel side, as well. Some ministers object to the establishment of a terror state in the heart of the country and to the giving away of Israeli territory. One Member of Knesset said that the Plan is “light and darkness mixed up”.

When it was Netanyahu’s turn to speak, he was all smiles and thankful to Trump and everyone else who was involved in the preparation of the Plan. His presentation was overly “schmaltzy” (excessively complimentary) and he bent over backwards to say how much he was in favor of the Plan and would work to implement some of it immediately. His statement that he was willing to negotiate with the ‘Palestinians” on the basis of that Plan goes contrary to his earlier promises that a “Palestinian” state would not be established on his watch.

What is clear is that the “Deal of the Century” needs to be carefully studied and its implications fully understood. This will not be an easy task. In the final analysis, I am doubtful that the Plan in its present form will be fully acceptable to any of the parties involved. For Israel, there are dangers in allowing a “Palestinian” state, or any enemy state, to exist in its midst. A simple glance at the map of Israel and the proposed division should speak for itself. Some things are so evident that trying to make the obvious explicit will only confuse matters.

Then there is the aspect of Prime Minister Netanyahu being willing to give away what has been entrusted to the nation of Israel by the One who has established us as a people. (Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:7-8; Deut. 1:8). There will be a serious accounting for dividing God’s land (see Joel 3:2).

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7) If this is true on an individual level, how much more true would it be on a national level? Woe to us if our ways are NOT pleasing to the LORD. A piece of paper, however lengthy and detailed it may be, will not create the conditions for a lasting peace. Only a changed heart will accomplish that.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Seventy-five years ago…

Shalom all.

Seventy-five years ago, the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was liberated. With each passing year, the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles. In a handful of years, there will be no more survivors. Our responsibility to the future: Remember the past and learn from it!

Last week, an impressive list of world leaders gathered at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, in Jerusalem, as part of the Fifth World Holocaust Forum. In addition to representatives from Israel, the participants included U.S. Vice-President, Mike Pence, and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prince Charles of Great Britain, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Council President Charles Michelas, as well as the presidents of Bulgaria, Romania, Finland, Georgia, Cyprus and Bosnia and Herzegovina, just to name a few.

Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, spoke to the world leaders at a special reception and urged them to “stand united in the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and extremism, in defending democracy and democratic values. This is the call of our time. This is our challenge. This is our choice.” The words are inspiring and the encouragement is absolutely necessary. Is our generation able to learn from the past? Does it want to learn from the past? Or will we put our hands over our ears, our mouths and our eyes, symbolically saying we will “hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil”? When our hands are removed, will we again allow evil to reign supreme and continue to tear our world apart?

During the past year, so-called “hate crimes” have increased world-wide. Incidents of anti-semitism have become daily events. The historical record exists. The Holocaust happened. Six million Jews were killed as part of the Nazi plan to rid the world of all Jews. Amazingly, in our day, some still try to blame the Jew for every evil under the sun. And along with that, hatred increases, anti-Semitism increases, violence increases and there are widespread attempts to deny that the Holocaust happened. For others who acknowledge the Holocaust, there is an attempt to downplay the role that nations played in cooperating with the Nazis. Poland enacted laws making it a crime to accuse that country of active involvement in the murder of Jews during World War II. That created a political rift between Israel and Poland – a rift that still exists and is not easily healed. 

Nevertheless, at a ceremony at the notorious Auschwitz Concentration Camp marking the 75th anniversary of its liberation, Israeli President Rivlin made it very clear that while many Poles fought against the Nazis, it is also true that “many … aided in the murder of Jews.” Polish President Andrzej Duda also spoke, stating, in part: “Distorting the history of World War II, denying the crimes of genocide and the Holocaust as well as an instrumental use of Auschwitz to attain any given goal is tantamount to desecration of the memory of the victims whose ashes are scattered here…The truth about the Holocaust must not die.” He did not try to deny what happened, but he did try to avoid Poland’s responsibility for it, keeping with the present Polish narrative that the genocide against the Jewish people was “perpetrated here [in Poland] by the functionaries of the Nazi Third Reich”, which also targeted Poles, as well as Jews and others and that Poles were forced by the Nazis to carry out crimes against the Jews. 

Respectfully addressing the responsibility of Poland during the war, Rivlin appropriately said: “Nazi Germany was the one who initiated, planned and carried out the genocide of the Jewish people in Poland, as well as in other places, and it bears full responsibility for its actions … [adding] We also remember, in great horror, that it received significant aid in its murderous actions throughout all of Europe, and this too requires accepting responsibility.”

During my recent trip to Poland this past September, I was specifically asked whether I blieved that Poland also bore responsibility for the deaths of Jews during the Holocaust. When I answered “yes”, it generated a number of discussions and attempts by locals to negate that many Poles acted voluntarily and wilfully in aiding the Nazis. I mentioned, as a case in point, what the Poles did to the Jews in Jedwabne  including the incidents mentioned in the book “Neighbors“, which is also available on Amazon.

Speaking at the gathering at Yad Vashem last week, Germany’s President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier again publicly acknowledged Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust, stating, in part: “Germany’s historical responsibility will not expire…We want to live up to it — and you should judge us on it.” He added: “I wish I could say that we Germans have learned from our history once and for all, but I cannot say that when hatred is spreading…I stand before you and wish I could say that our remembrance has made us immune to evil…Yes, we Germans remember. But sometimes it seems as if we understand the past better than the present.” 

His admission and confession gave impetus to the historic apology yesterday (Sunday) of Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, on behalf of the Dutch government, saying “Too little protection. Too little help. Too little acknowledgement.” He was referring to Holland’s failure to protect her Jewish citizens from Nazi persecution. He added that officials of the Dutch government willingly carried out orders of the German occupiers and failed to act when “a group of fellow citizens was singled out, excluded, and dehumanized under a murderous regime.”

I am all in favor of apologies for wrongs committed. If one messes up in public, he should “fess up” in public. But, if the apology is not followed by action and behavior that gives meaning and significance to the apology, then it is nothing more than a verbal attempt at public appeasement. Countries and organizations have apologized for their actions and shortcomings towards the Jews, both during and after WWII. And now, we are seeing, and experiencing, an ugly re-emergence of Jew hatred and anti-Semitism (which never disappeared), even within the halls of different governments. Their mouths remain unchecked. Their behavior remains unpunished and their deadly poison continues to spread. How much is “enough”?  History is being perverted by individuals and organizations that deny the Holocaust, an effort that is “a vile assault on the memory of the six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany and its accomplices, a depraved twisting of the anti-Semitic knife. We must be unstinting in our efforts to keep the memory of our lost relatives – and the historical record – alive.”

If you are offended by what appears in the social media, say so. But, first ask yourself why you are offended by it. If you are offended by gross distortions of facts by public officials, whose salaries are paid by the public, say so. If historical truth is important to you, say so. But, make the effort not to offend in return.

The classic text attributed to Martin Niemöller is still valid today:  

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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 will cease from being a nation before Me forever.” (Jeremiah 31:35-36)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

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

Eliminating a Piece of History … and Family

When our two oldest children were in 12th grade, they had the unique opportunity to go to Poland with their school and to see various concentration camps, such as Auschwitz and Maidanek. They were hoping that during their visit to Poland, they would have a chance to go to Ostrolenka, the village that my parents came from and which the Krymkiewicz family had lived in from around at least the early 1800’s (as far as we know). It is located about 100 km north of Warsaw.

Yesterday, my wife and I had the opportunity to go to, and to speak, among other things, about Messiah Yeshua in different places in Poland, including Ostrolenka (now Ostroleka). The first Krymkiewicz (now Kramer) family member to return in 80 years. The city changed a lot during this time. It was founded in the 14th century and over the next few centuries, it thrived. By the early 1900’s, the Jewish community there was the third largest in the Lomza region and had a high degree of economic and cultural achievement. In 1939, the Jewish population of the village grew to 5,000 out of a total population of 12,000.

In mid-August, 1939, my parents were able to leave Poland and made their way to America. Two weeks later, the Nazis invaded Poland and by the end of Succot, 1939, Ostrolenka was occupied by the Germans. Jews were attacked physically. Their property was taken and the Jewish community was given only three days to leave the village and cross into the area occupied by Soviet Russia. During this time of expulsion, the Jewish half of the city’s population was killed, or scattered to different areas around Ostrolenka, or sent to concentration camps. The destinations of most of them are unknown. The details of those who were shot by death squads in the streets or in forests, or who died in forced marches, or who were immediately sent to the gas chambers, were not written down. Only the testimonies of some of those who survived the war are able to put a few of the pieces together. Today, there is no Jewish presence there.

The Nazis sought to eliminate the Jews of Ostrolenka (the entire Jewish community was destroyed). The German soldiers destroyed the sizeable Jewish cemetery. Locals removed pieces of the gravestones for their personal use – insult was added to injury. The cemetery was paved and some shallow foundations were erected on the site, the construction of which appeared not to damage the underground tombs. Between the Nazis and the locals, there was an effort to eliminate a portion of the history of Ostrolenka. Years later, a memorial monument, dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Ostrolenka, was set up close to the place where the cemetery once existed. A school and parking area was built over most of the place where the very large Jewish cemetery of Ostrolenka once used to be. PHOTO (1) 2019-09-23PHOTO (2) 2019-09-23.jpg

Three of my grandparents were buried there and generations of my family who preceded them. Not one of their gravestones remains. A portion of my family’s history has been wiped out, as if it never existed.

The latest news of yesterday, 23 September, 2019, regarding the cemetery land that was destroyed, but still not built upon, indicates that tractors are digging in the cemetery to clear land for the preparation of a main sewer line. In the process, the  excavation of the land is uncovering human bones from destroyed graves. It has been reported in a Hebrew site that these works are part of a project being funded by the EU.  The quiet of the grave and the repose of the dead should not lightly to be disturbed. There is a sanctity to the remains of those who have gone before, who have laid the foundations of a multitude of societies, not the least of which was the Jewish community in Ostrolenka. Today, a tiny memorial remains, a part of which is made up of pieces of different gravestones, none of which are identifiable. The remains of Jewish people who helped to found, build and enable Ostrolenka to flourish over hundreds of years, along with all Jewish life in the city, literally disappeared almost overnight.

We were taken to Ostrolenka by our hosts, a Polish evangelical husband and wife, who have a genuine love for Israel and for the Jewish people. After I recited Kaddish (a prayer of praise to God, customarily recited by Jewish people after the death of relatives) in Aramaic in the place where the Jewish cemetery once stood, the son of that couple, who wanted to come with us, read the Kaddish in Polish. We all shed many tears over the loss caused by demonic hatred. Ostrolenka, indeed, all of Poland, needs to repent and ask forgiveness from God for its actions towards the Jewish people. Yes, there were righteous gentiles, who will reap the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. And some of them were our hosts, who said “Am Yisrael Chai. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has called and blessed the Jewish people and He will regather them and restore them for His glory.”

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

The Aftermath of the Attack on Avivim – Now What?

Is everybody happy? Well, at least on the surface of things, it would appear to be so. The Prime Minister of Lebanon, Hariri, is happy that he was able to successfully get other countries to intervene in the cross-border incident yesterday that was started from his country. He continues to try to portray himself as a moderate and a voice of reason in Lebanon. Hezbollah chief mucky-muck, Nasrallah, on the other hand, who is the furthest thing from a moderate voice in Lebanon, was able to make good on his promise to take revenge for the killing of two Hezbollah fighters in the region south of Damascus, Syria, and Israel Prime Minister, Netanyahu, was happy that the incident ended with no injuries and that Israel’s military response was both immediate and sufficient. He handled the incident yesterday in a cool and calm manner, which also helped further his image as the only player in Israeli politics who can guarantee the security of the country. So, the three of them all had reasons for being happy. Everything returned to normal last night and continues today, including the unceasing tension on the northern front.

Now what? Where do we go from here? Let’s keep in mind the real players in the incidents of the past week: Behind the plans and activities of Shiite Hezbollah terrorists are the Mullahs of Iran, who are financing their Lebanese proxy and supplying them with weaponry. They won’t give up on their program to increase in stature in the region, in power and in influence. And, more significantly, Iran will not give up on its goal to generate a multitude of precision missiles, primarily for use against Israel and particularly through its Hezbollah proxy.  On the other side of the literal border is Israel, who will not yield to Iran’s efforts at self-aggrandisement, nor to Hezbollah aggression towards Israel.

Again, where do we go from here? Nasrallah-la-la will undoubtedly thrust himself back into the limelight (when he comes out from hiding in his bunker to speak) and take credit for standing good on his promise. He’ll boast of the heroism of the Hezbollah and invent a few “facts” along the way, that may include injury to IDF personnel, in addition to causing serious damage to property of the IDF. Indeed, only an hour or so before preparing this post, a reporter for the Hezbollah said that the celebrations that were taking place in Beirut were because of the “victory over the Israeli enemy”, adding that  the “Hezbollah has changed the equation [and] now Israel is the one who is deterred.” Nu, this spin on reality is what can be expected by an enemy who starts a fight and then asks other to intervene to stop it, when the one it attacked fights back!

On the Israeli end, by God’s grace, there were no injuries, civilian or military. In this regard, we received a report from a member of our congregation, who was serving with the IDF in the area of Avivim yesterday, when the Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles to the abandoned military outpost in that area. She reported that three missiles were fired at a military ambulance in which she and others were present, adding: “My team and I were in this ambulance. By God’s grace we were able to get out healthy and whole. This was truly simply a miracle that happened there! God is great!”

Israel accomplished what it wanted to do, both earlier in the week as well as in yesterday’s incident, revealing once again its ability to pinpoint the targets and eliminate them.  A senior military source said that the IDF “carried out simultaneous attacks in Syria and other areas”, as it was necessary to take such action within a limited time frame. That source added that the IDF acted “as precisely in as many arenas as we planned, including in that possible enemy reactions. We are prepared for war but do not need it, as the event we carried out in Lebanon proved.” Thus, although prepared for continued and wider and widening military action, Israel was also satisfied that yesterday’s events ended quickly and that things were able to return to “normal”. 

So, Iran is determined and will not walk away from a seeming setback in its ability to manufacture precision weapons. Nasrallah-la-la and his sizeable band of terrorists will continue to threaten Israel until push comes to shove and they will need to put their people to the test. Israel will not stand by, as it did not stand by, and allow either of them to manufacture precision weapons for use against Israel and to do so within a short striking distance in Syria or Lebanon. Israel may have to go beyond surgical strikes to demonstrate that such aggressive action planned against Israel comes with a price to pay. We should be careful not to think that “returning to normal” is the end of the story of yesterday’s incident. Realistically, it could be the beginning of a new one.

The efforts to manufacture of precision weaponry for use by Iran or the Hezbollah necessitated a re-directed planning by Israel how to deal with the threat of such missiles. Next to the problem of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, the manufacture and potential use of them now appears to rank second in the list of concerns of the Israel military establishment, particularly in “the northern front”. Additional concerns remain preventing Iran from gaining a solid foothold in enemy countries in the region, both to our immediate north and northeast, as well as to the southeast. Accordingly, Israel’s plans need to encompass all of those areas for multi-front engagement, if and when the time comes. As one senior security source stated: “In light of developments and situation assessments, it was decided three months ago that the precision missile project would be given high priority, because of the immediate danger it poses. The military echelons were informed of this decision…We cannot afford to be surrounded by thousands of precision missiles that could land and harm the State of Israel.”

Yes, we’re happy. Because this is a day that the LORD has made. We WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” (Job 12:13)

“Give [our leadership] wisdom and knowledge, that [it] may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Cross-Border Live Fire

In his speech yesterday, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the terrorist organization, Hezbollah, said that his organization would respond to Israel’s destruction of precision missiles supplied to the Hezbollah by Iran through Syria. Of course, it was not described that way by Nasrallah.

Irrespective of the wording that he used, the Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles into the north of Israel in the region of Kibbutz Avivim, located slightly to the N.W. of Safed, which is slightly to the N.W. of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee (see photo).Israel_outline_northeast Bomb shelters in certain northern areas were ordered to be opened, roads to the north were closed and the IDF returned artillery fire to the points in Lebanon where the the missiles launchers were located. The Hermon Regional Council instructed residents to pay attention to the news media.

Cabinet Minister Yoav Galant said in an interview over Army Radio: “If we get to the point where they fire on Israeli cities and try to harm civilians and children, we will return Lebanon to the Stone Age, and everything resulting from it.” As of this writing, the Israeli Airforce responded against two areas in southern Lebanon, which were also areas of heavy fighting during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. An Israeli commando unit is now operating on the northern border with Lebanon.

As of a few minutes ago, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad El-Hariri requested the United States and France to intervene to stop the escalation.

The action is still ongoing. When you receive this, please take some time to pray regarding the situation, for wisdom for the leaders of Israel and strength and protection for those who are on the front lines at the moment, protecting the civilian population of Israel.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

Multi-Front Rumblings

Multi-Front Mumblings

It’s been a while since I’ve written. The intention does not always line up with the time availability. As the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote in 1786: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” No, things don’t always work out the way we plan. Well, the summer is fading and challenges both old and new face our country.

The up-coming election

Much of the last few months have focused on politics: Israelis will be going to the  polls on 17 September, for an unprecedented national election for the second time in one year. For many reasons, this could be one of the most significant elections for this young country since the early 1980s, when Menachem Begin was elected. We are reminded daily by the media of how many days remain until the election and what the pollsters are saying. The country appears to be as divided as it was before the earlier election, but is leaning towards another victory for the Likud party (headed up by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu). However, even if we work on the presumption that Netanyahu’s party will succeed to get the most votes, they will be far short from what is necessary to form a new government. For this, he will need the assistance of other parties, all from the political right, to form a right-wing coalition government. This will be a replay of what occurred following the last elections, only with the players slight re-aligned. Still, if all of the political parties (and their leaders) that were potential coalition partners in the last election remain in the picture after the next election, the problems that prevented the formation of the government earlier in the year will still exist. The big question is how many seats the “right” will get, again presuming a Netanyahu victory. It needs to be at least 61 to be given the nod to form a new government and probably closer to 70 in order to overcome the issues that prevented the formation of a coalition government the first time around and delay potential prosecution on various criminal charges that loom large in the question. It’s been said that politics makes for strange bedfellows. We’re beginning to see some of that take place. More on these issues to follow.

To Allow Entry or Not to Allow Entry – that “was” the Question

As has been widely reported in world-wide media, about two weeks ago, Israel refused to allow entry to the country of two US Congresswomen – Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. They were not an official, government-sponsored delegation, but were on a personal mission to condemn Israel and further BDS efforts to promote Israel’s destruction. Ironically, Israel’s democracy allows its elected members to the Knesset to speak against it and even call for its termination. Would the U.S. allow members of its Congress to call for the destruction of America? Such efforts would be immediately condemned on both sides of the Congressional isle, accompanied by calls for removal of those “representatives”. 

In this particular situation, “the Squad”, as these two women, along with two others, have come to be known, have made it their mission and goal to challenge Israel’s right to exist, something they would not even try to do regarding the United States. They seek to be playing both sides against the middle – advocating the demise of an American ally, while giving the appearance of doing so as a patriotic endeavor.

Israel was in a no-win situation regarding the Tlaib and Omar fiasco. Are we as a country strong enough to absorb their baseless, un-factual diatribes? Of course, we are. Should we have allowed them to come in after all? The jury is still out on that one and opinions here and in the U.S. are divided. Still, it is the right of every sovereign nation to determine who will be allowed to enter its borders and it is within the proper exercise of

The Dry Bones Blog-19 August, 2018
The Dry Bones Blog-19 August, 2018

that country’s discretion to determine whether that person is friend or foe. In this case, the determination is clear. The purpose of their trip was to meet with Israel’s enemies and not with any officials of the Israeli government. Tlaib’s protestations that Israel prevented her from seeing her grandmother was nothing but another fiction, whose bubble was popped when she was offered that opportunity by the Israeli government, but decided not to accept it. 

Israel took a firm stand to refuse to allow supporters of the BDS movement to spew their antisemitism and hostile, false accusations against Israel and to do so on Israeli soil. Some viewed our decision as being undemocratic and a slap in the face to the U.S. government. Fear should not be the basis of our national policies. We did what was right, even if it ruffled the feathers of politicos on both sides of the Big Muddy. The split that was created in US-Israel relations as a result of refusing entry to Tlaib and Omar is not as critical as some would try to argue. Our relationship is based on years of cooperation and understanding. We’ve weathered other storms, particularly during the Obama years, and this one will pass as well. As we say here: “We got over Pharaoh, we’ll get over this!”

On the northern front

Tensions continue to build along our norther border with Lebanon. following Israel’s attack on the outskirts of Damascus at the beginning of this week, preventing an armed drone attack from there to points in Israel. Between Saturday and Sunday of last weekend, there were two military actions: one against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards cell on the outskirts of Damascus and the other, inside Lebanon. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the terrorist organization, Hezbollah, tried to downplay the events, particularly the successful attack on Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and focused more on the events in Syria, while threatening retaliation. As a result of last weekend’s activities, the IDF revealed considerable details about the Hezbollah’s project to produce precision missiles, with the assistance of Iran.

The Dry Bones Blog-26 August, 2019

In a speech by Nasrallah today, he indicated that a response from the Hezbollah can come from anywhere in Lebanon. He asserted that even though the Hezbollah does not have a factory for the production of precision weapons, the organization has enough of them for any confrontation. 

As mentioned in prior posts, the next war will be a mess, with a potential for a multi-front war that includes Lebanon and Syria in the north, now possibly joined by Iraq, and Hamas from the Gaza Strip. The IDF has responded to the threats from Nasrallah, saying that it is prepared for any scenario. In the meantime, the IDF closed off the air space over the Golan Heights, which, apparently, will remain closed at least for the next week. It has also moved tanks and artillery to points north. This is a time for cool heads to make decisions here. A small spark can create a major conflagration.

“I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!” (Isaiah 38:5)

“Yet their Redeemer is strong; the LORD Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause so that he may bring rest to their land, but unrest to those who live in Babylon.” (Jeremiah 50:34)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Have a good week.

Marvin

When I thought there were no more tears … I was wrong!

A siren sounded last night, signalling the beginning of Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism. This morning, another siren sounded for two minutes, as Israel came to a standstill in honor of honor of 23,646 soldiers who had fallen and 3,134 victims of terror. People stood in silent remembrance in the streets, in office buildings, in homes and in public transportation. Even on the highways, when the sirens sounded, cars pulled over to the side, people exited their vehicles and stood until the sirens faded. This is always a tough time for most Israelis, but extremely so for those who lost loved ones through military conflict or terrorist activities. And every year, the number increases. 

I left work early today, so that I could watch and listen to some of the stories that would still be broadcast over Israeli TV. All “entertainment” programming was cancelled until sundown tonight. By this time of the day, after watching documentaries and news clips and after listening to the songs and music, some old and some newly written in commemoration of some of the fallen, I thought that my tears had dried up. I was wrong. There was one segment that was put together towards the end of Memorial Day that dealt with the stories of three “lone soldiers” , who were killed in the 2014 Gaza War (Tzuk Eytan). One of stories caused tears to well up, as if they were stored away and kept for this moment. They flowed as my mind and thoughts were brought back to remembrances of the funeral that I attended in Haifa for one of the soldiers.

The following is a portion of the blog that I wrote almost five years ago, related to that event:

Israel mourns for her sons.
This past Saturday night, after the Shabbat was over and we began a new week (“there was evening and there was morning, one day), Israeli troops were battling in Shejaiya, one of the major Hamas, terrorist strongholds in Gaza. An armored personnel carrier (“APC”) was struck by an anti-tank missile, killing First Sergeant Nissim Sean Carmeli and others. They were among the 13 of the soldiers, all members of the elite Golani unit, who were killed that night.

Four Israeli soldiers had already been killed. But, the news that an additional 13 were killed throughout the night of fighting was a jolt to the nation. It was a major loss for a small country like Israel. Everyone felt the pain of loss. Slowly, the identities of the slain soldiers were released and they included two who also held American citizenship, Max Steinberg, 24, originally from Woodland Hills, California, and Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, who had lived in South Padres Island, Texas, where his parents still reside (note: they have since returned to live in Israel). Both Steinberg and Carmeli were considered as “lone soldiers”, meaning, generally speaking, that they do not have parents to go home to when they are on a break from the army.

Efforts were made by some to portray Shejaiya as a peaceful “neighborhood” community until the present fighting erupted. In reality, however, Shejaiya is one of Hamas’ active locations, from which over 140 rockets were fired into Israel in 13 days. The openings to at least 10 terror tunnels are located there, tunnels that Hamas used for the purpose of smuggling weapons, for launching missiles at Israel civilians and for infiltrating into Israel to attempt to slaughter civilians communities and to kidnap Israelis. Rocket launchings against Israel took place from a mosque, a hospital and a children’s playground, while a rocket facility was also located in a cemetery – all within the confines of Shejaiya. Notwithstanding Israel’s attempts to reduce the number of civilian casualties, the residents of Shejaiya were ordered by Hamas not to leave and were used by Hamas as human shields.

The above is mentioned as background information. The fighting in Shejaiya continues, along with the missiles fired from Gaza.

The funeral of Max Steinberg is set for tomorrow, Wednesday, on Mt. Herzl, in Jerusalem. The funeral of Nissim Sean Carmeli took place Monday night, in Haifa.

“Lord, please stir the hearts of people to attend the funeral.”

When I heard that Carmeli’s funeral was going to take place in the Military Cemetery in Haifa, I knew I needed to go. I was not related to him and never heard of him until Monday. But, it was important for me to be there. This was reinforced when the evening news said that a message was sent out over the social media, saying that Sean (as he was referred to by his friends) was a fan of a certain Haifa soccer team. Inasmuch as he was a “long soldier”, those who published the notice said that there was a concern that there would be a light turnout for his funeral and urged fans of the same soccer team to attend. The funeral was originally scheduled for 9:00 p.m., but for various reasons was changed to 11:00 p.m. The evening news showed a photo and shared a little background information. My heart was broken and I didn’t even try to hold back the tears. He was just 21, older than my youngest son and younger than my oldest son. His parents were arriving from the U.S.

I left for the funeral at 10:00 p.m., a 10-12 minute drive. I prayed as I got into the car, “Lord, please stir the hearts of people to attend the funeral. Let them come and honor this son of Israel as he is laid into the ground. Let his family know that although he was considered a ‘lone soldier’, he was not alone.”  When I arrived in the area, the police had already set up barricades and cars seemed to come from every direction. It took me half an hour to find a space at a distance of a 20-minute walk from the cemetery. A few people here and some there, we were all headed in the same direction. As we got closer to the cemetery, the crowds grew larger.

It was already packed when I arrived. I ended up close to the place where the service was being held, but I couldn’t see anything. I really didn’t need to see the event. I’ve seen too many of them. I’ve listened to too many eulogies, with the broken hearts of family and friends and the messages interrupted by crying. I’ve listened to too many fathers reciting “Kadish” (Aramaic for “holy”, a hymn of praises of God that is part of the Jewish prayer service, as well as at funerals). I’ve heard too many local officials and politicians praising a deceased person, whom they never met. I didn’t need to see the ceremony. There were loudspeakers that would broadcast the event. I looked around and saw that people were still coming, a seemingly never ending stream of people. Some tried to get closer to the platform and managed to slightly push (but, not offensively) others to get to a better vantage point. There were no arguments, no shoving and no yelling. Just a multitude of people, coming to pay their respects to Sean. There were men and women, soldiers from every type of military unit, those with rank and those without, police, teenagers and septuagenarians, religious and secular, Jew and non-Jew, all who came “from Dan to Beer Sheva” to respect and honor and pay their last respects to a “lone soldier”, who united a nation. He was everyone’s son, everyone’s brother. He gave his life so that we, as a nation, would live. A national hero, who was not known, except by a handful of those who came. When it seemed that there was no more room to move forward, people somehow still managed to work their way towards the front.

As the vehicle bringing the coffin arrived at the entrance to the cemetery around 11:30 p.m., the person in charge of the funeral service requested that the crowd “make a path” for the coffin and family. Within seconds, people moved to the sides, clearing a path for the pallbearers and honor guard. It was like watching the Red Sea being divided, only with walls of people, instead of water. We were about 8-10 rows deep and although I couldn’t get close to the platform where the service was to be held, I was in the front row of the wall of people. I saw the dignitaries pass by, followed by the pallbearers with the coffin, draped with the Israeli flag, followed by members of Sean’s family. The crowd, which had kept their conversations on a low volume, was visibly moved. Crying could be heard from many. The heat and the long wait began to take its toll on some and the paramedics were kept busy, taking care of some who became dehydrated or who passed out.

The ceremony continued. The coffin was lowered into the ground and covered over. Wreaths were placed on the fresh grave by representatives of two municipalities. Eulogies were given. The command “fire” was sounded three times, as the flash from the rifles punctuated the night. The ceremony was over and people began to make their way to the exit, slowly, with a sense of walking together as family. In the midst of the multitude, I met a brother-in-the-Lord, an Arab-Israeli, native of Haifa, who pastors a Messianic Jewish congregation here. We’ve known each other about 30 years and joked as we walked, saying that we tend to meet each other most of the time while attending a funeral. His children all served or serve in the IDF.

It was reported that over 30,000 people had attended the funeral of someone they didn’t know, someone that they wanted to honor, someone who enabled Israel to demonstrate how much it is a community that values life and mourns with those who mourn. We wept yesterday many times during the funerals held for our sons who were no more. We wept for a “lone son”, whose death while defending this country drew us together as his family. We will weep again tomorrow for our other sons. 

As of this writing, 28 of our sons have given their lives during the 15 days of this latest war. All who serve give something, while some who serve give everything. May their memories be blessed.

As the TV segment dealing with the deaths of the three lone soldiers concluded,  the mother of one of the other lone soldiers said that while she was attending the funeral of her son, she asked herself how it was that so many people were in attendance, people whom she didn’t know and who did not know her son personally. The response was, “He was everyone’s son.” That’s the spirit of the nation, the spirit that unites, that encourages, that says we can, despite all the odds.

Hollywood can’t compare to real life. Every year, we see, hear or read stories about those who were killed by war or terrorism. In Israel, every such loss is like losing a member of the family and every effort is made to go behind the numbers and show the victims as individuals. The tears that flow from these stories can fill the Sea of Galilee! They touch the lives of families in every strata of society. These are the true reality shows that make an impact on our hearts, our minds and our memories. We don’t need a history class to remind us of national tragedies, or of attempts to destroy us as a people throughout our Biblical, and more modern, history. We need a release from the tears of the past, as well as from the present. So it is no major surprise that Memorial Day is followed immediately by Independence Day, a time to celebrate new life, a new beginning – as a people, as a nation, as families and as individuals. 

At sundown today, we switched gears. Our national day of mourning turned to joy, as we began to celebrate our 71st year of national independence. Celebrating life is part of our national DNA. It is part and parcel of our national resiliency. It causes us to try to turn sorrow into joy and crying into laughter. It enables us to look with anticipation to the future and not to dwell on the difficulties of the past. It is engrained in the attitude that allows us to keep going forward and to see the good even in a bad situation. It appropriates the understanding that a cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). So, when we have an opportunity to celebrate, we take it seriously.

Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30.5).

Rejoice with us! Celebrate with us!

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Am Yisrael Chai!

“In every generation our enemies rise against us to destroy us.”The Dry Bones Blog-30:04:2019 (from the Passover Haggadah, the booklet that is used to guide participants in celebrating the Passover Seder) And so, in every generation, each of us needs to consider himself as though he had survived the Holocaust.

 

There always will be those who do not want to remember that the Holocaust is a fact of history. For some, like Iran and other anti-semites around the world, it is a matter of willful denial. For others, remembering that the Holocaust really happened is too painful for them, either because it brings back memories of what they, themselves, went through, or because it generates anguish and thoughts of what others went through, during a time when the morality and conscience of the world sunk to an all-time low.

But, the long and the short of it is that the Holocaust stands as a scar on the heart and a wart on the hide of humanity that cannot be removed. The best way to cope with it, and to learn from it, is to never forget it. That’s why Israel has a day a year specifically set aside for the remembrance of the Holocaust. That day began last night (1st May, 2019) and continued until sundown tonight. The media was filled with stories that would cause tears to flow out of a stone. The radio played songs that wrench the heart.

Holocaust Remembrance Day here is marked by a ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem. Memorial flames are lit by Holocaust survivors, who share incredible stories of suffering and pain, heroism and escape, survival and victory over overwhelming odds, in brief before he or she takes the torch and lights the memorial flame. Unlike the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is set worldwide on January 27th, the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, Israel’s Day of Remembrance coincides with the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (according to the Hebrew calendar), an event that symbolizes the heroism and the indefatigable spirit of the Jewish people. Although tremendously outnumbered, the uprising was able to last for 27 days. When it was over, 13,000 Jews were killed and the approximately 50,000 ghetto survivors were sent to nearby death camps.

The hatred of Jews, coupled with the weakness that accompanied our exile and the seeming indifference of the world community, all united in Nazi Germany and became fertile ground for what was labeled “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. The danger was not realized by the Jewish people, until it ws too late. The British would not allow us to enter our ancient homeland, the countries of the so-called, enlightened western world, closed their doors to us. We were trapped and when the smoke and dust cleared from the ovens of the death camps, six million Jews had been killed. European Jewry had been decimated.

History not only repeats itself, sometimes it grows progressively worse, particularly when it comes to the history of the Jewish people. The Emperor Constantine legitimized Roman Christianity, but it was about 50 years later, in 380 C.E. when the Emperor Theodosius made it the official religion of the empire. The Jews had to convert or leave. In short, they were told: “You can’t live here as a Jew.” Following the Crusades and in the same year that “Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, Spain expelled the Jews. In short, they were told: “You can’t live here.” And, during the 20th century, Nazi Germany undertook to complete the process with the Holocaust. In short, the Jews were told: “You can’t live.” Throughout our history, there have been overlapping aspects of “Jews are Not Allowed” (Juden Verboten)

But, neither Constantine, nor Theodosius, neither King Ferdinand, nor Queen Isabella, neither Haman, nor Adolf Hitler and his henchmen, had the final word. We live, we live here and we can live here as Jews. That is God’s call, not man’s.

Out of the ashes and thorns of the Holocaust, the land of our forefathers was reclaimed. The early settlers and those who survived the death camps and the forced marches, the beatings and the humiliations, worked and planted and built. Families grew. Agriculture grew. Industry grew. Technology grew. The barren desert was turned green. And the world has been blessed because of God’s plan for the Jew. He will bless those who bless His people. Not because we are bigger or better, because that is certainly not the case (Deut. 7:7-8). It is because God is sovereign in all his ways and is faithful, even when we are not. will not allow those who touch the “apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:8) to get away without punishment (Deut. 32:7-10).

I grew up with stories of relatives who perished in the Holocaust, aunts and uncles, cousins and more distant relatives. I heard the expression “Never again!” time and time again. But, that brief statement needs to go beyond the rhetoric of politicians. It cannot be reduced to amere slogan, however convenient it may be. It much become a part of our mentality and a way of life. When enough people say it and mean it, they will do something about it. Anti-semitism cannot exist in a vacuum, but only when there is fertile ground for its seeds.

It is true that Israel has a strong military. But, what do we have that we have not been given by the Holy One of Israel. We should recognize His hand in our establishment, in our development and in our successes. It is His blessing that enables us to survive and to prosper and to be a blessing to others. I cringe when people talk with misplaced pride and make vows that they, themselves, are not able to fulfill, particularly when those doing so are politicians and leaders of Israel, who speak on behalf of the nation and as their representatives. With two of my children having completed their service in the IDF and the third presently serving, I, too, am confident that those who wear the uniform will continue to perform their assigned tasks honorably, to serve and to defend this nation and its inhabitants. And, to the extent that it depends upon them, they will act to insure that “NeverAgain!” is a meaningful statement.

But, if our trust is in the strength of our flesh only, then our trust is misplaced. We did not succeed against the Arab countries because of our courage or strength. Indeed, we were tremendously outnumbered and under considerable military disadvantage. We succeeded because God pulled us out of the ashes of the Holocaust and fought for us, just as He did when He brought us out of Egypt. Woe to us if we rely on man and make flesh our strength and turn our hearts from the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:5)

We have not yet reached the point when nations “will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.” (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3) We live in a world that has failed to learn from its past failures and that is, once again, increasing in anti-semitism and in acts of hatred, vandalism and violence against Jewish people. The prophets speak of a time when Israel will once again suffer and when two thirds of the nation will perish, while one third will remain, to be refined and tested by God, so that they will call upon His Name. (Zechariah 13:9) God is consistent in His ways. He tests us to humble us, to know what is in our hearts and whether we would be obedient to His commands (Deut. 8:2).

Despite the many denials by so-called leaders and populace, the Holocaust is, and will remain, not only part of history and part of the present. Its shadows reveal the dried tears of those who never had a chance to say “goodbye” to their loved ones. Israel has 190,000 survivors of the Holocaust, whose average age is 82. The numbers are dwindling and before many more years, there will be no one who will be alive, who will be able to personally attest to the fact of the Holocaust and its atrocities.

Millions of names are still missing, of parents and children, of entire Jewish communities that were destroyed (by the way – one of those communities is Ostrolenka, Poland, where my parents were from, who were able to leave in 1939, just before Germany’s invasion of Poland; many of my relatives never made it out and are listed among the 6 million who perished). There is no substitute for the culture, for the values, and for the talents that are gone. They remain as an open wound. We will not stop searching for every scrap of information, for a name yet to be identified, for a photograph that has been blurred. A third of our people, six million, were murdered just because they were Jews.

We cannot turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the lessons of the Holocaust, nor can we compromise on our moral responsibility to warn of the dangers that are becoming increasingly evident in our own day. Anti-semitism has reared its ugly head and some individuals, cultures and nation states think that it is beautiful. Attacks upon synagogues and other religious establishments are on the rise. Attacks upon individuals are reported, but not prosecuted. Entire communities are afraid to say something that may not be “politically correct”. Anti-Semitic cartoons that are both repulsive and sickening adorn the pages of internationally-syndicated newspapers, allegedly permissible as part of the freedom of the press. The rise of the internet has given impetus to this sickening disease, with which many want to voluntarily become afflicted. 

Whatever happened to our sense of morality, our sense of outrage, our sense that something is seriously and dangerously wrong? How long do we need to wait before we wake up to the realization that we are asleep in a cesspool of our own making, due to a reluctance to call the child by its name and to say “no more, no, never again”?

Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran Pastor, wrote a poem about the cowardice of the German intellectuals, following the Nazis’ rise to power and its incremental purging of people groups. The most famous portion of it is:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Again and again, our “world leaders” think that reliance upon ourselves both defines us and will protect us. We, too, have not learned from our past, which cries out to us to “trust in the LORD; He is [our] help and [our] shield.” (Psalm 115:9)

 The nation came to a standstill for two minutes, as sirens wailed from “Dan to Beersheva”. Cars stopped on the highway and people got out to devote moments of silence in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. Ours is a constant blending of past and present, which helps us look to the future. If only our eyes were lifted heavenward, the future would look all the more bright.

Lessons to be learned from The Holocaust

There are many lessons to be learned from the Holocaust. But, it is impossible to do a proper treatise in this post. Nevertheless, what must be clearly understood is that defending our nation and our citizens is an essential priority. However, before the defense is factored in, we must have a greater understanding that there is a nation that hascome home after two thousand years. Just as the children of Israel eventually learned that Egypt was not their home, so we must ask the question whether we can truly be “at home” living outside of Israel. A few years ago, there was a popular song here that included the refrain, “Ayn li eretz aheret” – “I don’t have another country”. I realize that the return to Zion is a touchy issue for many Jewish people around the world. The early Zionists called for all Jews to return to their ancient homeland. But, only a few responded and came, while most remained in the Diaspora. I often wonder how things would have turned out if the Jews of Europe had responded more positively to the Zionist call. Now, with anti-Semitic incidents increasing to daily events all over Europe, as well as in North America and in other places around the world, I again wonder how many continue to think that what happened then cannot happen again now. I also wonder whether the time has come for “the wandering Jew” to stop wandering.

Another lesson to be learned from the Holocaust is that we cannot rely on the other governments of this world to step in and defend Israel when it is at risk. While this has a ring of truth to it militarily, it would appear obvious that it can also be applied to the diplomatic sphere. The world stood by as Hitler’s efforts to bring about the “final solution” of the Jews became more effective. Even now, the world looks on, while Iran laughs as it continues to progress towards the circle of nuclear countries. Where is the outcry when Hassan Nasrallah says that he has over 100,000 missiles pointed at Israel? We have no indebtedness to the world and, therefore, the world cannot tell us how we should act or what we should do to protect ourselves and our families from those who seek to do us harm. Nor should we allow the nations of the world to dictate policy for us regarding our national homeland.

We have a God Who rules the nations and He alone should place a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.

Before closing this post, I want to explain the title of it, “Am Yisrael Chai!” – the Nation of Israel is Alive! In 1983, during the Eurovision song contest, the song entry by Israel was “Chai”, meaning:  “Alive”. The contest that year took place in Germany. The song and the presentation, including the color of the clothing were filled with symbolism. The greatest achievement and message was that we sang that we are alive on the soil of the country that sought to finalize the efforts to eliminate our existence. You can watch the song presentation here. The word “am”, means not only “nation”, but also “people”. So, our song had a double meaning, that the nation and the people both live.

We ARE “Alive!” Yes, we are alive, but our existence, successes and blessings must be rooted in God, the Keeper of Israel, the One Who will neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4).

“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 will 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)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

The Cost of Freedom

Last night was Erev Pesach (the evening before the day of Passover, which is actually the beginning of Passover – “there was evening and there was morning, one day [Gen. 1:5]). Yet, most of the world focuses on yesterday as being “Good Friday”, the day that Messiah Yeshua was crucified. The importance of the day is related to what occurred in it. Yet, so much of the modern celebration misses the Biblical essence of the “why” that particular day in history became and remains so significant.

The Tenach, the Older Testament, consisting of Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) are intertwined like an intricate tapestry, whose beauty consists in the individual strands, each unique in itself, all of which are woven together to reveal, among other things, an unbroken theme: God’s love for His creation and His redemptive work through His chosen people, Israel. At the outset, it should be clarified that “chosen” is for a purpose, not because of anything special emanating from themselves (Deut. 7:7-8).

A few words of background are important. After the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God punished the participants (Adam, Eve and the serpent), but indicated that there would be a way to overcome the punishment of banishment from fellowship with God, which resulted from their disobedience – the Seed of the woman, who would be wounded, yet would conquer the one who wounded him (Gen. 3:12-15). After being expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve gave birth to her first two sons, Cain and Abel. When they grew up, each of the sons brought an offering to God, Cain from the fruit of the ground, Abel from the “firstlings of his flock and their fat portions”. Abel’s offering was accepted, Cain’s was rejected and he ended up killing his brother (Gen. 4:3-8). From peace in Paradise to murder regarding one family, as related in two chapters of the Bible.

Time passed and God called Abram (later to be called Abraham) and promised to give him a land, to bless him and make his name great, to be a blessing make him a great nation and to make him a blessing, to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him, and in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). God covenanted with Abram regarding Abram’s offspring through a ceremony that required the death and separation of certain animals (Gen. 15:2-11). God later revealed to Abram that his descendants would be strangers in a land not theirs, where they would be oppressed for four generations over a period of four hundred years. But, God covenanted with Abram that He would judge that nation and Abram’s descendants would return to the land with many possessions (Gen. 15:12-16). The promise made earlier (Gen. 12) was repeated to him (Gen. 17:1-8), but at the same time, God instructed Abraham to keep the covenant of circumcision, for himself and for every male descendant of his, as well as his servants (vv. 9-13), adding that an uncircumcised male would be treated as having breached God’s covenant and would have no part in the inheritance promised to Abraham (v. 14). Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. His son, Isaac, inherited the blessings (Gen. 26:1-5), which were also passed on to Isaac’s son, Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (Gen. 28:3-4, 13-15; 32:28).

In due course, Jacob’s descendants went down to Egypt – first Joseph, who, after being sold into slavery by his siblings, achieved status as second only to Pharaoh, and then, the rest of his family followed. There, they prospered, grew in numbers to become a nation, and were eventually enslaved by Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph. They were afflicted and suffered becaused of their taskmasters. The time came for God to fulfil His promise to Abraham.

He raised up Moses, who at the age of 80, was directed by God to deliver His people who were in Egypt and “to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land … flowing with milk and honey” (Exo. 3:7-9).

Moses tried to resist God’s call to be His instrument to deliver His people, Israel. He felt he was not the appropriate person to do this, undoubtedly remembering that he failed to do so forty years earlier and had to flee Egypt. God gave him two demonstrations that were to be repeated before Pharaoh: (1) his staff, which later became “the staff of God”, was turned into a snake and then turned back into a staff and (2) Moses’ hand became leprous and was then healed (Exo. 4:1-8). Moses was being instructed that serving God requires dependence upon His presence and ability, not on his own abilities. God was showing Moses that He is able to create a danger to life and remove the danger as well. Still, Moses persisted that he was not the right person for the job, as he was “heavy of speech and heavy of tongue” (v. 10). God rebuked Moses for his lack of faith. It is recorded: “Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you….” (v. 14 – emphasis mine) We need to remember that there was no telephone, fax, email or internet in those days. A period of 40 years had passed since Moses left Egypt, in haste. Now, Moses is told to return and is also told that his brother, Aaron, is on his was to meet him. Both were being divinely directed and only God could accomplish this task.

Was Moses right? Was he the wrong man for the job? After all, he was 80 years old when God called him to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. He spent the first 40 years of his life in Egypt, learning to become “something”. Then, the next 40 years of his life, he spent on the backside of the desert, being humbled and learning to become “nothing”. Finally, he spent the last 40 years of his life, leading and shepherding the children of Israel and learning the God can make “something out of nothing.”

The Biblical narrative continues: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me”; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn‘.” ‘ ” (vv. 21-23; emphasis mine) This was not what we, in our twenty-first century lexicon, would refer to as the most politically correct statement that could be made in the circumstances to someone who was considered to manifest in his being the Egyptian god of the sun, Ra, and the god of death, Horace, who were sovereign over all other gods.

God lets Moses in on His plans and adds that Pharaoh is not going to be impressed with what he has to say, that he won’t listen to him and that he won’t let the people go. What an incredible announcement! It is not surprising that the messenger, Moses, would not want to undertake a mission which, in his mind, is doomed to failure.

Up to this point, we see that Moses is the reluctant deliverer. He doesn’t quickly say “Yes, Lord!” Quite the opposite. “Here I am Lord, please send someone else!” But, God wasn’t going to let him off the hook. And so Moses finally consents, fearful of what lies ahead, but with the assurance that God will be with him. God is the Redeemer. Moses is merely His spokesman. But, in order to lead God’s people, there was one seriously problematic sin and disobedience that needed to be removed from Moses, as we will see.

As the story continues, while Moses was on the way back to Egypt with his wife, Zipporah, and two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. It was then that “the LORD met him and sought to put him to death” (4:24). Moses’ wife, Zipporah “took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and made it touch his [Moses’] feet” (v. 25), saying “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me…regarding the circumcision” (v. 26). As a consequence, God left him [Moses] alone.

Moshe’s mission and the redemption of Israel were in jeopardy. Why would the LORD want to put him to death? Sometimes, we look for answers and try to blame someone else, when we should first take a good look at ourselves, before pointing a finger at someone, or something, else. Immediately preceding these verses are God’s statements to Moses about what is to be said to Pharaoh, namely, His relationship to Israel as a father to a son. Pharaoh needed to be told, “You are killing My firstborn and if you don’t let him go, I will kill your firstborn.” An “eye for an eye”.

The translation of the Hebrew “Çhatan Dameem” as “bridegroom of blood” in many English translations miss the point of the story, which is succinctly pointed out in the last words of verse 26: “regarding (or because of) the circumcision”. The fact that Tzipporah had to circumcise her son meant that Moses failed to do so in accordance with the covenant that God made with Abraham, as indicated in Genesis 17. The words “Çhatan Dameem” are of Akkadian origin, a dialect of Arabic, which was known to Zipporah, a Midianite, and, obviously, also to Moses after living with her and her family for 40 years. Between the different dialects, the term “Çhatan” means both circumcised and defended. In other words, the shed blood of the circumcision, in obedience to God’s covenant with Abraham, will protect Moses, at whose feet the blood was applied, from the dangers that lie ahead and threaten his life.

Moses was on his way to deliver the children of Israel. In the process, he was told in advance what the end of the day would bring forth, namely, the death of the first born of Pharaoh and all in Egypt whose homes were not protected by the Passover lamb that was to be sacrificed and whose blood was to be smattered (not spread out) on the doorposts and lintel of their homes. The expression, “Çhatan Dameem”, therefore, is directly related to the story of the Passover, which was about to unfold in the following chapters of Exodus.

Why would this be important for us? Sometimes, familiarity with a story causes us to miss the forest through the trees. At the beginning of Chapter 4 of Exodus, Moses is given two illustrations of God’s ability to deliver from impending danger and death – the rod-to-snake-to-rod and the leprous hand-to-healthy hand. In other words, God revealed to Moses that he could protect and heal. These signs were to be displayed before Pharaoh. Moses needed to experience them and follow God’s instruction to free him from those dangers. The same is true of the last plague – the death of the firstborn. The life-threatening situation that will come upon all who are in Egypt can be averted by following God’s instruction – protection from death by the shedding of blood.

Zipporah, the wife of Moses, was able to make the connection between the failure of obedience that would result in death and immediately undertook to repent and to prevent the consequences of the sin of disobedience. Why was repentance necessary? Moses was a Levi, a descendant of Abraham through Jacob (Exo. 2:1). Zipporah was a Midianite, the daughter of a priest of Midian (Exo. 2:16, 21). Midian was also a son of Abraham, but through his second wife, Keturah (Gen. 25:2). Both were under the command of the covenant made with Abraham regarding circumcision. Obedience to the covenant meant life and God’s blessings. Disobedience meant death and being disinherited.

In Chapter 4, verses 25 and 26, God revealed His sovereignty by bringing deliverance of His servant, Moses, through a woman. He displayed His sovereignty by using women at the outset of the story (Exo. 1:17 – the midwives; 2:1-4 – Moses’ mother and sister; 2:6, 10 – Pharaoh’s daughter). In Chapter 4, it is Moses’ wife, Zipporah, whom God used to deliver Moses – not from Pharaoh, but from God Himself. Zipporah intercedes for the one whom God chose to intercede for Israel. 

Time after time, Moses urges Pharaoh to comply with God’s demands and to let the people go. The original request was not to free the people, but to let them go “that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness … a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God…” (Exo. 5:4). When Pharaoh’s obstinance and disobedience to God’s commands reached its peak, God instructed Moses to choose a lamb, which became the, which became your lamb (Exo. 12:4-5). It was to be killed and the Israelites were to “take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it” (v. 7). The Word does not say to spread it, but to put it. The LORD would “pass through to smite the Egyptians and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite [you]…And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smother the Egyptians, but spared our homes’.” (Exo. 12:23, 26-27) And so it was. The children of Israel did what God had instructed and they lived. But, “the LORD struck all the firtborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon and all the firstborn of cattle. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no hone where there was not somneone dead” (Exo. 12: 29-30). The power of Egypt was crushed and the children of Israel were no longer subject to it.

Fast forward 1,500 years. Another deliverer is sent. This time, the message was: “… [The] Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) He is the One, Who said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have [it] abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11). More than being the Good Shepherd, He, Himself, is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). His message was first and foremost for the lost sheep of the House of Israel, but God’s greater plan was to save all Who believe in Him. The promised child Who was born to us, the son Who was given to us, the One Who would be called “Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6), our Messiah, “our Passover, has been sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7). He was betrayed by those whom He came to save, placed on a piece of wood that was from a tree that He brought forth, pierced by nails made of material that He created. He was crowned with thorns and his blood stained the top of the altar upon which He was sacrificed. His blood from His hands stained the crossbeam. From the torture rack of the cross, He called out: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). When His shed blood made atonement for us, the Lamb of God gave up His spirit. It was the event that made the day, not the day itself. What we refer to as “Good Friday” was the saddest Friday in all of creation.

God’s Lamb died for our sins according to the Scriptures and He was buried, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). His message that remains is simple and straightforward: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but inherit eternal life” (John 3:16). God loves us with an everlasting love and with His lovingkindness continues to call us. This is our reason to celebrate. 

Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path (Psalm 119:105).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Have a great week.

Marvin

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Yogi Berra, the American baseball legend, would come out with classic statements, some of which would cause people to double over with laughter. For example: “Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” Or, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.” We chuckle at how ridiculous some of his “Yogi-isms” are. But, one of his statements embodied the attitude of “don’t give up, no matter how difficult things might appear to be”. In 1973, he came out with: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” That could well have been the catch phrase the night of the elections for Israel’s Prime Minister that took place on April 9th.

The pollsters tripped all over themselves. At first, they were leaning towards the success of Benny Gantz, the former General-turned-politician, who is the leader of the Blue and White party. He was favored to be the main opponent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party. In fact, he and the three other major figures in his party, two retired Generals and Yair Lapid, a former journalist, who also is the head of the Yesh Atid Party, declared an early, upset victory on the basis of the “polls”. Some believed it to be over even before the majority of the votes were in. It was a long night and despite the neck-and-neck race between Netanyahu and Gantz, it became obvious that it was premature to declare victory – and that, in front of the cameras – because things could change. And, in fact, things did change. By 01:30, the two leading candidates were tied, with 35 “mandates” (seats) each.

The Dry Bones Blog - 10 April, 2019
The Dry Bones Blog-10 April 2019

The closest to them were two religious parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, with 8 seats each. It began to look like the handwriting was on the wall: the two front-runners going neck-and-neck, while the two major camps were being split unevenly: 65 for the right and 55 for the left/center-left. Under Israel’s political system, the President of the country, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, would request the leader of the party that would most likely be able to form a new government to do so. In this case, it would be Netanyahu, who was on his way to an unprecedented fifth term in office.

Then, as the night grew on with little change in the two major camps, the dawn appeared and with it, surprise time! The pollsters were wrong! Gantz did not defeat the seasoned politician who constantly seems able to pull rabbits out of non-existing hats. The Zehut party, originally expected to win half a dozen seats or more, didn’t make the cut and is out. Yisrael Beytenu, the party of Avigdor Lieberman, was considered a political has-been by many after severing ties with Netanyahu, but proved everyone wrong and is still in the game with 5 seats, one less than what his party was able to garner in the last election. The New Right party, headed up by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, both of whom broke ranks with the Jewish Home party, did not garner enough votes to make the cut for a continued presence in the Knesset. When it seemed that “it was over”, some still said that we all needed to wait because “it’s not over until all votes are counted”. In other words, things could still change. And, they were right.

Still an open question is which way will Avigdor Lieberman go? Despite being groomed in the shadow of Netanyahu and the Likud, he has proven over the years to be an adept politician and a skilfull negotiator, able to work with Netanyahu, as well as to work against him. He could hold out until the last minute, as he did following the last election, when he finally decided to join the coalition government and became Minister of Defense (until last year).

In similar fashion, Moshe Kahlon, leader of the Kulanu (All of Us) party, barely made the cut and it is still not clear whether Kulanu will end up with 4 or 5 seats. Despite his relatively successful service as Minister of Finance, he fell victim in the shadow of the political battle between Gantz and Netanyahu and his party ended up losing ground. It is doubtful that he will have much influence in the setting up of the new government, unless he agrees to be wooed back to the Likud by some of the party faithful, a possibility hinted at by Likud’s Gideon Saar on election night. This could well occur. Kahlon has demonstrated that he can get the job done, is well-respected by many in politics and he would be warmly embraced by the leadership of the Likud if he did so, as his return to the fold would serve to strengthen Netanyahu’s leadership. But, he would need to backtrack on his statement during the campaign that the Prime Minister cannot continue to lead the nation after the filing of a criminal indictment against him. There is no doubt that if Kahlon gets a ministerial post in the new government, he will be a stabilizing influence between the Likud and some of the extreme-right parties, particularly the ultra-religious. And, Bibi could trust him. So, we’ll see what happens. 

And what about the Labor and Meretz parties? Back in the early ’90s, they constituted a formidable leftist alliance, with all that resulted from their joint perspective on being willing to compromise the safety and security of the people of Israel. They managed to scrape together 10 between them. It’s time to say good-bye to them both.

Today, after tallying votes of those serving in the military, the New Right was revived and was looking forward to being part of the new government. But then, it turned out that they fell short by 1,000 votes, which meant that they again did not make the cut. Bennett is, of course, asking for a recount. And, it turns out the 35-35 tie was broken, with Bibi getting a 36th mandate and United Torah Judaism losing ground to 7 seats. The United Right party (headed up by a former military officer who also served as the Chief Military Rabbi of the IDF) also dropped from 5 to 4 seats. If Bennett and company end up making the cut, it could give Bibi a “right camp” of 67 seats against 53 to the left/center-left. If they don’t get it, the “right camp” could end up with a 64 to 56 majority. The final tally, including some 200,000 votes that still needed to be counted as of this afternoon, is expected to be in by the end of the day.

There is no doubt that the big winner in the election is the Prime Minister, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. Notwithstanding on-going criminal investigations and the major opposition of three former IDF Generals, his party received, as of this writing, 36 seats. A dream fulfilled, enabling Bibi to gather under the wing of the Likud, the various right-wing parties and to have a clear majority in the Knesset. He has demonstrated his ability to provide stability to his party, something which the other parties hoped for, but were unable to attain. 

Much more can be said regarding the results of the election, including speculation, some of which is reasonable, on who will get what ministerial post in the next government. But, why get into that now. After all, “it ain’t over until it’s over.”

With that said, where do we go from here? Yair Lapid, the fourth major player in the Blue and White party, and who was slated to switch with Gantz as Prime Minister, one year on and one year off, has promised that the Blue and White party, which will now lead the Opposition, will make life miserable for the government. What does it take for Lapid and company to get it into their heads that the people have democratically made their decision for the government to be headed up by the Likud, with Bibi as the Prime Minister, not as a king?

One TV personality blamed the media for Netanyahu’s victory, stating in part (in Hebrew): “My friends in the media, don’t be confused. The victory of Bibi and the ultra right-Haredi coalition that was here is registered on your name…You thought that if you would give the chosen leader of Israel no rest even for a minute, that you would leak the conversations in the investigation files, ignore and disdain his accomplishments, bark at him in interviews, in the end he would fall. And what came out of that? He didn’t fall, he is stronger than at any time, and the new government doesn’t even have a representation of center. Nothing.” Then, he referred to a conversation that he had with someone on the street, who told him – “I don’t care if Bibi stole, he can even take a thousand shekels a day, the main thing is that he will be the head of the country. You thought that in the name of legal correctness the nation of Israel would give up on someone it perceives as the leader of a generation. Not only did you err, but now you pushed him to be more right-wing than he is…You wanted to bring the left back to rule, but in fact, you smashed it to pieces.” He concluded his article with: “And now what?…Keep going your way, because that is what you know to do, or will you draw conclusions? To the sounds of your scornful snores I say to you – take a break. Bibi won’t stand trial during his tenure. Let the guy work, let the public rest from you…at least change the frequency, accept the decision of the majority…. (emphasis mine)

After the final results are in, will it be over? Or will we just be beginning the next round of political confrontations and battles? We’ll soon see.

Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. (1 Chronicles 29:12)

Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall rule over My people. (1 Samuel 9:17)

May the prayer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be: Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours? (2 Chronicles 1:10)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

So, who are you going to vote for?

“So, who are you going to vote for?” That is the question of the day. It has been the question of the week and of the past month and longer. The answer is not as simple as some people might think. The primary problem with politics is the “politicians”. The pursuit of power often clouds memory, affects understanding and leads to misguided priorities. The present campaign for leadership of the country has focused on almost everything, except the issues that are of paramount concern the people: security, food, clothing and shelter. With few exceptions, promises of politicians are to be taken with a grain of salt. The message is usually adjusted to meet the needs and expectations of the audience.
The political rhetoric that has enveloped this latest, contentious campaign for Prime Minister requires that we pause, reflect and consider carefully who is telling the truth, who will bring things to fruition, who CAN do the job that needs to be done in this day and age of our history. No politician can fulfil every campaign promise in the face of a divided country. Few politicians have made promises for that very reason. They can’t promise with certainty what they will do. It is more reasonable to expect that they will speak with greater conviction about what they won’t do.
Do enemies change or do we merely call them by a different name today? Ability and determination will be key factors that will guide – perhaps, lead would be a better term – our country in the period immediately following the election scheduled for tomorrow.
Occasionally, a politician delivers a message that contains clarity of understanding, a willingness to commit and a proper perspective of both history and the times in which we live. It reveals a passion and a devotion to doing what is right, even in the face others don’t agree. Those messages become embedded in our memory banks, stowed away for the future and brought forth in time of need. Such a message is the one given by former President John F. Kennedy on April 29, 1956 at Yankee Stadium, while he was still a U.S. Senator. The source can be found here.
We are gathered here this afternoon to commemorate a notable anniversary in man’s eternal quest for freedom. For nearly 8 years ago today a state was born – and a people, rising from the ashes of history’s most ruthless persecution, entered upon a new birth of freedom. The state was the State of Israel – and the people were the children of Israel. Today, as the anniversary of that monumental event recurs for the eighth time – Israel, we salute you.
Much is different between the United States and Israel. Our Nation stretches in a great land mass between two wide oceans – the Israelis occupy a beachhead on the eastern Mediterranean. Americans number 165 million – the Israelis less than 2 million. We are the oldest Republic on earth and the youngest people – the Israelis have the youngest republic and the oldest people.
Yes, much is different – but much is the same. For both Israel and the United States won their freedom in a bitter war for independence. Both Israel and the United States acknowledge the supremacy of the moral law – both believe in personal as well as national liberty – and, perhaps most important, both will fight to the end to maintain that liberty.
I join in this salute today because of my own deep admiration for Israel and her people – an admiration based not on hearsay, not on assumption, but on my own personal experience. For I went to Palestine in 1939; and I saw there an unhappy land, ruled under a League of Nations mandate by a Britain which divided and ruled in accordance to ancient policy. And while there I was shocked by a British Foreign Office white paper just issued sharply cutting back Jewish immigration. Yes, as in the days of old, “the glory had departed from Israel.” For century after century, Romans, Turks, Christians, Moslems, Pagans, British – all had conquered the Holy Land – but none could make it prosper. In the words of Israel Zangwill: “The land without a people waited for the people without a land.” The realm where once milk and honey flowed, and civilization flourished, was in 1939 a barren realm – barren of hope and cheer and progress as well as crops and industries – a gloomy picture for a young man paying his first visit from the United States.
But 12 years later, in 1951, I traveled again to the land by the River Jordan – this time as a Member of the Congress of the United States – and this time to see first-hand the new State of Israel. The transformation which had taken place could not have been more complete. For between the time of my visit in 1939 and my visit in 1951, a nation had been reborn – a desert had been reclaimed – and a national integrity had been redeemed, after 2,000 years of seemingly endless waiting. Zion had at least been restored – and she had promptly opened her arms to the homeless and the weary and the persecuted. It was the “Ingathering of the Exiles” – they had heard the call of their homeland; and they had come, brands plucked from the burning – they had come from concentration camps and ghettoes, from distant exile and dangerous sanctuary, from broken homes in Poland and lonely huts in Yemen, like the ancient strangers in a strange land they had come. And Israel received them all, fed them, housed them, cared for them, bound up their wounds, and enlisted them in the struggle to build a new nation.
But perhaps the greatest change of all I found lay in the hearts and minds of the people. For, unlike the discouraged settlers of 1939, they looked to the future with hope. From Haifa to the Gulf of Akaba, from Gaza to the Dead Sea, I found a revival of an ancient spirit. I found it in Israel’s gift to world statesmanship, David Ben-Gurion. I saw it in the determined step of soldiers and workers; I heard it in the glad voices of women in the fields; I saw it in the hopeful eyes of refugees waiting patiently in their misery. The barren land I had seen in 1939 had become the vital nation of 1951.
Yes; Israel, we salute you. We honor your progress and your determination and your spirit. But in the midst of our rejoicing we do not forget your peril. We know that no other nation in this world lives out its days in an atmosphere of such constant tension and fear. We know that no other nation in this world is surrounded on every side by such violent hate and prejudice.
Will Israel fall? Will this noblest of all the 20th century’s experiments in democracy sink beneath the surface, not to rise again for still another 2,000 years? Part of the answer rests with the United States, the leader of the free world, and the godfather of the infant nation Israel. I shall not now attempt to chart our course in detail. But I shall say, and say again, that this is no time for equivocation or hesitation.
TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW
It is long past time for this Nation and others to make it absolutely clear that any aggression or threat of aggression in the Middle East will not be tolerated by the United Nations or the parties to the 1950 Tripartite Agreement. It is time that we made this so clear, in the U.N. and elsewhere, that no nation would dare to launch an attack. For it is the responsibility of our Government to make certain that neither Israel nor any small nation of the world is left defenseless without arms while neighboring states dedicated to their destruction receive unlimited quantities of Communist arms. It is time that all the nations of the world, in the Middle East and elsewhere, realized that Israel is here to stay. She will not surrender – she will not retreat – and we will not let her fall.
Today we celebrate her 8th birthday – but I say without hesitation that she will live to see and 80th birthday – and an eight hundredth. For peace is all Israel asks, no more – a peace that will “beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning-hooks”; a peace that will enable the desert to “rejoice and blossom as the rose,” “when the wicked cease from troubling and the weary be at rest.” Then, and only then, will the world have witnessed the complete fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy “Tzee-Yon B’Meeshpat Teepadeh” – “Zion shall be redeemed through justice.” And all of us here, and there, and everywhere will then be able to say to each other with faith and with confidence, in our coming and in our going: “Shalom” – peace! Peace be with you, now and forever. (emphasis in bold, mine)
The foregoing is a redaction of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. One copy of this speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. Page images of the speech can be found here.
It’s been 63 years since that speech was delivered. Our enemies still exist and many are in our midst. “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained….” (Proverbs 29:18) Tomorrow’s election may well be one of the most important elections in the brief, present history of this Country. May God grant that our vision will be restored, that we will stop burying our heads in the sand and pretend that our enemies do not pose an existential threat (even though God is totally in control: Jeremiah 31:35-37) to our nation, that we will recognise that we have been called here for a purpose and that we need leaders who have the respect and the support of the people, whose “yes” is “yes” and whose “no” is “no”. If we don’t pray for wisdom to align our votes with God’s desires, who will? If we don’t do it now, when will it be done? Indeed, the time for action is now!
Our existence is not dependent upon the United States. It will blessed to the extent that it blesses us. (Gen. 12:3) It is dependent solely upon the Holy One of Israel. There is only one Messiah, who has called us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), whose plans for us are for good, to give us a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). No country and none of the present politicians fit that job description.
“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even our enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7)
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,
Marvin

Not Forgotten!

Thirty-Seven years after he was killed in the Battle of Sultan Yaaqub, in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, the remains of Israeli-American Staff Sergeant Zachary Baumel were returned to Israel and he was buried yesterday, 4 April, 2019, on Mt. Herzl, in Jerusalem.

Upon reading of the events of the First Lebanon War back in 1982, I learned that Zachary Baumel, along with Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman, was reported missing in action. It was a name, connected to an event, that was connected to a distant place, a place that was pulling at my heart strings. Year after year, from childhood on, the words “Next Year in Jerusalem” took on greater meaning. Three years following that war, after leaving family, friends and business in the U.S. and crossing the Big Muddy to this tiny stretch of desert sand, a different reality took hold in my life. I related to every soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) as a member of my family. Every loss was a personal loss. There didn’t seem to be enough tears for all of them. And I wasn’t alone. Israel does not allow the nation to forget those whose have been captured, or were reported missing in action. The names of Baumel, Katz and Feldman were mentioned in many different settings. They were young men, who were reported as missing while defending the country. Their families longed for their return, praying, hoping and yearning to see their loved ones again, to embrace them, to weep for joy over their return. The years have passed, thirty-seven of them, and along with them, some of the members of the families of those who were missing in action.

Israel is committed to bringing all of its sons home. Yaron Blum, special negotiator for hostages and prisoners of war at the Office of the Prime Minister, and formerly a senior official with the Shin Bet security agency, said that this commitment is “not a cliché and not a statement that has something to do with the elections. This is a tremendous commitment; we must act tirelessly to bring the captives and the missing home.”

Many attempts had been made since 1982 to locate Baumel’s remains. According to Blum, “[Over] the years, we perfected the intelligence, until we succeeded in pointing, according to the coordinates, [to the spot] where according to assessments, the remains were located…[But this] would not have happened without the Prime Minister’s special relationship with [Russian President Vladmir] Putin. No less important is everyone’s success in putting their ego aside and working together to get results.” He emphasized that the success in bringing Baumel’s remains to Israel for burial proved that “it’s never too late. . . the time aspect is of significance, but we dod not abandon these issues, even if many years have passed” and that efforts continue to return all of the MIAs from all of Israel’s wars and conflicts. The complete interview of Yaron Blum to Israel Hayom can be seen here.

The funeral service drew thousands from every walk of life, even some who had not yet been born when Zachary Baumel went missing in action. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin were among the many who delivered eulogies and speeches. But, the most moving eulogy was that of Zachary’s sister, Osna Haberman, who stated, in part: 

“I thought of what I would do here in this place. Even hugging is impossible. So I thought of turning to the ground and asking the land to embrace him, to hold him tight. And a few minutes later I realized I don’t need to ask. There is no need to ask. The land is hugging tightly. And why? Because there is absolute love between the son who gave everything for the land and the land itself, there is a complete union here, you are together now….

“***I pray for the families who have lived apart from their loved ones for so many years, some more and some less. I pray that there will be a union, that they will come together in one way or another. You’ll be together someday, I’m praying for it.

“This is the place where we will pour out our prayers, because this is a holy place. The family asks from this place to give abundant thanks first of all to the Master of the Universe. The life you gave us every day, and the favor that is greater than the pain. The Sages say that favor in the world is five hundred times more than disfavor. There are times when it is hard to see it, there are times when it is easier. Let us see it every day. Thank you for showing us favor every day.

“I would like to say thank you to the Prime Minister that you . . . personally handled the matter. And heartfelt thanks from the family. I want to say thank you to all the security forces, you do not know how many there are, until you get home together, everyone who worked and did will come and get his reward. Thanks from the family personally. I can not come and tell everyone because you are so many.

“Thanks to the people of Israel who held us, that we could be here today after thirty-seven years. Without you, and you know who you are, everyone who prayed, who wrote, who thought, everyone who hoped in the heart, because of you we are here. Thanks to the people of Israel for this day. 

“Now I want to turn to my dear brother, Zechariah, that we grew up together. A young man so modest, so humble, so unselfish. He would say what are we doing here today, what is happening here, he would not understand. And I say to him this time, yes, for you, particularly because you gave everything. You were dressed with the Spirit of God when you were recruited. Until then you were a mischievous, lighthearted, cute guy, and from the day that the army touched you, suddenly a different spirit dressed on you. I did not understand who this boy was, like [he was] someone else. And I hear stories about the performance and the connection and the giving and I say I do not know who about whom they are speaking here, because it’s you, yes, it’s you, too, Everyone knows something else.

“I am saying goodbye for myself, I can not say good-bye for anyone. . .My prayers are that all the POWs and MIAs will come to unite with their families. . .

“We are parting from you today, I am releasing you to the land, because the land is very, very good. Rest in peace, my dear brother. . . We are in a difficult time and I think that all of our prayers need to be lifted on high.”

Israel’s President, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, added these words:
“Zachary, 37 years ago, a few days before the battle in which you fell, you wrote to your parents: ‘Don’t worry, everything is OK, but it looks like I won’t be coming home soon’. Thirty-seven years have passed since then, but today you returned home. You returned to the soil of our homeland, to Jerusalem. . . Look around, Zachary, if you could see your friends, your officers – some of them already have grandchildren, but we are interning you today as a young warrior, only 22 years old. . . Today is a day that the State of Israel fulfils its oath to out soldiers, our sons and our daughters. Today we are able to unanimously testify that we do everything, even the unthinkable and the unbelieving in order to fulfil our oaths to return our sons who did not return home from battle. Today, we are able to say with full faith and humility to our soldiers, in the past in the present and in the future, we did not forsake and we will not forsake this holy mission until all of our sons who fell in the defense of this nation and land will return home.”

Zachary Baumel’s body was one of several bodies brought to Israel this week as part of Operation Zemer Nugeh (Sad Song). In Israel, they hoped that the bodies of the three missing soldiers – including Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman – were among those who were located. But, the forensic institute examination identified only Baumel, and the three were not buried together.

Some have tried to accuse Prime Minister Netanyahu of timing the return of the remains of Zachary Baumel just before the elections, scheduled for 9th April. While the timing may be fortuitous, it is almost insulting to say that it was a move designed to influence the elections.  This was an ongoing operation that required the cooperative efforts of many different government departments, including the personal involvement of P.M. Netanyahu, who used his relationship with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to recover Zachary’s remains.

The IDF has a special unit, known as “EITAN”, that is tasked with finding all soldiers who were captured or reported as missing, with some 95 files still open from 1948 to the present. It is manned by about 50 reservists, who are called up for a few weeks each year, who continue the research for those who are still unaccounted for. They come from different walks of life and devote their entire reserve time to researching the files of those who are missing. They don’t give up. It is part of the commitment of the IDF to bring all of its sons home, no matter how long it may take. Like so many who have suffered trauma of one sort of another, they need closure. New sets of eyes look on old, still-open files, hoping to find something that may have been overlooked. More on the EITAN unit can be seen here.

Baumel’s first name, Zachary, is Zechariah in Hebrew. It comprises the two words: “zachar” and “Yah”. Put together, zachar-yah (or Zechariah) means “God remembered”. God remembered Zachary Baumel and brought his remains home to the land. May his memory be blessed (yehi zicharono baruch). May God strengthen the hands of those who serve day and night to protect us from our enemies. May He grant wisdom and unity of decision to the leaders of the IDF and may He guard the going out and coming in of every one of our sons and daughters in uniform, that they will go out in peace and return in peace.

Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are my servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. (Isaiah 44:21).

Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you (Isaiah 54:15).

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marvin

Haman is still around, but where is Mordechai?

The holiday of Purim is a joyful festival. It is based on the Book of Esther, whose events occurred in Persia, the former name of present day Iran. The existence of the Jewish people during the time of Queen Esther was threatened by people in power in Persia. Two thousand five hundred years have passed and not much has changed. In fact, it has only gotten worse. Iran has again emerged as a threat, not only to Israel and the Jewish people, but to the nations of the world.

Some stories, like true vintage wine, become better with age. One of them is the story of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. We are commanded to tell the story from generation to generation. It reveals the presence of God, His might, His power and His holiness and ability to save the people whom He has chosen (Deut. 7:7-8). These attributes of God are also present, and He remains mighty to save, even when He is not in the forefront of the action, but in the background and even when He is not referred to or mentioned by name. This is the situation in the Scroll of Esther (Megillat Esther). It reveals the presence of Him Who is invisible.

We know the story and it is a great one. It is a story of absence – absence from the country where the sons of Jacob were to shine, to prosper, to worship God in the majesty of His holiness, to be blessed and to be a blessing. It is a story of the absence of a national leadership amongst the captives from Judea and Samaria who were taken first to Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, some of whom were later brought to Persia (modern-day Iran) and who were living during the reign of King Ahashverush (Ahasuerus). It is a story where the absence of God in the lives of the captives stands out by the failure to refer to Him. It is a story that serves as the background for the complaint of the people, as revealed in the explanation of the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel, namely, an absence of hope: “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off”.'” (Ezekiel. 37:11) But, even in the blatant absence of specific reference to Him, still, the Holy One of Israel continues to exercise His sovereign control over all the fortunes and misfortunes of the people, whom He referred to as “the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

This comment is being written on the 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar [Bet], the day “when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed, on the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained the mastery over those who hated them”. (Esther 9:1)

We look at the story with the benefit of hindsight. It is written for us and we can see how the pieces that seem disjointed all fit together and reveal the Hand of God and His unseen presence among His people, during one of the lowest times in the history of the nation of Israel. The major players are Mordechai, his niece Hadassah (whose name in exile was changed to Esther), King Ahashverush, who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia and Haman, to whom the king gave exceedingly great authority. The king commanded that all of his servants, who were at the king’s gate, were to bow down and pay homage to Haman. But, Mordechai did neither.

From a political perspective, we see a “situation developing”. One man, who was at the king’s gate (i.e., was part of those who were close to the seat of power and who were able to come in and go out of the court without a special permit), defied the command of the king and would not bow down before Haman. It is recorded for us that Mordechai was living in the citadel of Susa. He was a descendant of Kish, who was a Benjamite and part of the upper class families who were taken captive and exiled along with King Jeconiah of Judah. (Esther 1:5-6) Another famous descendant of Kish was Saul, Israel’s first king, who disobeyed the Lord’s instructions given through Samuel the prophet, to strike and totally destroy Amalek. King Saul defeated the Amalekites, but allowed their king, Agag, to live – an act of disobedience that resulted in the Lord rejecting Saul from being king. Ultimately, the prophet Samuel killed Agag.

But, Haman is said to be “the son of Hammedatha the Agagite”. So, the consequences of Saul’s disobedience had future consequences for the nation of Israel. The descendants of Agag came to distant lands and some of them, like Haman, ended up in the service of the king of Persia. And so, once again, a descendant of Kish meets up with a powerful Amalekite.

However, as mentioned above, not only is Mordechai a descendant of Kish, he is also a Benjamite. Benjamin was the last son of Jacob. He was born after Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, after Jacob crossed the Jabbok and after he and all of his household bowed down before Esau. (Gen. 32-33, 35:16-18) Therefore, Benjamin, who was the only son of Jacob who was born in the land of Israel, did not bow down before Esau. And, his descendant, Mordechai, stood his ground, as well, and did not bow down before Haman. When questioned by the king’s servants why he refused to bow, his answer was that “he was a Jew”. (Esther 3:4)  The refusal of Mordechai to bow down before Haman “filled [Haman] with rage”. When he was told “who the people of Mordechai were … Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordechai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahashverush (Ahasuerus)”. (Esther 3:5-6) Lots (Purim) were cast to determine the day that this would take place.

Haman’s understanding went beyond the simple fact that there are a people under the king’s rule who have a different religion. The issue was not the existence of a different religious belief, which could be tolerated, but rather, the Jewish people, whose existence would not be tolerated by the descendant of Agag, the Amalekite. Even though only Mordechai refused to bow down, the entire nation was going to suffer the consequences of his act of defiance.

The rest of the story continues, with Haman convincing the king to issue an edict that the Jewish people be destroyed. Haman was even willing to pay money into the king’s treasury if the king would agree to his request. Mordechai publicly demonstrated against the king’s edict and enlisted his niece, Hadassah (i.e., Esther, after whom the Scroll is named) to appeal to the king. Esther was chosen to replace the deposed Queen Vashti, when the latter refused to appear before the king and his drunken friends, who had been partying for seven days. Esther explained to Mordechai that her life would be endangered if she came into the presence of the king without being summoned. Mordechai wisely explained the situation in a clear and unequivocal manner: “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14) Things don’t get much clearer than that. Esther understood the gravity of the situation and that it was not her life only that was at risk, but those of the Jewish people who were under the rule and reign and authority of the king – her husband.

She requested that all of the Jews in Susa fast (and impliedly, pray) for her and not eat or drink for three days. She and her maidens would do the same and afterwards, she would go to the king, contrary to law, and, as she said: “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16) And she and they did so and on the third day, the fate of Esther and the Jewish people was decided. The sentence of death had already been passed. Now, would the sentence of death be carried out, or will there be life? The golden scepter was extended to her and with it, life for her and eventually, life for the Jewish people. She chose the manner of presenting her petition to the king and the timing of it. In the meantime, the king had a bout of insomnia and instructed that the chronicles of the kingdom be read to him. It was then that he learned that Mordechai discovered and informed about a plot to kill the king, who now decided to publicly honor and reward Mordechai by dressing him in royal garments and having him paraded through the city square on a horse, on which the king himself had ridden. Haman was appointed to do this for Mordechai and to proclaim before all the people: “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desire to honor.” (Esther 6:10-11) This further enraged Haman.

When Esther revealed to the king what Haman had done, the king issued another edict that allowed the Jews to defend themselves, inasmuch as by law, he could not cancel his own decree. Haman was the recipient of the king’s wrath, as he and his ten sons were hanged on the gallows and what had been meant for evil was turned around for good. (Esther chpt. 9) Mordechai recorded the events and sent letters to all the Jews in all the provinces under the authority and rule of King Ahasverush (Ahasuerus), obliging them to annually celebrate the 14th and 15th days of the Hebrew month of Adar, “because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday … for Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them…Therefore they called these days Purim after the name Pur…So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants…The command of Esther established these customs for Purim and it was written in the book.” (Esther 9:20-32)

At the end of the story, Mordechai was exalted to a position of power and authority, second only to the king himself. He was “great among the Jews and in favor with his many kinsmen, one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation.” (Esther 10:3)

There is much that this story reveals and many aspects of it have significant, and indeed, eternal ramifications and applications for those within the Messianic community, as well as for the whole world. We see how the Hand of God was moving behind the scene, using the drunken feast of the king to embarrass the then queen, who was removed because of her disobedience to the command of the king (by the way, there was significant reason for that refusal); the choosing of Esther to replace her; the positioning of Mordechai as one who was at the king’s gate and his overhearing the plot to kill the king; his being of the descendants of the tribe of Benjamin; his refusal to bow before Haman the Agagite; the unsuccessful attempt to destroy the Jewish people and Mordechai’s being exalted with power and authority, second only to the king himself.

Our God reigns! “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (Prov. 16:33) What the enemy of our souls meant for bad, God used for good.

Israel sorely needs men like Mordechai today. He was the godly remnant amongst a people who believed that God had forsaken them. He represented the hope of a national restoration, when there had not yet been any experience with exile. Living outside the land, away from the Temple service, away from the place where God commanded the blessing, was all that the people knew. Yet, one man stood in the gap. He said “no”. He would not bow down to man and certainly not to a descendant of those who sought to destroy the Jewish people. Today, we see and experience that once again, the nations conspire together against God and against His people, saying, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation that the name of Israel be remembered no more” (Psalm 83:4). The Lord God of the universe, creator of heaven and earth, knows if you and I are alive “for such a time as this”.  Looking at the situation today in Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East and in North America, we cannot fail to see that the Hamans of this world abound and have multiplied. Some have even been elevated to positions of power, giving them a platform from which to curse and condemn the Jewish people. But, where are the Mordechais? We need to be people who are willing to proclaim who we are, as we face the plans and pursuits of nations to divide this land and scatter God’s people. God doesn’t change. He remains the same yesterday, today and forever! A little faith can move mountains. And God is not removed from us, even though we do not see Him physically, but only with the eyes of faith. He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” (Psalm 125:2)

“I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse.” (Gen. 12:3)

So Bless, be blessed and be a blessing. Happy Purim!

Marvin

Born at 415 grams, today a team player in the IDF

For the last month, most of the blurbs of information that appeared in the news media here focused on the upcoming election, presently slated for early April. Of course, there were other articles and discussions, covering a range of subjects – politics, terror tunnels, confrontations along the border fence with Gaza, anti-semitism, health and medicine, economics, religion, family, archeology, crime, hi-tech inventions, entertainment and sports and more. They were the regular items that make up the heartbeat of the country. But, the heavy emphasis was on politics. Sometimes, I think we need a national pacemaker to keep us on an even keel. Then there were reports regarding the unholy alliance that makes up the Iranian-Shiite axis throughout the Middle East that encompasses Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah (in Lebanon) and Hamas (in Gaza) and their existential threats to Israel. We shouldn’t forget that Russia continues to flex its muscles and exert its influence, primarily in and around the Syrian arena. 

Granted, the next election will probably be one of the most important in our history. Platforms will be important, but less important than the personalities of the people who lead the different parties. There is a concerted effort by committed leftists and newly-declared (and undeclared) middle-of-the-road, leftist leaners, to remove Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. Over the years, Netanyahu has proven to be a skillful politician and an adept statesman, turning enemyship of various countries to friendship. Who is best suited to run the country and provide for its defense – a seasoned politician or a former military commander? The next election will provide the country with an unprecedented opportunity to answer that question. In this regard, it is fair to say that most of those who held high positions in the military, who strategized and fought for the defense and protection of Israel, somehow, somewhere along the line, fail to see the same objectives once they leave the military and don a suit (with or without a tie, depending on the audience).

The past year, as well as this past month and even this week, witnessed the growing cancer of anti-Israel activity by individuals, organizations and countries. This tiny stretch of desert sand has become an obsession with some, who continue to make baseless comparisons of Israel with evil and despotic dictators and regimes, who seek to impose economic boycotts on goods and services emanating from different parts of this country and who even want to criminalize commercial ventures with us. 

We are a resilient nation, unwilling to lay down and die. We exist as a fulfilment of a promise that God made that He would gather us from the nations and bring us back to this land. It is absurd to ask us to account for our legitimacy. “Never again!” means just that, “Never again!” As our former Prime Minister, Golda Meir, once said: “We refuse to disappear, no matter how strong and brutal and ruthless the forces against us may be.” 

There is a spirit within the people here that says that difficulties are only challenges that we need to find a way to overcome. Our perception of the problem, rather than the problem itself, usually determines how we will respond to it.

Such was the situation with Corporal Joshua (his real name is not used here). He was born a “preemie”, weighing in at only 415 grams (14.6 ounces), the equivalent of two pieces of chocolate, and he had cerebral palsy. The doctors gave him only a 5% chance of survival. Last week, he received a Certificate of Excellence from the IDF following his involvement to foil a terrorist attack. In his words, “I proved that even a guy like me can carry heavy responsibility on his shoulders.”

The article appeared on the website of the IDF on 31st January, 2019, in Hebrew. His story began long before he was able to cross-reference the data that would result in saving human life. He was the youngest preemie in Israel ever to survive up to that point. The doctors thought he would never be able to walk or to speak. But, their negative evaluation did not discourage his parents, who were not willing to give up on him. He was their son. They wanted the best for him. They wanted him to succeed. With full cooperation of the medical staff, they got him to stand on his feet and walked with him the entire way with one goal: that he would grow up and become independent. And so, today Corporal Joshua is a regular soldier in a combat intelligence unit of the IDF.

He spoke his first words when he was two and a half years old and began to walk at the age of three. But, the celebration didn’t last long. At the age of five, while crossing the street with his father, a speeding car hit him head on. All his work up to that point was for nought, as he began a long period of rehabilitation and had to learn how to walk all over again. During this time, the doctors emphasized over and over again that, apparently, he would not be able to use his legs again.

But, Corporal Joshua was not willing to accept what others claimed to be his fate. At the end of months of rehabilitation, he learned to walk again and was determined, more than ever, to embark on a new course in his life. “I never lived under any illusions; I knew from an early age that I was not exactly like everyone else, but I have a motto that goes: ‘What is possible – we will do, and what is not – we’ll break down barriers’ [adding] I wanted to prove to everyone that notwithstanding all of the predictions [concerning me]… there wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t be able to do.” 

He went to a special-needs school until the second grade and then continued in the regular educational system, completing high school just like everyone else … and without any special privileges. After receiving his first induction notice [which students usually receive in the 11th grade], the medical staff informed him that he was released from having to serve in the military. This resulted in a lengthy process during the course of which he requested to volunteer to serve the country.

After completing twelfth grade, he attended a pre-military induction course, where he was taught to press on to the full extent of his ability, to accomplish every goal he needed to accomplish and to make the impossible possible. It was during this time that an army officer came to speak to the class. Corporal Joshua saw this as his opportunity to fight for his place in the system. After the meeting, he approached the officer, introduced himself and succeeded to convince the officer to take him under his wing. The same officer helped him to complete the process of volunteering. 

To the surprise of “the system” that exempted him at the outset from enlistment, Corporal Joshua actually flourished in the military. His peak came about two weeks ago. At that time, he brought important intelligence information that resulted in our forces in Judea and Samaria undertaking a nighttime operation to capture a warehouse loaded with weapons, that would likely have been used in a significant attack against Israeli citizens. As he stated: “I received an assignment to investigate a certain area, and after I cross-referenced many sources of information, there was an indication of weaponry in one of the villages in the sector.” On the basis of that information, a combat unit was dispatched to that location and it discovered a warehouse full of weaponry of different kinds.

Following the successful operation, Corporal Joshua received a Certificate of Excellence directly from the commander of the unit. “It was only after the [military] operation was completed that I was able to grasp that the information that I supplied helped to thwart a future attack … I am glad that I had the privilege to lead to this accomplishment, but for me, as soon as this operation was over, I moved on to the other missions that were lying on my desk. The greatest thanks goes to everyone in my department who does a great job every day to discover terrorism and to thwart it in time.” He added in conclusion: “During the time of the pre-military induction course, the instructor used to say: ‘When we walk alone we arrive quickly, and when we walk together we go far’. I am happy to take part in a corps that really does a significant job and succeeds in achieving objectives precisely where my story has released me from taking part. I proved that even a guy like me can carry heavy responsibility on his shoulders. I get up every morning in order to do the best that I can, with a desire to prove that even the sky is not the limit…I believe that if we want something, we need to achieve it, and so what can be done – we do, and what is difficult to do – we need to exert effort until finally, we also succeed.”

Way to go, Corporal Joshua! May there be a multitude of others who are willing to face the challenges before us with a proper attitude, even the attitude of an 85-year-old man of faith who, after receiving a promise, said some forty years later: “Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.” (Joshua 14:10-12)

It’s a new year and the right time to get a proper perspective on who we are and Whose we are. Both will help us to think and to act in a manner that will honoring and glorifying to the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 

[W]hatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

You will also decree a thing and it will be established for you; and light will shine on your ways. (Job 22:28)

What a help you are to the weak! How you have saved the arm without strength! (Job 26:2)

Behold, God is mighty but does not despise any; He is mighty in strength of understanding. (Job 36:5)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

2018 – How Do I Describe You? Let me count the ways.

As we approach the end of the year 2018 and take a glance at what the year was like, what did we see? Here are a just two dozen of them.

1.  Israel celebrated its 70th year of independence! Yay!!!

2.  Israel obtained evidence of Iran’s continued efforts of uranium enrichment and activities towards nuclear capability.

3.  The United States withdrew from The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the formal name for the Iran nuclear agreement).

4.  Hamas began and continues its weekly Israel-Gaza border fence uprisings, with the use of incendiary kite balloons and the widespread burning and destruction of agricultural land and other property in and around communities in the south of Israel.

4.  U.S. President Donald trump signed into law the Taylor Force Act, which cut funds to the “PA” over its practice of paying terrorists (“pay to slay” stipend).

6.  The United States moved its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and a few other nations followed suit. 

7.  Incidents of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic statements by public officials and groups in different countries rose considerably during the year.

8.  Exposure and destruction of no fewer than five cross-border tunnels by Hezbollah from Lebanon and the failure of the U.N. to condemn that terrorist organization as a terrorist organization. 

9.  The U.N. mission on the Israel-Lebanon border marked its 40th anniversary – of ineffectiveness.

10.  The U.N. Secretariat claimed that Israel was responsible for the damage to the UNRWA facilities in the 2014 Gaza War, despite the fact that Israel proved that terrorists used U.N. facilities to hide weapons and fire rockets towards Israel.

11.  The U.S. finally decided to defund U.N.R.W.A., which totally failed in its mission to re-settle Arabs who left Israel prior to the War of Independence.

12.  Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., a strong voice of moral, forceful American leadership in the world and a staunch defender of Israel in that world body, resigned as of the end of this year.

13.  The Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed a quasi-constitutional law, which has come to be known as the “Nation-State Law”. It has been the center of controversy at home and abroad since its enactment. Proponents hail the legislation as a breath of fresh air, claiming, among other things, that it puts Jewish values and democratic values on an equal footing. Opponents condemn it, asserting that law discriminates against Israel’s minority communities. Much of the opposition stems from political overtones and a failure to understand the reason for the Law’s passage and how it impacts Israeli society as a whole.

14.  Tehran continued to destabilize the region and threatened the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, utilizing its proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.

15.  The 7-year civil war in Syria is winding down, with Bashar Hafez al-Assad remaining in power as President of that country. 

16.  The terrorist organization, ISIS (also known as “Islamic State”) was widely defeated in Syria, although it remains active in other locations.

17.  With the defeat of ISIS in Syria, U.S. President Trump decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, much to the satisfaction of Iran, Russia and Turkey, as well as Syria.

18.  The “PA” refuses to have anything to do with the Trump administration and continues to pay terrorists and their families for the consequences of their anti-Israel activity.

19.  On-going rocket and missile fire from Gaza into the southern communities in Israel, including an extensive rocket barrage of some 400 projectiles in November.

20.  Israel’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Liberman, resigned over disagreements following the November events concerning Israel’s response to the attacks from Gaza.

21.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under investigation for possible corruption (charges of bribery and breach of trust), including his receiving a gift from a billionaire of expensive cigars (“Cigar-Gate”?).

22.  Netanyahu called for new elections, which will take place in April, 2019.

23.  Immigration to Israel is up.

24.  WE’RE STILL HERE!

Was that ALL the news? Far from it. We had the excellent, the very good, the good, the less than good, the bad, the very bad and the worst. But, we made it through another year, with successes and failures, with gains and losses, with tears of joy and of sorrow.

Not the least of these events is the recent missile fired from Syria this week, which landed in a coastal area north of Tel Aviv and south of Haifa, resulting in an immediate military response by Israel.

And, the worst of the worst – the tiniest victim of “Palestinian” hatred and terrorist attack: A little boy, born prematurely, who lived only four days after his mother was shot in a drive-by shooting while waiting for a bus. Her husband was also wounded, along with others. They remained in the hospital and were not even able to attend the funeral of their infant son, whose young life ended before it began. One writer expressed it thus: “Until Israel negates the PA and calls it what it really is…never a partneralways an enemy…nothing will have changed. Nothing will have been learned.” (see The Shimon and Levi Option).

So, what about Netanyahu, the dissolution of the Knesset and the call for new elections? In a nutshell, it is probably going to be one of the most important elections in Israeli history. More on this to follow.

As we approach a new civil year, please keep my youngest son, who is serving in the north, in your prayers for protection, wisdom and strength. 

What can we say about all of the above? If God is for us, who can be against us?

“You have crowned the year with Your goodness”. (Psalm 65:11 – Ee-tar-tah shnat tovatecha)

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.

The nations will see your righteousness and all kings your glory;

And you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will designate.

You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD and a royal diadem in the hand of your God…

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen;

All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth…

Go through, go through the gates, clear the way for the people; Build up, build up the highway, remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples.

Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth,

Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” And they will call them, “The holy people, the redeemed of the LORD”; and you will be called, “Sought out, a city not forsaken.” (Isaiah 62:1-3, 6-7, 10-12)

May the new civil year 2019 bring you the blessings of good health, wisdom and grace and favor in the sight of God and man.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Light Dispels Darkness

When dealing with politics, there is always something to observe, always something slightly different and sometimes even something new. Occasionally, there are some surprises, but even then, some surprises are often expected. For example, most political pundits expected that the coalition government in Israel would fall after the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the unaccepted “ultimatum” of members of the Jewish Home Party to have its chairman appointed as the new Defense Minister. Surprisingly, but not unexpectedly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged victorious, pulling an invisible rabbit out of a non-existing hat, resulting in his continuing to lead a paper-thin coalition of 61 members. All this, while holding four ministerial positions (3 temporarily) and while facing ongoing criminal investigations of possible misconduct in different areas while in office. On top of this, he manages to handle international diplomacy, while keeping his hand on the pulse of enemy activity from the Gaza Strip and from our not-so-distant cousins in Lebanon. 

A year ago this week, the President of the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A ray of light began to shine in the darkness and since then, there have been many efforts made by the darkness to smother that light, without success.

Seventy-seven years ago on this date, the American naval base at Pearl Harbor was bombed. The following day, then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began his speech to the U.S. Congress with the words that December 7th, 1941, is a date that will live in infamy forever. 

Earlier this week, Jews around the world began to celebrate the festival of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights (Hag Ha’Ureem, in Hebrew). It commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the successful Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is celebrated for eight nights and days (there was evening and there was morning, one day) and observed by the lighting of a special nine-branched menorah called a “Hanukkiah”. On the first night, one candle is lit. On the second night, two candles, on the third night, three candles and so on until all eight candles are lit. There is a ninth candle called the Shamash, which is lit first. It is then used to ignite the other candles and so serves them and imparts its light to them. There are many traditions accompanying this particular joyful festival, which falls every year on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, that could be between late November to late December according to the Gregorian calendar.

I’ve read many stories of heroism and miracles during this past week. Of the many stories that are moving and which stir the emotions, there was one which a close friend shared with me this morning, which I would like to share with you. It is a special story about Hanukkah. It touched me and I believe it will touch you as well. It contains a message relating to darkness and light, of death and life, of determination to curse and of desire to bless. I have no doubt that most of you who read this post and will see this video will relate to it in one way or another. Its message for each individual should be clear. It speaks volumes and will undoubtedly  remain long in our memories, particularly when we face difficulties and spiritual forces of wickedness. It deals with the Hanukkah Menorah and the Swastika. Please take a moment to look, to listen, to ponder and reflect and to acknowledge that light will always dispel the darkness.

I could easily share a sermon about Hanukkah. I’ve actually given such sermons in the past. Older Testament and Newer Testament combine to give the message that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. He proclaims that light will shine out of darkness and that light is the light of life. 

For those who celebrate this festival of lights, may you do so with good health, with joy and with abundant blessings. For those who do not celebrate it, my prayer for you is that you will also experience good health, joy and abundant blessings.

Be assured that God’s Word is eternal. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths. It teaches and instructs us in the way that we should go. It helps our feet not to deviate from the path of obedience that leads to life and helps to guard our lips that our mouths would not speak evil. It is a mirror that reveals to us what we are really like and what He wants us to be like. And so, I find myself beginning a sermon that was not intended. I’ll leave it at this point.

May you enjoy a peaceful Sabbath’s rest.

Remember: Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

On the Brink – The Short, Gaza No-War War

During two days this past week, a multitude of rocket barrages containing over 460 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into the south of Israel. They were sent towards civilian communities adjacent to and surrounding Gaza. Lives were lost, many residents in the south were injured and there was much loss of, and damage to, property. Israel responded militarily and pounded some 160 designated targets in Gaza. And then, as was expected, Hamas called for a cease-fire. And, as expected, we agreed. Despite heavy destruction to strategic sites in Gaza, Hamas claimed victory. Following the cease-fire, Israel’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Liberman, resigned, stating, among other things: “There is no definition, no other significance, but capitulation to terror…What we are doing now as a country is buying short-term quiet at the cost of our long-term security.” As a result of Liberman’s resignation, Hamas then claimed victory number two, this time, a political one. The events of this past week are not a game of chess. Neither side “won”, but both sides suffered loss.

The resignation of the hard-liner, Liberman, meant the withdrawal of his Israel Beiteinu Party from the coalition government, leaving Netanyahu with a paper-thin majority. Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home Party and present Minister of Education, demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoint him as Minister of Defense to replace Liberman, under a threat to leave the coalition government and force early elections. Due to ongoing conflicts between Netanyahu and Bennett, such an appointment was not expected to take place. And it didn’t. That left the government no choice, but to call for elections, which will most likely take place during the first quarter of 2019.

If the above events were not enough for us in one week, yesterday (Friday) the “Fourth Committee” (“Special Political and Decolonization Committee”) of the General Assembly of the United Nincompoops (U.N.) passed no fewer than nine resolutions condemning Israel, which included one asserting that “unlawful Israeli practices and measures” were responsible for the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip, totally ignoring the fact that in 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gush Katif area surrounding Gaza. All in all, one could hardly say it’s been an encouraging week for Israel.

Then, as if to add insult to injury, Hamas terror organization leader Yehya Sinwar claimed Hamas seized Israeli weapons during this week’s confrontation and threatened to kidnap Israeli soldiers, adding: I advise Israel not to try and test us again.

Israel Hayom-14 November, 2018
Israel Hayom-14 November, 2018

This time you did not have a lot of casualties and you managed to rescue your special forces…You should not try again, because next time you will have to release thousands of prisoners…Our hands are on the trigger and our eyes are open. Listen Netanyahu, and listen whoever will receive the defense portfolio. Anyone who tests Gaza will find death and poison. If we are attacked, we will let the barrage on Tel Aviv do the talking. Our missiles are more accurate, have a longer range and carry more explosives than before.” This threat  is more an expression of bravado than reality. If Hamas had “more accurate” missiles, they would have directed them against more strategic targets, rather than lob them in the direction of residential communities in the south. 

But, the question lingers on: Why did the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stop short of neutraliziing the on-going threat from Hamas and “Palestinian” Islamic Jihad (PIJ)? After being involved with three wars with Hamas over the past 10 years, the threats of yet another war with Gaza inches closer each week, as the riots continue along the fence separating Gaza from the communties in the south of Israel. Despite the eight months of border riots, and despite the government’s rhetoric about dealing with the situation and warning Gazans not to approach the fence, Israel has restrained from pursuing a military solution that would extinguish the fuse that can ignite the entire region in another war, which would in all likelihood be a multi-front war.

It is obvious to all, both Israelis and the terrorist organizations that control the Gaza Strip, that Israel has neither intention, nor desire, to take over the coastal enclave. The cost, in terms of manpower, equipment, economics and international condemnation, would be enormous and would far outweigh any potential benefits that may accrue to Israel. The hoped-for calm and quiet that Israel, in general, and that residents in the south, in particular, desire would be elusive at best and destructive, at worst. And then, there remains the unanswered question: Who will take over if Hamas and PIJ are eliminated from Gaza? The gnawing response leads to the oft-repeated phrase, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” In either case, the devil remains the devil.

Unfortunately, both Hama and PIJ are both aware of Israel’s political and practical dilemma and have learned how to push Israel to the brink of war, to boast of successes in confrontation with the IDF (despite their own significant losses of military infrastructure), as well as in politics and, on the whole, international opinion. In short, Israel needs to re-evaluate its priorities, strategies and goals regarding its Gazan “thorn in the flesh”. A realistic approach would be to eliminate the leadership of Hamas and PIJ, while leaving the residents of Gaza to replace them with a leadership that is concerned more for the people than about eliminating the State of Israel.  The world won’t like us if we pursue such a goal. But, then again, it doesn’t like us now, either. In short, Israel needs to initiate action, rather than retaliate against action that is taken against it.

Part of the problem is Israel’s expressed pursuit of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In reality, such a “solution” is not only un-Biblical, it is totally unworkable. A political attempt to resolve the conflict that fails to factor in the Islamic perspective regarding a claimed occupation of Islamic land by foreign powers is doomed to fail from the outset. The land, promised by God to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has come under the control of Islamic forces during centuries past. Islamic theology holds to the belief that land once controlled by Islam remains holy to Islam, even if Islam is “temporarily” removed from it and the land comes under the control of foreigners, who are considered “occupiers”. Hence, the claim of “occupied territory”, as espoused by the “Palestinians” and surrounding Arab countries, would apply to all of Israel, not just to Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to as “the West Bank”. Keeping the prospect of a two-state solution alive only fuels the fire of continuous conflict and opens the possibility that an Israeli government would actually enter into an agreement to allow the establishment of an enemy state in our midst. 

Another part of the problem is that Israel does not want to become entangled in Gaza, while it faces the threat of what Israeli officials and military personnel have referred to as a “northern war”, namely, a confrontation between Israel and Iranian-backed forces that would most likely occur with both Lebanon and Syria. Iran refuses to leave the Syrian arena, while Israel has repeatedly stated that it will not allow Iran to become entrenched in Syria. The recent delivery to Syria of Russian-made S-300 ground-to-air defense systems has created additional challenges for Israel to act against Iranian military influence in Syria. Assad’s victories over rebel insurgents, with the help of Russia and Iran, as well as fighters from the terrorist Lebanese Hezbollah, has refocused attention on Syria’s desires to regain control of the Golan Heights. Reliable estimates are that Hezbollah has over 100,000 missiles that can reach every major population center in Israel. The missiles are far more sophisticated and potentially accurate than they were during the last war. No doubt, Israel’s defenses would be able to deter many of them. But, the sheer number of missiles would pose a serious challenge to its air defense systems. 

Most military experts are of the opinion that another war with the Hezbollah is inevitable, the only open question being when it will happen? The unpredictability of volatile conflict necessitates a constant readiness to respond to what would certainly be a multi-front war – Hezbollah and the Lebanese army, Syria (including Iranian military support and Russian involvement) and various Shiite militias. Iran would most likely pull the strings of its puppets, Hamas and PIJ, along with other potential actors. No matter how we look at it, the next “northern war” will make the past week’s Gaza no-war war seem like a walk in the park.

Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:4)

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing!

Have a great, God-honoring week.

Marvin

If There’s No Political Solution to Gaza ….

It was only a week ago when a major Lebanese newspaper reported that Israel and Qatar were moving forward with attempts to reach an agreement that would establish a sea passage between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip. According to the report, the route would be monitored by international forces, but under Israeli security supervision. The deal would remove a sizeable portion of the sea blockade and considerably extend the permissible fishing area.

Due to the ongoing friction between Fatah (the PLO faction in Judea and Samaria) and Hamas, the President of the “Palestinian” Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has withheld transferring funds to Gaza. This, in turn, creates an economic crisis which stirs more violent activity each week for the past eight months along the fence separating the Gaza enclave from the communities in the south of Israel.

In an effort to alleviate the economic distress, Qatar has offered to step in and pay, at this point, only the salaries of Hamas civil servants, starting with back pay from July, at the rate of $15 million per month for six months, or a total of US $90 million. This payment, however, has stirred concerns by other “Palestinian” factions about Qatar’s involvement in “Palestinian” affairs and the deal allegedly being worked out on their behalf by Qatar and Israel. The financial “deal” purportedly would reduce, but not eliminate, the ongoing militaristic actions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad along the Gaza fence.

Needless to say, the Qatari cash payments intended for Hamas-controlled Gazan residents was condemned by Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who stated: “This is capitulation to terrorism, and in effect Israel is buying short-terתנועהm calm with money, while severely undermining long-term security.” Qatar has also said it would hand out $100 to each of 50,000 poor families, as well as larger sums to “Palestinians” wounded in clashes along Gaza’s border with Israel. A source close to Mahmoud Abbas said the “The PLO did not agree to the deal facilitating the money to Hamas that way” (i.e., in suitcases – “like a gangster”), adding that such a deal, bypassing the PLO, was damaging to efforts to reconcile the PA and Hamas. In direct contradiction to the recent reports of progress regarding Egypt’s involvement as mediator of talks between Israel and the “Palestinians”, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar denied that any deal with Israel was in the works, saying that an understanding is being worked out between Hamas, Egypt, Qatar and the U.N., adding that whoever says that “there is a deal or understandings with the occupation does not tell the truth”. That statement evidences the underlying attitude of Hamas and its unwillingness to even recognize Israel as an existing nation state.

Whatever may be the situation concerning a “deal in the making” – the situation has seriously deteriorated since last night (Sunday). An elite unit of the IDF special forces managed to infiltrate some 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) into Gaza in a civilian vehicle. Something went wrong and a fire-fight broke out. When it was over, a Lt. Colonel of the IDF was killed, another officer wounded and seven Hamas terrorists were killed, including Nur Barakeh, the commander of one of the battalions of a Hamas brigade in Khan Yunis.  The nature of the mission was not revealed, but military officials said it was “very meaningful” to Israel’s security. Israeli air support was called in to help in the evacuation of the IDF unit. The Lt. Colonel was buried this afternoon with thousands in attendance. He was 41 and left a wife and two  children.

“Red Alert” sirens have been sounding all across southern Israel this afternoon (Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, the area of Beer Sheva and the Dead Sea) and evening. Within the last few hours, barrages of hundreds rockets have been fired towards Israeli communities from the Gaza side of the fence.

Hamas has claimed responsibility for the rocket barrages. Response time to get to a shelter when the sirens go off varies from 15 seconds to a minute and a half, depending upon how far the person is from the source of the rockets. The striped, dark red to the left of the diagram shows 3 points in the Gaza Strip. The red, orange, beige and yellow are Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva and Jerusalem, respectively. The blue patch to the right is the Dead Sea. Response Time to get to a shelterThe IDF has responded by attacking more than 70 terror targets of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, killing several terrorists in the process. Following widespread shooting, the IDF also placed units inside of the settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip as a defense against the threat of infiltration and/or terror-tunnel activity. In addition, dozens of IDF armoured vehicles are on their way to the south to reinforce the units around the Gaza line. A spokesman for the IDF stated: “Hamas is leading the Gaza Strip to destruction and will feel the intensity of the IDF’s response in the coming hours. So far we have attacked a wide range of targets. Firing squads, military compounds and observation posts. The attempt to harm civilians is unacceptable to us and we will continue to respond with force.”

Lest we forget, prior to the events of the last 24 hours, the violent border protests continued with deadly clashes between “Palestinian” protesters and the IDF, at times prompting serious concerns of an outbreak of a new war. And now, here we are once again, “on the brink”.

One would have to ask how a right-wing government has allowed the situation to deteriorate to such a point that we are restraining ourselves from putting an end to the terrorism of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, at the expense of residents in the communities in the south of our country,  citizens who, once again, need to run to secured shelters to get away from rocket barrages emanating from the Gaza Strip. We can’t continue to talk about trying to enter into yet another ceasefire with Hamas. This is an exercise in futility. Even when Egyptian-brokered talks were supposed to be approaching agreement, Hamas and Islamic Jihad continued their violence against Israel. Only yesterday, when Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Paris, together with representatives from countries around the world, to commemorate the end of “The Great War”, he said that there is no political solution for Gaza. If that is the case, then we must follow that statement with: What IS the solution? War? The situation is building up to that. But, to what end? Or, is it agreeing to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state? This is also a non-starter. It would be inviting those who are sworn to our destruction to set up an enemy state in our midst. 

Then there is the option of continuing the “tit for tat” belligerence that falls short of war. The major confrontations are with Hamas-controlled Gaza. But, the recognized leadership of the “Palestinian” Authority is based in Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to as “the West Bank”. The two so-called “Palestinian” entities have been at constant odds with one another for control over those who call themselves “Palestinian”. In essence, their inability to come to terms with one another has set up, de facto, two quasi states, both claiming to be “Palestinian”.

Israel Today - Three states for two peoples - 27 September, 2018
Israel Today – 27 September, 2018

This has served Israel’s interests for the past 11 years, despite the occasional, necessary military actions against Hamas. Most of the time, Israel “responds” to Hamas aggression and when that aggression crosses Israel’s pre-conceived red lines, the IDF steps in to strike hard at Hamas to bring them back into line, until Hamas seeks a cease-fire, to which Israel readily agrees. And so, the cycle continues. The main problem is that Israel does not have a considered strategy concerning Gaza primarily and Judea and Samaria secondarily. And so, we continue to respond, instead of to initiate, leaving the fate of the residents in the south of Israel to the whims of “Palestinian” bureaucrats and Holocaust deniers, like Mahmoud Abbas, or to terrorists, sworn to the destruction of Israel, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who decide when they want to aggravate Israel. At some point, Israel will cease trying to compromise with our enemies and decide to finally defeat them. 

Until then, every response of the IDF to the aggression of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is intended to systematically weaken their military infrastructure. But, is it enough to accomplish the ultimate goal of getting them to stop attacking us? Hamas will not stop unless it believes that its actions will result in its being removed from power. If that is, in fact, the case, then we should use force to end the force being displayed against us. Hamas knows that Israel can wipe them off the map. Israel knows that as well, but exercises restraint far beyond what other nations would do under similar circumstances. That is because Israel recognises that the world does not treat it like other nations. When Israel is involved in a matter, there is always the double standard of expectation and condemnation.

We are “The People of the Book” – the Bible. Shouldn’t we learn from the innumerable lessons that are presented in the Scriptures for our benefit?

When Elisha (the prophet) became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him …Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows” … Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” … then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. He said, “Open the window toward the east” … Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” … And he said, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram (Syria); for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.” Then he said, “Take the arrows [and] Strike the ground” and he struck it three times and stopped. So the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.” (2 Kings 13:14-19)

What country in its right mind would put up with a situation like this?

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions, stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow and the LORD will be with you. (2 Chronicles 20:17)

Thank you for your prayers for wisdom for the government, strength and courage for those who stand in the gap to defend us, grace to bear up under trials and favour in the sight of God and man.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

It Can’t Happen in the U.S. – or Can It?

The cold-blooded murder of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States. The members of the congregation mourn the massacre of their fellow members. The city mourns the tragic consequences of blind hatred. A nation mourns the ever-increasing law-lessness being expressed by anti-semitic acts. A people thousands of miles away mourn yet another deadly assault upon the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If history teaches us anything, it should be that if we ignore what happened, it is reasonable to expect that it will happen again.

It was only a week ago when a gunman entered the Etz Haim (“Tree of Life”) Synagogue with an automatic rifle and several pistols and yelled “All Jews must die”, before opening fire and killing 11 congregants, the last of whom, aged 97, was buried yesterday (Friday). The gunman not only killed 11 people, he injured others in the congregation, along with four policemen. With multitudes on both sides of the ocean and around the world, still reeling from the outworking of unbridled hate, and while relatives of the victims sit “Shiva” (7 days of mourning), another deranged individual acted out his own brand of Jew-hatred, by setting fire to seven Hasidic (ultra-orthodox) institutions in the South Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. The places that were set on fire were synagogues and places of learning (“yeshivot”). On Thursday, vandals spray-painted “Kill All Jews” on the wall of one reform synagogue,, apparently picking up on, and trying to emulate, the statement of the Pittsburgh killer. In addition to the fires set yesterday, the past week has evidenced swastikas graffitied in Brooklyn Heights, as well as the Upper West Side of Manhattan, among other things, including verbal threats against a Jewish man in Brooklyn.

The Pittsburgh massacre has evoked emotions from most people with half a brain. Those who don’t have half a brain deface and set fire to synagogues! And they flood cyberspace with online hate.

Some pictures truly speak louder than words. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published on its front page yesterday (Friday) the beginning of the Mourner’s Kaddish – the prayer, which Jews recite upon the passing of a relative. It has no reference

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-2 November, 2018
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

to death in it, but is totally a prayer of praise to God. The opening words are: Yitgadal v-yitkadash shemay rabah – it is a prayer in Aramaic and means [the opening words]: “Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name….” That this appeared on the front page of the newspaper speaks volumes about the respect and identification that the Pittsburgh community has with the gravity of this despicable crime.

 

Many others expressed sympathy with the Jewish community following the murders that took place last week. One of them was

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers

the American football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who tweeted on October 27th: “We send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this morning’s tragedy in Pittsburgh. We will continue to pray for everyone involved.” The logo of the Pittsburgh Steelers was turned into a symbol of solidarity with the Jewish community, when it added a Star of David to it. According to one tabloid, one of the doctors in Pittsburgh, who was involved in treating the wounded following the shooting, shared the edited logo next to the words, “Stronger Than Hate.”

Penguin Pete
Penguin Pete

The same is true for Pittsburgh’s Penguin Pete.

Surprisingly, two Muslim groups began a fundraising campaign that raised over $40,000 for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. The crowdfunding campaign on “LaunchGood”, stated: “The Muslim-American community extends its hands to help the shooting victims, whether it is the injured victims or the Jewish families who have lost loved ones. We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action.”

Clearly, there were independent voices within the Muslim world who spoke out against the recent terror attack in Pittsburgh and likewise would have been equally critical, even if the terror attack had occurred inside of Israel. One Saudi Arabian journalist stated: “I want to express my deepest sympathy and condolences not only to the Jewish communities, but to all around the world.  What happened in Pittsburgh is sad and a coward act of terrorism and beyond anything that I can imagine. Very, very sad to see innocent lives lost in a place of worship.”

A co-founder of Defend International, Dr. Widad Akreya, who is of Kurdish ancestry, stated: “It is heartbreaking to hear about the horrific Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. My thoughts are with the victims, their families and their friends.  I am grieving with you and hoping for a speedy recovery of the wounded.  May our love surround and comfort all of you.” These are, indeed, noteworthy comments and are undoubtedly genuine.

However, while it is noteworthy that representatives of Arab countries, including members of the news media, condemned the murderous attack, some took advantage of it to condemn Israel and Jews. I won’t take the space here to repeat those condemnations, which are, or should be, familiar to all.

The above events happened in the United States – a staunch defender of freedoms – of speech, of expression, of congregation … and of religion! It is not the Middle East, where differences of religion can affect local standing, civil rights and even the right to live. It is not Nazi-era Germany, where Kristallnacht marked government-sanctioned attacks upon Jewish people, institutions and businesses on November 9-10, 1938. These things can’t happen in the U.S. … or can they?

The events of Pittsburgh, and now Brooklyn among other places, are expressions of a growing disease of anti-Semitism. We can try to talk about it, try to rationalize it and to politicize it (as many have attempted to do this past week), but none of them offer a cure for it. This is not a time to play politics. It is a time to mourn with those who mourn. It is a time for soul-searching and to be honest with ourselves. How we feel about others reflects how we think about them, speak about them and act towards them. Blind hatred is a disease of a sick mind. It doesn’t go away, but only grows worse until it consumes the one who hates. And one of the worst things about hatred is that it is contagious! 

God chose the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be a blessing to the world, among other things. In a letter dated August 18, 1790, following his visit to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, President George Washington wrote, in part: 

“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants – while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

What starts with one will end with many. It may be needless to point out what history has demonstrated over and over again, namely: that hatred that begins against the Jews doesn’t end with the Jews. What happened in Pittsburgh, and again in Brooklyn, is becoming the new normal. Think for a moment: the gunman could have entered a different religious gathering and, instead of yelling, “All Jews must die!”, he could have yelled: “All blacks must die!” or, “All Muslims must die!” or, “All Christians must die!” We are all exposed to the spreading disease of hate. 

Words can kill. America is killing itself with everyone accusing everyone else of everything that they don’t like. And it is spiralling out of control. Hatred, like politics, cannot offer a cure for itself. It has to come from outside. If, indeed, the United States still believes in its motto: “In God We Trust”, now is the time to ask for His help. 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

Then you will call and the LORD will answer; You will cry and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness and if you … satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.” (Isaiah 58:9-10)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Hate Control

It has been a few weeks since I last wrote. In the midst of the pressures of daily life, we all desire to get some rest, while at the same time try to get a handle on the events that unfold, some of which boggle the mind.

The most recent event, of course, is the shooting in conservative synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during a Shabbat service. As of this writing, 11 people were killed and at least six others, including four police officers, were wounded. The gunman entered the Etz Haim (“Tree of Life”) Synagogue and, according to a local radio station, yelled “All Jews must die.” The victims ranged in age from 54 to 97 and included, among others, a husband and wife and two brothers. When the police arrived on the scene, the shooter opened fire on them, but was reported to be injured himself and taken into custody. One can only imagine the kind of hatred that leads a person to enter a religious service and start killing people, because of their faith.

Following this slaughter of innocents, many jumped on the “gun control” bandwagon, again arguing that this type of incident, like an increasing number of others in recent months and years, would not have happened if there was tighter control over who can purchase a weapon. People will continue to kill and injure others, irrespective of whether or not there is more strict control over access to weapons. The issue is not so much one of “gun control”, but of “hate control”. Governments can legislate against “hate speech”, but they can neither legislate against, nor deal with, the source of the hate. The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Only God can deal with that.

The hatred and cold-blooded murder that took place in Pennsylvania occurred five thousand miles from here. Yet, distance cannot prevent our hearts from being united with the families of those who were killed and wounded. Nor does it prevent our prayers from being offered before the Throne of Grace. Sometimes, we wait too long to tell people that we think of, and care about, them. As the Rabbi of the Pittsburgh congregation told those who gathered in the synagogue the following day: “Reach out to the people you know, call the people who you haven’t spoken to in a while.” No matter how strong we think we are emotionally, no education or theological seminary can prepare us for an event like this.

Closer to home, we have other expressions of hate, which are also designed to kill and maim. 

Escalation in the South

The escalation in the south of Israel continued this past weekend. The IDF reported that it struck a four-story building that was used as the new general security command center of the Hamas terrorist organization. This was in response to the rocket barrages from the Gaza Strip towards the settlements in the area surrounding the Strip Friday night.

Over 30 launches were identified as being fired into Israeli territory during the night hours between Friday and Saturday. The “Iron Dome” defense system shot down about ten of them. Two rockets landed within the Gaza Strip (see the outlined photo to the left, from the website of the Spokesman for the IDF, showing some of the areas 

Sites of IDF responses
Sites of IDF Retaliatory Responses

targeted by the IDF in response to the rocket barrage) and the rest fell in open areas. In its response, the IDF attacked about 80 locations of Hamas, including centers for the manufacture of advanced weaponry; military facilities; a command center; a training center  and an observation post. A video of some of the rocket barrages and the response of the IDF can be seen here.  You will need to scroll down to the second screen and click on the arrow to see the rocket fire and aerial defense of the Iron Dome. Also targeted by the IDF were military compounds of the “Palestinian” Islamic Jihad terror organization, which also operates in the Gaza Strip. Among the targets were weapons manufacturing facilities in the north of the Gaza Strip and a factory for the manufacture of equipment to reinforce tunnels. These are not 4th of July fireworks that are sent from the Gaza Strip, but explosive projectiles that are intended to kill men, women and children at random and to destroy as much as possible. 

 

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all that happens in and from the Gaza Strip and the consequences of terrorist activities against Israeli citizens.

Following the cessation of the rocket attacks from the Strip, the Ministry of Defense allowed life in the southern communities of Israel to return to almost normal.

The “Palestinian” Islamic Jihad, which was directly responsible for Friday night’s escalation,  usually operates in coordination with Hamas, with whom it is aligned ideologically. It is the second largest military organization in the Strip. Its present, ideologically extreme leadership is based in Damascus, Syria and serves the interests of Iran. It wants to establish a new kind of equilibrium, by responding with rocket attacks when “Palestinians” are killed during confrontations at the border fence. This is clearly unacceptable to the IDF.

The primary difference between Hamas and Islamic Jihad at this time has to do with their respective ties with Iran. Both Islamic organizations are Sunni. However, while Hamas receives financial support, weaponry and technical assistance from Iran, the Islamic Jihad receives not only money and weapons, but also instructions. In all likelihood, the primary reason that it initiated the rocket attacks last Friday night was because Iran had instructed them to do so.

In trying to figure out what prompted the Islamic Jihad to suddenly initiate the rocket attacks against the Israeli communities along the Strip, there are two possibilities that come to mind: The first is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a “secret” meeting with the leadership of the country of Oman on Friday. Following the meeting, Oman reported that the time has come to accept Israel in the region and offered assistance in the “peace process”. It described Israel as an acceptable country in the Middle East. The Security Minister to the Sultan responsible for foreign affairs in Oman stated in a security summit in Bahrain: “The State of israel is a fact on the ground and we understand this. We are not saying that the way is now easy and paved with flowers, our preference is to put an end to the conflict and to move to a new world.” Such statements fly in the face of the reason for the existence of Hamas – the destruction of Israel. While this event probably did not warm the cockles of the hearts of either Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, it is doubtful that this event was the primary factor that precipitated the rocket attacks against Israeli communities.

What is more likely is the second event that was published on Friday, namely, that after lengthy on-and-off negotiations, Egypt finally achieved an understanding with Hamas to restore calm to the area, more or less (mostly less) similar to what existed following the last Gaza War, Operation Protective Edge. The agreement purportedly calls for an end to the violence of the protesters along the border, but does not include an end to the border protests.

As mentioned in earlier posts, “saving face” is of critical importance in this area of the world. And, if you do not decisively lose a conflict or war, you are deemed to have won. This is particularly applicable when dealing with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They can’t just stop fighting. They have to go out with a “bang”, a large one, so that both the populations that both organizations control and the patrons who control both organizations, will be satisfied. Thus, a substantial rocket barrage was necessary to usher in a period of relative calm. To appear victorious, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad were willing to suffer significant loss, so that following a visible display of military might, they can “agree to” a ceasefire and walk out among their people with their heads high. Israel, for her part, was willing to make a strategic, but painful, decision not to initiate ground action to retake the Strip. 

What kind of picture does this present for us? It’s like another round of tit-for-tat. “You hit us, we hit you back. You try to demonstrate power, we have more power.” So, Israel restrained itself, while the protest marches, incendiary kites and balloons, flaming arrows and explosive toys were sent over the Gaza fence, destroying valuable acres of farmland and other property and causing injury and death on both sides of the fence. In essence, Israel bided her time to allow Egypt to complete its negotiations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. If the negotiations occasionally ran into difficulties, a new round of escalation would push Egypt to get them moving again, even more seriously than before.

Apparently, Israel is willing to settle for proportionate responses, instead of pursuing the alternative solution, namely, initiating a major military offensive in the Gaza Strip with its consequent loss of life and other losses and damage, which would end up like Operation Protective Edge – a cease fire with no future guarantees.

The residents in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip are less interested in strategic stop and go, on again-off again attacks and counter attacks. They want to live without fear of rocket attacks and to rear their children without having to worry about whether another siren will blare, warning of more incoming missiles. On the whole, they would prefer war to this type of uncertainty, which takes its toll both on individuals and property. 

Obviously, Israel is in an ongoing quandry about what to do with the Gaza Strip. If it moves in militarily and takes it over, what will Israel do with it? The last thing we need is to try to gain control over the people of Gaza. Israel cannot, and does not want to, take on this responsibility. The drain on manpower and resources would be enormous, far beyond what could be justifiable. Nor would the people of Gaza want to live under Israeli control or authority or agree to do so. Transferring the Gazans to Arab countries surrounding Israel is not the most welcome idea in our military-political strategy for reasons that should be obvious. 

If, on the other hand, Israel succeeds to “eliminate” both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the natural question is: “Who will step up to take control of the people of Gaza?” No one is waiting in the wings, who would advocate living in peace with Israel. 

In the meantime, each new rocket attack allows Israel to systematically destroy the military infrastructure and capability of Hamas and its cronies, their buildings, tunnels, fighting forces and more. Viewed from this perspective, if push comes to shove and war becomes inevitable, Hamas and Islamic Jihad will have considerably reduced capacity to fight. But, every cease-fire has presented opportunities for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to regroup, renew their strength, increase their forces and prepare for the next round of confrontations with Israel. On our side of the fence, absence of rockets and border fence confrontations will restore, to a degree, the pastoral nature of the communities in the south and allow them again to prosper. A trade-off? Not a good one. A tense quiet. The question always remains: How long will the “quiet” last, before the next assault upon Israeli communities from Gaza?

O God, do not remain quiet; do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. For behold, Your enemies make an uproar and those who hate You have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Your people and conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, ‘Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more’.” (Psalm 83:1-4) – emphasis mine

Those who hate the LORD would pretend obedience to him, and their time of punishment would be forever. (Psalm 81:15)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Not to be sold, distributed or given to BDS Supporters, unless they ask.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (known as the BDS movement) is a global campaign, which began in 2005. It is coordinated by the “Palestinian” BDS National Committee and encourages various forms of boycott against Israel, urging people and nations not to buy Israeli products, not to participate in Israeli cultural events and to rid themselves of all kinds of investments in Israel, Israeli companies and research projects.

Israel, such a small country that has reached three score and ten years of age, has been responsible for a multitude of inventions and products that are beneficial to all of us on a daily basis. Some of the BDS supporters may have availed themselves of some of the following, but will probably not admit it. The following list barely scratches the surface of what Israel has invented, developed and contributed in its brief history.

Robotics

ReWalk is a bionic walking assistance system that enables paraplegics to not only stand upright, but to walk.

Mazor Robotics is an Israeli medical device company and manufacturer of a robotic guidance system for spine surgery. As of September, 2013, the company’s robotics technology was installed in 54 hospital (28 of which were in the U.S.) and has been used in more than 4,000 procedures worldwide. Its initial product, SpineAssist, became the first commercially available mechanical guidance system for spinal surgery.

Chemistry

For those who try to maintain a high protein diet, the discovery of the role of the protein Ubiquitin, by two researchers at the Technion Institute, in Haifa, led them to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Optics

Medigus Ltd. developed the world’s smallest video camera (0.039 inches in diameter; 0.99 mm). The camera is designed for medical endoscopic procedures in hard to reach regions of the human anatomy. An endoscope is an illuminated optical, typically slender and tubular instrument that is used to look deep into the body and used in procedures called an endoscopy. It is used to examine the internal organs like the throat (esophagus), bladder (cystoscope), kidney (nephroscope), colon (colonscope), abdomen or pelvis (laparoscope), among others. They can also be used to examine visually and diagnose, or assist in surgery, such as an arthroscopy. Anyone who has had to undergo a medical procedure using an endoscope is thankful for the development of the tiny video camera.

In line with the smallest video camera of Modigus Ltd. is the “Pillcam”, Pillcam-CapsuleEndoscopedeveloped by Given Imaging. It is the first capsule endoscopy solution to record images of the digestive tract. The capsule is in the size and shape of a pill and contains a tiny camera. It is Israel’s “camera in a capsule” that has been approved for esophagus diagnosis. For BDS supporters, this may be a hard pill to swallow.

Medicine

Azilect (or Rasagiline) is used to treat symptoms in early Parkinson’s disease, or as an adjunct therapy in more advanced cases. The Israeli pharmaceutical company, Teva, marketed the drug, in partnership with others, in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere. For additional news along these lines, click here.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science are responsible for the development of the Copaxone immunomodular drug (also known as Glatiramer Acetate and as Copolymer 1) for treating multiple sclerosis.

Interferon proteins were also discovered by a researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Interferons are a certain type of “signaling proteins” released by host cells in response to the presence of certain pathogens (for example, viruses, bacteria, parasite and also tumor cells). The release of interferons by an affected cell alerts nearby cells to heighten their anti-viral defenses.

Breakthrough in a cure for leukemia. A research team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine developed a new biological drug that had a significant success rate in the laboratory. The drug acts like a cluster bomb and attacks several leukemic proteins at once, making it difficult for the leukemia cells to activate other proteins that can evade the therapy. This “single-molecule drug accomplishes the work of three or four separate drugs. If it were to be used in humans, one of its potential advantages would be to reduce the number of different drugs – each with its own side effects — to which cancer patients would need to be exposed. The other promising aspect of this new drug is its ability to eradicate leukemia stem cells. This has long been the big challenge in cancer therapy and one of the main reasons that scientists have been unable to cure acute leukemia.”

Nano Eye-Drops – a potential alternative to laser correction, glasses and contact lenses. The eye drop adjusts the refraction of light through the cornea, the protective layer that rests above the eye’s lens and the iris.

Computer Hardware / Software

The USB flash drive – a “disk on key” memory data storage device integrated with a USB interface, is said to be the brainchild of the  Israeli company300px-TwinMOS_Mobile_Disk_III_K24-256MB_USB_Flash_drive M-Systems, working in partnership with IBM. 

The Intel 8088 is the first PC CPU (central processing unit) from IBM that was designed in Israel at Intel’s Haifa laboratory. A CPU is the electronic circuitry within a computer that ca540px-KL_Intel_TD8088rries out the instructions of a computer program, by performing the basic operations specified by the instructions. Everyone who uses a computer can be thankful for this development.

Quicktionary Electronic Dictionary is a pen-sized scanner able to scan words or phrases and immediately translate them into other languages, or keep them in memory in order to transfer them to the computer. It was deveQuicktionary3loped by the Israeli company, Wizcom Technologies Ltd.

Laser Keyboard is a fo440px-ProjectionKeyboard_2rm of computer input device, whereby the image of a virtual keyboard is projected onto a surface. When a user touches the surface covered by the image of a key, the device records
the corresponding keystroke. Some of them connect to Bluetooth devices, including smartphones, tablets and mini-PC devices.

Babylon is a computer dictionary and translation program developed by the Israeli company Babylon Software Ltd., established in 1997. It is a tool used, among other things, for translation and uses a text-to-speech agent, so users hear the proper pronunciation of words and text. 

ICQ (which derived its named from the phrase “I Seek You”)  was among the first stand-alone, instant messengers and the first online instant messenger service.

Viber is a proprietary, cross-platform instant messaging, voice-over-Internet Protocol (IP) application for smartphones.

Mobileye vision-based, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) providing warnings for collision prevention and mitigation. Many companies developing autonomous vehicles, such as BMW, rely on Mobileye’s technology. In some places, use of this invention could reduce the costs of car insurance.

OrCam MyEye is a portable, artificial vision device that allows the visually impaired to understand text and identify objects through audio fee440px-OrCam155dback describing what such people are unable to see.

Waze is a GPS-based geographical navigation application program,
which provides turn-by-turn information and user-submittedWaze_4.3_iPhone_app travel times and route details is available in over 100 countries.

WeCU (pronounced ‘We See You’) Technologies, is a technology able to pickup, analyze, and identify in real time terrorists and is being implemented in airports around the world to help identify potential terrorists.

Defense

Among Israel’s many developments in the area of defense, used worldwide, are the following:

The Uzi submachine gun.

The Python short-range air-to-air missile.

The Protector USV unmanned surface vehicle – the first of its kind to be used in combat.

600px-Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Iron_Dome_Intercepts_Rockets_from_the_Gaza_Strip

The Iron Dome mobile air defense system, designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells.

The Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile defense system capable of shooting down ICBMs and other long range missiles.

David’s Sling – an air defense system capable of intercepting enemy planes, drones, tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles.

MUSIC (Multi Spectral Infrared Countermeasure) – a system that counters surface-to-air heat-seeking missiles.

MagnoShocker – combines a metal detector and a taser to immediately neutralize a dangerous person.

Wall radar – a unique radar, that allows its users to see through walls.

Injured Personnel Carrier – A unique evacuation method, comprises a strap which allows someone to carry a wounded person on his back. See the demonstration on YouTube.

The Emergency Bandage is a first field dressing which can be applied and secured with one hand to prevent bleeding from battlefield injuries.

One more item that was reported in the news this past week is: 

The Bullet-Proof Back Pack. Made by the Israeli company, Masad-Armour. itt is a bullet-proof backpack that transforms into a bullet-proof vest to protect against the threat of school shootings in less than two seconds. To see the demonstration, scroll down to the video portion and see how quickly it can turn into a protective bullet-proof vest.

In addition, Israel has also been at the forefront of advances in mathematics, agriculture, economics and theoretical computer science, among a multitude of other matters, including consumer goods, such as “Epilator” (originally “Epilady”), Wonder Pot and games like Rummikub and Taki. The list is simply too large to describe in this post. You can check this link for a few additional innovations that have been beneficial to people all over the world.

For the BDS people to remain true to what they preach, they should not take advantage of any of Israel’s technology. But, their ideology will eventually yield (if it hasn’t already done so) to their unwillingness to give up their conveniences and when it comes to dealing with issues related to their health. If they ever need a surgical procedure that requires using an Israeli invention, it is doubtful that any of them would be willing to die, because they refuse to use the Israeli invention that could save their lives. So, if BDS people try to distract you from supporting Israel, tell them that they have lost their way, but that they can get back on track by using Waze – a remarkable Israeli invention that will help them find the right way in the shortest possible time. We can explain truthful and reasonable things to them, but we are not responsible if they fail to understand them.

“*** 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.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Iran and Israel – From Friendship to Enemyship

Two of the prophetic Fall feasts of Israel, the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonements, are now behind us. Beginning at Sunday evening at sundown, Israel began to celebrate the seventh and final feast, Succot (the Feast of Tabernacles). Officialdom in Israel (government offices, schools and all kinds of businesses) will be closed for eight days, with the first and last days being major feast days. After this holiday, Israel will settle down and return to normal activity, while children wait for the next school-holiday, Hanukkah, in December. 

Tensions remain high in the region, particularly because of the on-going civil war in Syria and the constant threats from the leader of the Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, and from the chief mucky-mucks in Iran. The situation was made even more tense following the terrorist attack that took place on Saturday against the military parade in the southern city of Ahvaz, which left some 30 people dead, about half of them from the Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and another 70-plus wounded. Even though at least two organizations claimed responsibility for the attack, no evidence was forthcoming from them to prove that they carried it out. Other organizations, which were named as being possible perpetrators of the attack, denied having any involvement. At the end of the day, it was not known who was responsible for the attack. 

That event was an embarrassment for the theocratic regime of Iran and its Revolutionary Guard Corp. The fact that the attack was carried out at this time and within the borders of Iran was a particularly difficult blow to Iran’s security establishment, which has boasted of its ability to repel any external threat and revealed that even Iran’s best military unit is vulnerable to a properly coordinated military action. Therefore, it was necessary for them to quickly accuse one or more potential aggressors. In this regard, Zarif accused the United States of being behind the attack, while a spokesman for the Revolutionary Guard accused Saudi Arabia of backing the terrorists. Zarif threatened revenge and the Guards vowed retaliation. “Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks. Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives”. Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are fragile, to say the least. Whatever may have been the situation in the past, it never reached such a scale, where so many soldiers were killed inside Iran itself. Even more embarrassing for Iran and a serious blow to its national pride is the fact that the attack was carried out at a military parade commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 8-year war with Iraq. Moreover, the attack came only days before U.S. President Donald Trump’s address  today to the U.N., where he spoke, among other things, about Iran’s destabilizing “aggression and expansion” and sponsorship of terrorism in the region. It is doubtful that Iran will be affected by anything that Trump said.

It would appear that Iran is once again looking to further its threats against both the United States and Israel and may try to use the attack against its Revolutionary Guards as an excuse for additional military action in the region. Even though Iran has no evidence of U.S. or Israeli involvement, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards accused them both and said they they should expect a “crushing and devastating” response from Tehran.

Iran chooses to ignore, at least officially, that this particular attack was in response to Iran’s aggressive actions in the Middle East theatre. Iran (formerly known as Persia) is a Shiite-dominated theocracy. It has become more and more involved and entrenched in this region. Its proxies include not only Syria to the northeast of Israel, but the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is directly north of Israel and which has played a significant role in the Syrian civil war, supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Last week, Hezbollah’s General Secretary, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened that his organization “possesses precision and non-precision rockets and weapons capabilities…If Israel forces a war on Lebanon, Israel will face a fate and a reality it has never expected on any day.” 

Earlier this month, Iran openly fired multiple missiles on a base in northern Iraq, housing an Iranian Kurdish opposition party. A dozen people were killed and several dozens of people were wounded as a result. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (“PDKI”), an anti-Iranian organization, accused Iran of using “long-range missiles in a coordinated attack on PDKI’s bases and adjacent refugee camps”. The Kurds, who number about 30 million, have sizeable communities in various countries in the Middle East. The PDKI threatened retaliation for Iran’s actions and it is reasonable to credit that organization with carrying out its threats. If Iran can attack Kurds outside of Iran’s borders, then the Kurds can attack Iranians within Iran’s borders. If, in fact, they were the ones responsible for the attack on the military parade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, then it would be another example of the eye-for-an-eye mentality so prevalent in Middle East conflicts and portends that more of such incidents will follow.

Iran’s accusation are like “the pot calling the kettle black”. It loves to blame others for behaving as it does. 

According to the United States Department of State’s Annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2017, released 19 September, 2018, at page 218: Iran creates “instability in the Middle East and “uses regional proxy forces to provide sufficient deniability to shield it from the consequences of its aggressive policies” Iran’s nature being what it is, the cycle of cross-border attacks that we’ve seen take place this month will most likely not end soon. The only real question for Israel is: How far will Iran, itself, go to carry out its threats against Israel?

We’ve gone through a few “almost war” scenarios since the beginning of the year, but the actions and threats have fallen short of actual international belligerence.

The two countries weren’t always at odds with one another. In fact, it was quite the opposite.  Israel and Iran were actually friendly and cooperated with one another on many levels, including military cooperation, even after Iran cut diplomatic ties with Israel following Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. Today, however, the situation is completely different and Israel views Iran as an existential threat.

In the light of the present, on-going tensions between the two countries, it is difficult to imagine that the two of them ever got along with each other. The “friendly” relationship between the Jewish people and Iran goes back to the time of the Persian King, Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Jews living in Persia to return to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-2, 7-8; 3:7; 4:3; 5:13-14, 17; 6:14; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1, 13). Fast forward to modern times, Iran served as a convenient intermediate point of transit for Jews fleeing Iraq shortly following Israel’s independence in 1948. Ironically, Iran followed Turkey’s lead and, in 1950, it became the second country with a Muslim majority to recognize Israel, although in a de facto manner at first and more officially several years thereafter. The relationship was mutually beneficial for many years, with Iran supplying oil to Israel when other oil-producing countries would not. Israel, for its part, provided assistance to Iran in many different areas, such as agriculture, medicine, construction and military intelligence.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Iran was split between its secular and religious elements, with the latter pushing for Iran to join Arab countries in their opposition to Israel. However, the country maintained its secular perspective until the Shah was deposed in 1979. The primary issue that divides Iran and the Arab world today is a religious one. Most of the Arab world are Sunni Moslems (headed up primarily by Saudi Arabia), while Iran leads the minority Shi’ite element. After the secular Shah was deposed in 1979, the religious fringe which took over the country was overtly anti-Israel and promptly severed all relations with Israel and, over time, eventually led to the establishment of local proxies, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, as well as in other places. However, even after the ties between the two countries were “officially” at an end, Iran purchased hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms from Israel during the early years of the Iraq-Iran War in the early 1980’s. Religious zeal yielded to secular needs.

When the former U.S.S.R. came apart, things became progressively worse between the two countries and former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an ardent denier of the Holocaust, openly called for the annihilation of Israel. The U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran – a move strongly encouraged by Israel – added to the anti-Israel stance of Iran. It is no wonder that Iran condemns and threatens Israel at every opportunity. 

With Russia’s entry into the Middle East arena, Israel needs to re-evaluate its strategy for multi-front warfare. After Syria shot down a Russian plane, resulting in the death of

The Dry Bones Blog-25 September, 2018
The Dry Bones Blog – 25 September, 2018

some 15 Russian personnel, Russia blamed Israel for what Syria did and now plans to reward Syria and supply it with S-300 air-defense systems – a serious concern for Israel.

Pray for wisdom for our political and military leaders, for strength and boldness for those who stand ready, day and night, to defend us from attacks from our enemies.

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.” (Isaiah 54:17)

Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with joy.

The Dry Bones Blog-27 June, 2018
The Dry Bones Blog – 27 June, 2018

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

UNRWA – Debunking and Defunding a Deception – Part Two

Shalom all,

Many things have happened over the past ten days, significant things that will have long-term implications. The U.S. decided to close the Washington, D.C., office of the PLO, then it expelled the PLO ambassador. An Israeli-American, the father of four, was stabbed to death by a “Palestinian” terrorist in broad daylight. And earlier today, Russian blamed Israel for Syria’s shooting down of a Russian jet, following Israel’s attack on the Syrian port city of Latakia. These and other events happened quickly and each deserves its own space. In addition, the Day of Atonements, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, will begin at sundown tonight and continue until sundown tomorrow. From an official perspective, the country will be in a shut-down mode. 

The last post dealt with the background for the establishment of UNRWA and the clear fact that it was devoted exclusively to deal with one class of alleged refugees, with manner of operation that goes contrary to all other relief organizations. Billions of dollars have been poured into this agency by different countries, including the United States, with little or no accountability to those donor countries for how the funds are used. 

Even though throughout the years it was widely believed that the U.S. is biased in favor of Israel, the regrettable reality is that the U.S. is not exempt from bearing its share of responsibility for the broad international acceptance of the false “Palestinian” narrative, a narrative that the “Palestinians” repeat at every opportunity to whoever would listen. This false narrative starts with the unfounded and historically inaccurate claim that Israel stole “Palestinian” land and now illegally occupies it. The myth of stealing the land has been repeated so often and so loudly that the lie has filtered down to the generations that have been born sinice 1948, who are willing to die for a lie. Other aspects of the “Palestinian” narrative include, among other things: that as a result of the claim of Israel stealing “Palestinian” land, so-called “Palestinian refugees”, who now number about 5.5 million, have a “right of return” to reclaim that land and that the Jews have no claim to Jerusalem, all of which belongs to the “Palestinians”. Until now, neither the U.S. nor any other democratic country  was willing to publicly challenge the “Palestinian” narrative. Attempts by the U.S. to give the appearance of being impartial in the Arab-Israeli conflict have not helped to resolve the conflict. Countries have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the truth, not wanting to upset the Arab oil-producing nations.

Clearly, the time has come for truth telling with regard to the false claims of the “Palestinian” narrative. One of the most important issues that needs to be dealt with is the falsehood regarding the so-called “Palestinian refugees”. It began as, and continues to be, a political tool that UNRWA perpetuates in an effort to justify its own existence (and the money that it receives and disburses) and to keep the narrative alive, as well as keeping a multitude of people in refugee “camps”. Lest we forget, those who can be legitimately be defined as “refugees” number only about fifty thousand today. The rest are descendants of people who have since died. These descendants never lived in Israel and cannot be considered as refugees under the  definition of the Refugee Convention, mentioned in Part One of this blog, but who are, nevertheless, considered as refugees by UNRWA. Even if the Arab world would agree to resettle them, grant them citizenship and the opportunity to live normal lives, UNRWA would still consider them to be refugees. This position fans the flames of the modern 70-year-old conflict and only makes it worse. It creates a false hope, that is passed down from generation to generation, that the descendants of the Arabs who left Israel prior to the outbreak of the War of Independence will be able to reclaim the land by force and cleanse it from any Jewish presence. UNRWA does its part in this as well, as can be seen here and here. Every country with half a brain in its diplomatic head recognizes the impossibility of Israel agreeing to repatriate millions of alleged “Palestinian” refugees. Clearly, other alternatives need to replace this part of the “Palestinian'” false narrative.

In all fairness, it should be pointed out that Israel had also been willing to placate the international community and allow the continued existence of UNRWA and its support by the international community, rather than attempt to persuade the world that this agency needs to be revamped or cancelled. However, in June, 2017, Israel finally took a stand and declared that UNRWA should be dismantled. The position, announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was based on the argument that there is a lot of incitement against Israel in some of UNRWA’s institutions and that UNRWA’s work perpetuates the “Palestinian refugee” situation, rather than helps to resolve it. Somewhere along the line, the world seemed to overlook the fact that UNRWA’s teachers union and workers union had both been under the control of Hamas for years before Hamas gained control over the Gaza Strip in 2007 – without a word of opposition by UNRWA. And, while we are dealing with UNRWA’s silence, we should be vocal about the fact that UNRWA did not voice any objection to Hamas using its facilities to teach school children to become involved in the war against Israel, as seen in the above videos. So, it was not surprising that the day finally came when Netanyahu announced, “Therefore, the time has come to dismantle UNRWA and merge its components with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR].” There cannot be any real disagreement with the fact that UNRWA was politicized from the outset and has been used as a tool used by the “Palestinians”, who live under the delusion that Israel would one day agree to commit national, demographic suicide by permitting the country to be flooded by millions of so-called “Palestinian refugees”.

While Netanyahu’s belated call for dismantling UNRWA may have been unrealistic, defunding that organization might ultimately accomplish the same goal. This idea has been given a substantial “push” by the United States, who expressed its intention to defund UNRWA. The decision, announced by U.S. President Donald Trump, mixed diplomacy and business and made the first conditioned on the second. If the “Palestinians” refused to negotiate peace, they would pay the financial penalty for their failure. In this regard, Trump the businessman was still looking to make his “deal of the century” – a deal that would end the Arab-Israeli conflict. This has long been a policy in international relations – if you want money, be willing to participate in the game and play ball.

At the beginning of this year, the issue became more crystallized, with President Trump tweeting: “But with the ‘Palestinians’ no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” Good question! It should have been asked decades ago.

Fast forward to 31 August, 2018. The U.S. State Department announced:  “Beyond the budget gap itself and failure to mobilize adequate and appropriate burden sharing, the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years. The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation.”

The U.S. move to cut funding to UNRWA was welcomed by Israel. Even the head of Israel’s opposition party, Yair Lapid, said that not only does that organization provide “cover to terror”, it also caters to “5.5 million fake refugees … [and] perpetuates the big Palestinian lie” regarding the number of refugees and their non-existent “right of return”.

Obviously, the decision did not warm the cockles of the hearts of the “Palestinian” leadership, who broadly condemned the move. Only a few days prior to the U.S. announcement that it would cut off the funding to UNRWA, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat and the main “Palestinian” negotiator in Israeli-“Palestinian” peace talks, responded to another US decision to cut $200 million aid to the “Palestinians”, stating: “The international community is not doing the ‘Palestinians’ a favor by providing them with financial aid. This is a duty of the international community, which bears responsibility for the continued Israeli occupation.” His statement was published on 25 August, 2018, in Arabic in Wafa, the official news site of the “Palestinian” Authority.  This is an incredible statement. The “Palestinians” see themselves as being victimized by Israel and blame the international community for allowing it. In their view, the international community is now indebted to the “Palestinians” and, therefore, obligated to provide it with financial support because of the international support of Israel. Talk about ingratitude! It would appear that the “Palestinians” themselves are not aware of all of the anti-Israel resolutions that have been passed by the “supportive” international community.

Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, has been a thorn in the side of Israeli-bashing countries in the U.N. since her first day in office. In an interview conducted with her on 29 August, 2018, she stated, among other things, that if the countries that receive funds from the U.S. shout “Death to America”, why should the U.S. give them a single penny? She added: “When you look at UNRWA, there’s a couple of issues there. First of all, you’re looking at the fact that … there’s an endless number of refugees that continue to get assistance, but more importantly, the Palestinians continue to bash America. … They have their hand out wanting UNRWA money. We were supposed to give them $130 million. We cut it in half, saying that they really needed to reform and fix the things they were doing, because they teach anti-Israeli and anti-American things in their textbooks. They are not necessarily doing things that would cause peace. They didn’t say thank you (for the money we did give). UNRWA had them protest in the streets that we didn’t give more.”

At last, U.S. leadership that is prepared to stop funding countries – and organizations (like the PLO) that call out “death to America”. This is so incredibly basic. When the recipient bites the hand that feeds him, why has that hand continued to feed? If the answer defies logic, then we need to look for the answer from a different perspective.

Will rich oil-producing Arab countries step in and make up the shortfall in the funding for UNRWA? Time will tell.

[The] eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Restore us to You, O LORD, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old (Lamentations 5:21)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

If you choose to fast this Yom Kippur, may it be an easy one for you.

Marvin

UNRWA – Debunking and Defunding a Deception – Part One

Shalom all,

The major buzz around here this past week, just before the Jewish New Year (Rosh HaShanah – or Feast of Trumpets) was the excitement, good and bad, over the possible defunding of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) by the United States. This post is intended to provide a background to this matter, which will be followed up by the next post. Since the end of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, efforts have been made by international agencies and governments to “deal with” the so-called “Palestinian refugee” issue. The issue has gathered momentum and has cost tens of billions of dollars and it seemed as though it was impossible to bring it to a peaceful conclusion. But, God, for Whom nothing is impossible, brings light into darkness and exposes the deceptions of the father of lies.

“Alice: There’s no use trying … one can’t believe impossible things. 

The Queen: I daresay you haven’t had much practice….When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” (Lewis Carroll, 1871, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, Chpt. 5)

In the introductory chapter to her classic work, From Time Immemorial (J. KAP Publishing, 1985), Joan Peters stated: 

“It was 1974, two and a half decades after the war against Israel’s statehood, with several Arab-Israeli wars since, and these . . . people were still refugees . . . . “Why were the Arab refugeees, unlike refugees on other continents, not yet rehabilitated but still in camps?

* * * *

“But the increasingly insistent depiction of the Arab Palestinians as victims of Israel’s existence is difficult to avoid. The high visibility causes nagging doubts. The provoking of doubts is well financed and carefully orchestrated: a mere phone call to request refugee estimates from the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) brings to me, by return mail, not only the requested data, but politically focused brochures and eight giant elegantly printed photographic posters, eloquently and sympathetically depicting Palestinian women and children – ‘Survivors who go on surviving.’ News cameras that once captured ‘terrorist’ Yassert Arafar with his revolvers in the United Nations later find him cuddling infants in the smoking ruins of Lebanon, and still later, as the ‘moderate’ under siege by ‘extremists.'” (Peters, pages 4, 6)

By October, 1948, less than half a year after the establishment of the State of Israel, there was heated debate over the exact number of Arab “refugees” who left Israel. According to the United Nations, the number was estimated to be about 500,000. On December 8, 1949, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 302, establishing an agency under the jurisdiction of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR – whose primary purpose is to resettle and rehabilitate refugees). This agency, UNRWA, was given the unique responsibility to “direct relief and works programs” for the “Palestinian” Arab refugees and for them only. After spending several hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to establish a census, whose purpose was to separate genuine from fraudulent claimants, it finally reported that “it is still not possible to give an absolute figure of the true number of refugees as understood by the working definition of the word.” (Report of the Director, Special Report of Director and Advisory Commission, UNRWA to Sixth Session, General Assemblym UN Document A/1905)

By 1961, the then Agency Director of UNRWA acknowledge that the number of refugees included in the counts by the United Nations, included “other victims of the conflict of 1948”. These were persons neglected by their own, Arab governments, who should not have been included in those considered to be Arab refugees from Israel. “[By] continuing to be unfaithful to its own mandate, UNRWA contributed to further distortion of an already misrepresented and misunderstood refugee situation” (Peters, p. 19)

The Inclusion Clause in Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Refugee Convention provides that a refugee is a person who:

“… owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

However, the UNRWA, for the purpose of its trying to obtain a census of Arab refugees in 1950, defined “refugee” as “a person normally resident in Palestine who had lost his home and his livelihood as a result of the hostilities and who is in need.” This definition was modified by UNRWA to include those people who had lived in “Palestine” a minimum of only two years preceding the 1948 conflict. These definitions differed from that of the 1951 Refugee Convention and further perpetuated the great cloud of unresolved doubt regarding the true number of Arab refugees. But, instead of being absorbed by the Arab nations in and around the Middle East, the matter of the refugees remained a political tool, which exploited and perpetuated the issue of the so-called “Palestinian refugees”. UNRWA played a major role in this matter, allowing the definition of a “Palestinian” refugee to also include the descendants of the original so-called “refugees”, resulting in the multiplying of the numbers of alleged “refugees” by hundreds of percent over the original numbers of 1948, whatever they actually were. So, instead of resettling and rehabilitating so-called “Palestinian refugees”, UNRWA has actually perpetuated their existence . . . and its own, thus furthering, rather than resolving, the “Palestinian refugee” issue. The claim of “refugee” status is based on voluntary information supplied by the individuals who seek to benefit from the services of UNRWA.

Present numbers are estimated  to be some 5.5 million refugees. Even if some of these so-called “refugees” became citizens of different countries, they are still treated as “refugees” by UNRWA and eligible for its aid. The “repatriation”, of these alleged “refugees” is one of the major demands of the so-called “Palestinians”. The political structure was and remains well-oiled, well-funded and enables UNRWA to continue its unending goal of providing for the ever-increasing numbers of “Palestinian refugees” – until now. Part Two of this blog post will deal with the present resistance to the continued existence of UNRWA.

It is important to get a perspective of where the billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money have gone over the years. Some of it, unsurprisingly, has ended up in the pockets of the Hamas terrorist organization, many of whose members are openly on the payroll of UNWRA’s full-time staff of some 23,000 people. Despite the almost 70 years since its creation and a present annual budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, getting these so-called “refugees status in different countries is not any closer now than it was back in 1948. UNRWA’s creation was flawed from the outset. It was devoted to one people group and has acted over the last three score and ten years to perpetuate not only the Middle East conflict, but its own existence. The world community has been duped and has been paying a hefty price for the privilege of being used as a financial tool to help prolong a situation that it condemns and wrongfly blames Israel for causing. If you want to know where the problem areas of the world are, follow the money.

The time is long past due for UNRWA’s existence to come to an end and for Arab countries in the Middle East to absorb all of the so-called “Palestinian refugees”, which they have refused to do for the past 70 years. A lie has been perpetrated during all that time. It was repeated over and over again, more and more loudly over the years and is even believed by those who promulgated the lie, to create a great myth – the myth that Israel stole “Palestinian” land. One cannot steal from someone what that someone never owned.

To be continued ….

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)

“… God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” (Genesis 50:24)

“[In] a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52)

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 Christ 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.” (1 Thessolonians 4:16-17)

May this Feast of Trumpets, which begins tomorrow night, bring with it the sound of the Heavenly Trumpet, that when we hear it, our eyes would see the coming of the Glory of the Lord.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Have a healthy and joyful Rosh HaShanah.

Marvin

No Free Lunches

Shalom all.

“*** [The] issue of Jerusalem is a misleading one. Whether or not there will be an independent “Palestinian” state somewhere is not the focal point of the conflict. The bottom line is the unwillingness of the Arab states to recognize and allow a Jewish state to exist in their midst. Iran desires to re-establish the Persian caliphate. Turkey wants to re-establish the Ottoman Empire. ISIS wants to establish an Islamic caliphate and usher in the Third Imam. None of these things are possible as long as Israel is in the land of its forefathers that was promised to it by the God of all the earth. To the Islamic mind, the Jew is an infidel, whose presence in the midst of the Arab nations prevents the coming of the Islamic messiah. Therefore, the struggle to remove Israel will continue, whether or not Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, or East Jerusalem will be the capital of a future “Palestinian” state. Real peace will not be based on possession of any particular stretch of desert sand, but upon a recognition and personal acceptance of the Prince of Peace, Messiah Yeshua.

“The only question I have at the moment is ‘What price is Israel going to have to pay for this announcement?’.

In response to the question posed at the end of the quoted segment, one of the long-time readers of this blog wrote: “I believe there are no free lunches. We will be forced to compromise on something significant in exchange. That’s the nature of a deal.”

And so it is. A little more than a month and a half after U.S. President Trump’s historic anouncement, recogning Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people, he opined that Israeli and “Palestinian” attempts at peace failed because of the inability of both sides to agree over Jerusalem. So, his recognition of Jerusalem was his way of taking the issue of Jerusalem off of the negotiating table. At a press conference held on 26 January, 2018, Trump stated: “there were never any deals that came close because [of] Jerusalem. You couldn’t ever get past Jerusalem. So when people said, oh, I ‘set it back’ – I didn’t set it back. I helped it. Because by taking it off the table, that was the toughest issue. And Israel will pay for that.(emphasis mine) The removal of Jerusalem from the “peace” discussions prompted the chief “Palestinian” negotiator, Saeb Erekat, to condemn the President’s remarks and to comment that taking Jerusalem off of the table was the equivalent of “taking peace off the table”, as if the issue of peace was ever genuinely a matter for negotiation from the point of view of the “Palestinians”.

About a half year has passed since then, with the proposed “deal of the century” being drafted and re-drafted. And lo and behold, once again we face the reality in politics that “there are no free lunches”. 

Last week, at a rally in West Virginia, President Trump re-shuffled the cards and wanted to deal out a good hand to the “Palestinians”. He referred again to the fact that Jerusalem was “off the table” and that there is a price to pay for that, saying: “We took it off the table. In past negotiations, they never got past Jerusalem. Now Israel will have to pay a higher price because it’s off the table (i.e., because of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital). The Palestinians will get something very good because it’s their turn next.” (my emphasis)

From the point of view of the “Palestinians”, Trump’s “higher price” in peace talks declaration fell on deaf ears. They dismissed his comments are “meaningless”, asserting that President Trump’s declaration was “a continuation of U.S.’s biased policy in favor of Israel. The U.S. administration is peddling an illusion, as if the ‘deal of the century’ can be implemented without Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state in any future agreement” [and] that if the U.S. does not cancel its statement that the issue of Jerusalem is “off the table”, there is “no chance for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” As a result of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the only alleged “compensation” that the “Palestinians” say would be acceptable to them is “to recognize the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.” But, Majdi al-Khaldi,  the senior diplomatic adviser to “Palestinian” Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, hit the nail on the head when he stated that from the “Palestinian” point of view: “The obstacle in the path of the peace process is not Jerusalem – it is the occupation.” And so we come full circle and return to the opening paragraph of this post: The bottom line is the unwillingness of the Arab states to recognize and allow a Jewish state to exist in their midst….Therefore, the struggle to remove Israel will continue, whether or not Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, or East Jerusalem will be the capital of a future “Palestinian” state. 

Things are bound to heat up somewhat, as the U.S. is planning to announce that it rejects the “Palestinian” claim to a right of return and will take this issue “off the table” as well.  If that’s not enough, the waving of the “Palestinian” flag in the public sphere in Israel might become illegal. Such a potential prohibition would apply to the flying of flags of all enemy states and not specifically, or exclusively, to the “Palestinian” flag.

Realistically, we have nothing to talk about with the “Palestinians”. They will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. For our part, we cannot give up any land in the heart of Israel to allow the setting up of a “Palestinian” state in our midst. Such an action would be sheer madness on our part. When will the dead peace process be finally buried? Maybe then, talk about a two-state solution will cease. This is not, and cannot be, an acceptable solution for Israel, but an opportunity for the “Palestinians” for further conflict against Israel.

The proposed “deal of the century” will soon be put on the table. And “the cost of the lunch” will be …..

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you.” (Ps. 122:6)

“May the L0RD bless you from Zion, He who is the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps. 134:3)

Have a great week.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Israel’s Nation-State Law – A Continuing Controversy

Shalom all,

On 19 July, 2018, the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed a quasi-constitutional law, which has come to be known as the “Nation-State Law”. This legislation has been cheered by many and objected to by many more. It has been the center of controversy at home and abroad since its enactment. It has generated public protests attended by tens of thousands. At least seven petitions have been filed with Israel’s Supreme Court in an attempt to have the law declared “unconstitutional”. And, as with most matters of controversy in Israel, it has taken on political overtones. Proponents hail the legislation as a breath of fresh air, claiming, among other things, that it puts Jewish values and democratic values on an equal footing. Opponents condemn it, asserting that law discriminates against Israel’s minority communities. Some of the comments will be mentioned below.

When dealing with legislation, two primary questions need to be asked, namely: (1) What does it say? and (2) What does it mean?

The law itself is relatively short, only 11 provisions. So in answer to the first question – What does it say? – I decided to include here a full translation of it, so that it can be seen as a whole:

Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People

1 – Basic principles

A.  The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.

B.  The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.

C.  The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.

2 – The symbols of the state

A.  The name of the state is “Israel.”

B.  The state flag is white with two blue stripes near the edges and a blue Star of David in the center.

C.  The state emblem is a seven-branched menorah with olive leaves on both sides and the word “Israel” beneath it.

D.  The state anthem is “Hatikvah.”

E.  Details regarding state symbols will be determined by the law.

3 – The capital of the state

Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.

4 – Language

A.  The state’s language is Hebrew.

B.  The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.

C.  This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.

5 – Ingathering of the exiles

The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles.

6 – Connection to the Jewish people

A.  The state will strive to ensure the safety of the members of the Jewish people in trouble or in captivity due to the fact of their Jewishness or their citizenship.

B.  The state shall act within the Diaspora to strengthen the affinity between the state and members of the Jewish people.

C.  The state shall act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people among Jews in the Diaspora.

7 – Jewish settlement

A.  The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.

8 – Official calendar

The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside it the Gregorian calendar will be used as an official calendar. Use of   the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar will be determined by law.

9 – Independence Day and memorial days

A.  Independence Day is the official national holiday of the state.

B.  Memorial Day for the Fallen in Israel’s Wars and Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day are official memorial days of the State.

10 – Days of rest and sabbath

The Sabbath and the festivals of Israel are the established days of rest in the state; Non-Jews have a right to maintain days of rest on their Sabbaths and festivals; Details of this issue will be determined by law.

11 – Immutability

This Basic Law shall not be amended, unless by another Basic Law passed by a majority of Knesset members.

That’s it. Relatively short and to the point. After it had been debated and revised for over a year, it was passed by a vote of 62 in favor, 55 against, with two abstentions. Commenting upon the legislation immediately after its passage, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated this was “a pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel…We enshrined in law the basic principle of our existence. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, that respects the individual rights of all its citizens. This is our state — the Jewish state. In recent years there have been some who have attempted to put this in doubt, to undercut the core of our being. Today we made it law: This is our nation, language and flag.”

As for the second question – What does it mean? – this is the part that has sparked such ongoing opposition and antagonism. The primary argument of critics of the law is that it is discriminates against minorities in Israel. This claim is expanded upon and embellished, and is filled with accusations of wrong-doing, including the enshrinement into law of racial superiority, relegation of minorities to being second-class citizens and insensitivity to their feelings.

In a nutshell, the language of the nation-state law is designed to make sure that Israel does not succumb to multi-culturalism that would destroy its national identity, its historical and Biblical right to the land and its unique culture, that was generated primarily by Jews who returned to their ancestral homeland, bringing with them both diversity with identity. What Israel wants to achieve with this law is exactly what its opponents want to prevent – an attempt to make the obvious explicit: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, with all that such a statement entails. That means it can have an official language, a flag,  national holidays and that it possesses the sole right to expand its tent pegs to settle the land, from “Dan to Beer Sheva”. It is this latter aspect which is the crux of the opposition to it. Just as a brief aside: The law refers to the “development of Jewish settlement”, not the setting up of “settlements”. There is a significant difference between the two.

If the “exercise [of] national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”, that precludes non-Jews from being able to claim the right to self-determination as a nation within the borders of Israel. The need for such a provision is abundantly evident in light of the unrelenting efforts of the so-called “Palestinians” to claim a non-existent right of return to the land to set up a “Palestinian” state. As has been mentioned time and time again, the Islamic perspective is that Judaism, along with Christianity, are false religions and that Islam has replaced Judaism. From that perspective, Islamists assert that there can no basis for the establishment of a Jewish state. But, Jews can continue to live, along with Christians, under Islamic law and rules. So, if there is no “right” to a Jewish state, the argument naturally follows that Jews also have no right to defend it, i.e., Israel should have no army or other defenders of the nation, but Jews and others should live at the mercy of Islam.

But, there is more. Israel’s Arab neighbors reject Israel’s very existence as the “nation-state” of the Jewish people. Their constant claim is that Judaism is a religion and not a nationality and that “Islamic history” negates any Jewish connection with “Palestine”. This denial of genuine historical fact regarding the ties between the Jews and the land known as Israel is an essential part of Islamic theology, which asserts that any land that was ever under the control of Islam remains holy to Islam, even if Islam’s rule is temporarily removed from the land. Viewed from this perspective, all of Israel is considered as “occupied territory”, as it was once controlled by the Ottoman Empire, which was Islamic.

1534648986a_mo1-412x291.jpg
Cartoon from Israel Hayom, August 19, 2018

Thus, the enshrining into this new law the factual existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people runs contrary to everything that is claimed by the “Palestinians” and Islam and is a difficult pill to swallow.

In this regard, the real underlying opposition to the law became abundantly clear during one of the rallies that took place a few weeks ago, during the course of which “Palestinian” nationalist symbols, like flags, were displayed. Stated differently, the outcry against the new law is that it fails to treat all Israeli citizens equally. And the intention behind the argument of inequality is that it denies “Palestinians” the right to “national self-determination”, i.e., to set up a state of their own “in the State of Israel”. And so it is as it should be! The calls for “Palestinian” national rights at the protest gathering were what the opposition is really all about. Those calls were interspersed with calls in support of a “Palestinian” state and against Israel, even including the oft-repeated cries of Hamas terrorists, “With blood and fire, we will redeem ‘Palestine'”, as well as “Millions of martyrs are marching to Jerusalem.”

The new law is not intended to be legislation in the normal course, designed to guide the daily affairs of the country’s populace. It is intended to be a formal “declaration” of what Israel is, historically, nationally and Biblically – the place where God has called the Jewish people, the place where He wants to bless them and, as a consequence, to bless the world through them.  The desired equality that opponents of this law desire could well eventually result in the same multi-culturalism that Islamists have successfully used to bring about the cultural suicide that Europe is experiencing in our day.

All the issues raised by the Nation-State law are not dealt with here. Some things in the law will still need to be ironed out. For the time being, the controversy will continue.

Then the LORD said to him [Moses], “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants’.” (Deut. 34:4)

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: Save [us], LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues. (Psalm 120:2)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

 

Gaza – Are We Being Manipulated into Another War?

Shalom all,

It seems like a long time since I last wrote. Well, maybe because it is a long time, some of which is attributable to my being abroad and some from severe jet lag. While in the U.S., I experienced what some would refer to as “culture shock”. It simply is not the same place that it was when I left there in the mid-80’s. My wife’s suitcase was “lost” on the way over and then “found, three and a half weeks later, the day before the return trip. On landing in Tel Aviv, my wife and I discovered that her suitcase did not make it on the plane together with us. But, the airline was prompt and diligent to deliver it to our home the very next day. The great part about the trip was catching up with dear friends and even having a mini-family reunion. There were times of sharing the Word of Truth in local congregations, as well as about our pro-life ministry in Israel. We were in four states and drove through two more. All in all, we had sweet fellowship with precious brethren and were able to catch up with family members. The time seemed to fly.

Upon returning to Israel, the big issue of the day was the backlash against the passage of what is known as the “Nation-State Law”. Its passage has resulted in renewed accusations of apartheid, caused at least one politician to submit his resignation as a Member of Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), generated mass protests and created a serious rift with the Druze community in Israel, which, up to the time of the Bill’s passage, had been strong supporters of Israel and, and, and….

What is it about this new law that has generated such antagonism and split even further the political divide? Is the criticism justified or is it merely the result of a lack of understanding regarding its content and consequences? This is what was on my mind, but it took second place to the recent events taking place in the south of Israel.

As a brief reminder, every Friday for the last several months, violent demonstrations have taken place along the Gaza fence, which separates Gaza from Israel communities in the south of Israel. As part of those weekly incidents, whose participants number in the thousands, terrorists use all kinds of weapons against the soldiers who are protecting our southern border. While various weapons have been used by terrorists from Gaza against the IDF, causing injuries and even one soldier’s death, the Hamas terrorist organization has also used incendiary kites that have destroyed wide areas of agricultural property and have caused damage to residences, businesses, and individuals here. 

However, beginning this past Wednesday night and continuing into Thursday, Hamas once again broke the cease-fire that it asked for and about 200 rockets were fired from Gaza into communities by Hamas terrorists. The Reuters News Agency captured one of the Hamas missiles exactly at the moment when it was intercepted and destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome Defense System. But, when Hamas tried to stretch its wings and fired a rocket toward

Reuters PHOTO-2018-08-10-13-38-34.jpg
Reuters PHOTO-2018-08-10-13-38-34

Beersheva, that was the trigger that resulted in the IDF retaliating and destroying a building in Gaza City that was used by the internal security forces of Hamas. Israel retaliated against approximately 140 Hamas military targets. People on both sides of the conflict have been injured or wounded, some seriously, some mortally.

 

The missile barrage on Israel of some 200 projectiles within the space of less than 24 hours was picked up by many media sites. But, not all of them bothered to deal with the essential facts, so that the matter could be put into proper perspective. This appears to be particularly true when the one on the receiving end is Israel. As is often the case when reporting about Israel, the realities of the situation are twisted to the point of casting blame on the victim, Israel, instead of Hamas.

Case in point, as reported in Hebrew by Ynet:  The British Broadcasting Company (the BBC) issued a Tweet, whose headline read: “Israeli airstrikes ‘kill woman and toddler'”, without any mention of the rocket barrage fired at Israel. A spokesperson from the Israeli Foreign Ministry responded: “This is a formal complaint by [the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs]. This title is a deliberate misrepresentation of reality (that’s the polite equivalent of “this is a LIE”, if you don’t get it). Israelis were targeted by Hamas and IDF acts to protect them. Change it IMMEDIATELY!!!”

While the Twitter account did not change the headline right away, the news site changed the headline to read: “Gaza air strikes ‘kill woman and child’ after rockets hit Israel.” Later on, the original Tweet in Twitter was deleted and a new Tweet was written: “The Israeli army says it attacked Hamas targets in response to the firing of dozens of rockets at Israel.” What should be noted about the “P” report of the mother and child is that the “Ps” actually took the photo from somewhere else. It is a photo of an American baby that they downloaded from Instagram.

Most of the larger news networks were fairly balanced in their headlines, even those which chose to include in the bylines the death of the “Palestinian” mother and her daughter, following the Israeli response to the missile barrage. But, the popular Italian newspaper, “La Republica”, stood out in its blatant failure to every try to present the reality of the situation. It read: “Gaza: A pregnant Palestinian mother and her daughter, a year and a half old, were killed by bombings.” In the sub-headline, there appeared only: “Among the victims was also a 30-year old man. The present escalation in the Gaza Strip comes when Egypt and the U.N. are brokering an attempt to bring about a cease-fire.”

The Dry Bones Blog,blog@mrdrybones.com.png>-9 August, 2018
The Dry Bones Blog,blog@mrdrybones.com.png>-9 August, 2018

The firing of missiles from Gaza was not mentioned at all in the article that appeared on the front page and only those who bothered to read further were able to discover the information about the firings from Gaza. It seems that only when we do something, that it becomes newsworthy – distorted, but newsworthy.

 

I could easily relate to the multitude of different news sites that bothered to report on the matter, which didn’t even try to put first things first. But, this would only repeat what has already been written. Prejudice against Jews and Israel is expressed in many forms and, sometimes, it is expressed by its failure to present the entire picture, thus creating a misleading impression, which allows one’s innate attitudes to take over.

But, where do we go from here? There has been yet another “temporary” cease-fire. If things go as they have always gone, the present cease-fire will soon cease – Hamas will once again fire missiles into Israel and we will once again retaliate. And we will be blamed again for defending ourselves and for surviving and for the consequences of our retaliation to the instigation of Hamas.

The Dry Bones Blog,blog@mrdrybones.com.png>-15 July, 2018
The Dry Bones Blog,blog@mrdrybones.com.png>-15 July, 2018

Expressed somewhat differently, we are, and will continue to be, accused of a disproportionate response. And the cycle will begin again. Residents in the south of Israel are willing to risk war for the sake of gaining long-term peace and quiet. Mothers do not want to constantly be in a situation where they need to decide which child to save when the sirens sound, signaling incoming missiles.

As a result of the missile bombardment, Air Force personnel were called up and ground troops were being prepared for a move southward for another military engagement with Gaza. Israel is pragmatic and knows that at some point, it will have no choice, but to re-enter Gaza. Most of us will agree with the words of President Thomas Jefferson: “I have seen enough of one war never to wish to see another.” War is not our goal, nor is it our desire. It never has been. But, it is a reality that we have dealt with in the past and will, unfortunately, have to deal with again before too long. 

So, why haven’t we already put an end to this on-going cycle of “If you hit me, I’ll just hit you back, harder”?

Several possibilities exist: (1) Gaza is simply a time bomb with a fuse, that once it is ignited, it will cause the entire region to explode, something that Israel does not want – nor do most of Israel’s neighbors; (2) If a war breaks out with Hamas, which is an Iranian proxy, Iran could pull the strings with its other proxies in the region and bring about a multi-front war with Israel – Hezbollah in Lebanon (north), Assad in Syria (northeast) and Hamas from Gaza (southeast), as well as the possibility of direct confrontation with Iran (from the far northeast). While being far from an ideal situation, Israel is already planning for this eventuality; (3) Another war with Hamas is likely to generate a worldwide backlash, particularly from a media point of view. Regrettably, Israel has not done well in the war of public opinion. 

And so we wait. 

In the meantime, proposals are being considered in order to bring about another, admittedly, “temporary peace” with Gaza. But, none of the proposals are good for Israel. We cannot allow our enemies to dictate to us terms for peace. The consequences of “them” deciding, rather than Israel, will be disastrous. It’s been said that “War settles nothing.” 

“And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples, And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.” (Isaiah 2:4)

Have a great week and remember: Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin