Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bogdan (Yok!)

The other night I was walking back to my hotel from Independence Square in Netanya, when I went into a kiosk near the corner of Gad Mekhnes Street in order to get a Diet Coke (אלא מה). As I was paying, I looked up and saw this taped to the shelf:

Yes! There he was, Bogdan Zynovii Mykhailovych Khmel'nyts'kyi himself, hero of the Ukraine and one of the greatest mass-murderers in Jewish History. I was not a little taken aback. 'Do you know who that is?' I asked the owner. 'No,' was his reply. So, I informed him. "He's responsible for the cruel, sadistic murders of anywhere between 100,000 and 300,000 Jews in the years 1648-1649. He's also the Ukranian national hero.' The man's eyes bugged out. Then, incensed, he grabbed the bill and said, 'So, look what we'll do to this SOB. We'll tear him to smithereens together.' And he did. I took my Diet Coke and he stood there smiling. The next day I came in again and he commented, 'See what I did to that...'

Lesson #1: You never know when you're going to give a brief lecture on any topic in Jewish History or Judaism.

Lesson #2: I love Israel.

Would 'Jason' Schocken, 'Menelaus' Abramovitch and 'Tobias' Avneri...

Please, just leave the country. Please go away. Go to Europe. Go to New York. Take your entourage with you. Please let us live in peace, instead of injecting our body politic with moral malignancy. (Oh, what are the nicknames? See here.)

Shahar Ilan on the current state of affairs.

War? No way
Shahar Ilan

One of the most obvious conclusions of the war and its consequent protest movement is that for a large and influential part of the public, the concept of a war of no choice has ceased to exist. From this perspective, every war that Israel initiates (or at least every war that claims lives) is a war of choice and is illegitimate. And, anyway, there is no calling for a war. So what if most of the public, including residents of the North, thought that the second Lebanon war was an absolutely vital war. War is a harsh thing, painful and dirty, and therefore it is very easy to gnaw at its support. Fact. It happened.

There might have been no other government with a more legitimate casus belli than the junior officers' government of Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz. Neither is suspected of harboring dreams of conquest and heroics. And if this limited operation has proved to be a size too large on a center-left government, and has led to a protest movement that threatens to overthrow the (newly elected) government, then it is obvious that a rightist government, or a generals' government, would have received much less leeway.

From now on every government will have to take into account that a substantial and influential part of public opinion does not consider any number of lives lost to be acceptable. In such an atmosphere, with headlines counting the dead each day, every war is a predetermined defeat; if not military, then at least moral. Another conclusion is that every war in Israel will end in a committee of inquiry (or several committees). The only war that will win full public support will be one in which Israel is attacked first. But then again a committee of inquiry will be set up to investigate the intelligence failure to predict it (or to predict it more accurately), and the army's lack of preparedness (or insufficient preparedness). And therefore every war will be conducted under the threat of a committee of inquiry, and every general will conquer a little, mop up, but mainly cover up and brush off responsibility. And perhaps in order to expedite, shorten and improve the procedures, a committee of inquiry should be appointed right at the beginning of a war, starting to gather materials and sending warnings for the failures that have taken place, and those yet to take place.

It is particularly hard to understand the rightists' enthusiasm over the inquiry committee. The ritual of the committee of inquiry is part of the "legalization" of the political establishment. If a problem is not decided in the political arena (and nearly nothing today is decided in the political arena), you turn to the High Court of Justice. And if a problem is not solved at the High Court of Justice, you set up a committee of inquiry.
Because if this war topples Olmert's government, there is a very likely possibility that next time there is a need to launch a war, no one will have the guts to say so. And, finally, when war will come knocking at an inconvenient time and circumstance, it might be tenfold more terrible and claim many more lives than a preventive war. One hopes that Prime Minister Olmert will stand firm against the pressure and not set up a state committee of inquiry. If he folds, it is already foreseeable what the next committee of inquiry will be investigating: the question of why didn't we engage in the next war while it was still small, like the second Lebanon war, and waited for it grow, and become the second Yom Kippur War.

Elul 5766: Food for Thought for Diaspora Jews

I just returned from vacation in Netanya (more on that later), and discovered this. It deserves maximum distribution.

If Israel had only a year to live
Bradley Burston

If you knew that Israel had just a year to live, would you see it differently?If, as a Muslim, you knew that Iran, in the name of Islam, was about to turn the Jews of the Holy Land into ash, how would it influence your outlook, your beliefs, your actions?

If as a Diaspora Jew, you knew that you were about to be all that was left of the Jewish people, would that affect your observance, your identification, the direction of your social conscience?These days, the questions are more than merely theoretical, a point which grass-roots reactions to the recent war drove home with telling effect. Certainly never before was this newspaper, a clearinghouse and meeting place for passionate opinions on both sides, so swamped with messages haunted by the prospect of - or explicitly advocating - genocide.

Iran's certainly thought about it. They've calculated that since Iran's land mass is some 86 times that of Israel, they could take a nuclear first or second strike and still reduce the Jewish state to Alamogordo glass.

So how would it work, if those who would have Israel disappear got their way?Some of it we know. Some of it we've already seen. We know that there would be jubilation in Arab capitals, as well as broad swaths of Malaysia, Indonesia, Detroit, San Francisco, London and Paris.

There are also millions upon millions of Muslims which the annihilation of Israel would give serious pause. Perhaps a reconsideration of the wisdom of having granted jihadists a broad measure of respect in avenging Israel's killing of Muslim civilians - and avenging the very existence of Israel - by killing Jewish civilians.

Perhaps, as well, a reconsideration of having given so public a stage to radical Islam, and of having remained on the sidelines - or voicing roundabout but heartfelt justifications - as murders were committed in the name of justice, in the name of defending the Prophet, in the name of restoring Muslim honor, in the name of fighting Bush, in the name of Allah.

What we don't know, is how the Jews of North America would respond. Not the minority that is active in Jewish or Israel-oriented organizations, not the minority that takes active part in synagogue or Jewish community life.What about the others? The majority.

There's no question that for many American Jews, Israel has already ceased to exist. It is a dot on a map, an unfamiliar, perhaps dead-end branch on a fading family tree.

It only makes sense. Some are alienated by the character of North American Judaism. The liturgy doesn't speak to them. The culture doesn't speak to them. Their interests lie elsewhere, in social action, in making a living, in making a lifestyle, in getting through the day.

For many of the generation of Jews now in their 20s and 30s, it appears, Israel is simply not relevant. Life is too short. Life is too full. Life is too promising, to have it be dragged down by that bummer of a distant Promised Land.

It's the wrong promise. There's too much to answer for. Jews - heirs to what we prefer to recall as the Old Testament prophets' social vision of Judaism as exponent of equality, generosity, humanity, Swords to Plowshares - don't want to be thrown into the First Samuel reality of swords, swords, and swords.

Maybe, in the end, all of this is a healthy thing. Maybe North American Jewry should begin to think about a future without a state of Israel. Maybe it's time for the Jewish world's largest Diaspora to start acting like it. Maybe it's time that a healthy, unselfconscious, reduced-neurosis authentic American Jewish culture emerged.

Not because Israel is about to be erased.

Rather, to make sure that in the future, American Judaism is not.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Toward the end of his shiur last night (on עדות שאי אתה יכול להזימה), Reb Usher Weiss recalled that Reb Yisrael Salanter used to grow faint when they blessed the new month of Elul. The reason was his apprehension at the onset of the 'Days of Judgement' that Elul signals. He implored us to start to do Teshuvah now, and not to wait for Rosh Hashanah. 'Let us have something,' he said,
'even the smallest Teshuvah, to bring to HaQadosh, Barukh Hu in a month's time.'

Just as there is individual repentance and atonement (בס"ד), so there is communal repentance and atonement (בס"ד). Both are incumbant upon the individual Jew, because he/she is both an independent part of Knesset Yisrael, but also derives his/her identity from being an integral part thereof. It's not enough to worry about one's own house (despite Salanter's famous, depressing, adage). One must take one's own peace in hand to advance the Teshuvah of the whole.

Herewith, are two issues requiring חשבון נפש this first Shabbat of Elul.

Yisrael Harel points out that, tragically, if we wish to survive we must put our children in harm's way. If we don't, we are done. I would add that, as the Rov זצ"ל taught: The Jew, and we are Jews first (even if some don't want to admit it), must live an heroic life and has a heroic, glorious destiny. Sacrifice, however, is built intothat destiny and no amount of philosophizing can alter that reality. History is the proof.

Graduates of Sha'alvim are leaving YU because it's too academic. In other words, just when we so desperately need Bnai and Bnot Torah who have academic training, the forces of obscurantism are running riot in our yeshivot.

While the fire yet burns....there is much too fix.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Funniest Hazarah b'Teshuvah Speech Ever

Hilly Gross from Lincoln Square Synagogue has provided this wonderfully diverting (and all too true) discourse, delivered at an NJOP dinner (albeit twenty years after it was delivered. Did someone say fine wine?).

[Hat tip: Paulette Woolf]

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

O Tempora! O Mores! O Volozhin!

The Volozhiner Yeshiva Building Today

A well known story has it that after Yom Kippur, when everyone would leave to break their fast, the Netziv זצ"ל, would stay behind in the Bet Midrash and learn, despite his advanced age. He did that so that the 'Voice of Torah' should not cease from being heard in the Bes Medrash for even a moment. It was only after the first talmidim started to drift back that the Netziv left to break his fast.

I recalled that story this evening. I decided to go and learn in the Bet Midrash of a yeshiva in the area. It's the first night of Rosh Hodesh Elul. I thought a yeshivishe davenen would be in order and the Gemora I am learning really required concentration. In other words, I needed to sit in a real Bes Medrash for a few hours. So I drove over, parked the car and walked up to the doors. They were locked, as were the side doors. I was really surprised. Yeshivot in terrible sections of New York are never closed.

I asked someone, 'Since when is the Bet Midrash locked at 8 PM?" He answered, 'It's still בין הזמנים. So the Bet Midrash is closed at 3PM. Tomorrow, it's already not בין הזמנים , so it should be open longer then.'

I walked back to the car, a bit saddened. True, I don't often frequent this particular Bet Midrash. However, there is always something comforting that קולה של תורה can be heard 24/7/365. There really should be no בין הזמנים as far as this is concerned.

Lesson for Elul: Visit the local Bate Midrash more often.


From Jameel:

5:32 PM Speechless. Channel 10 just announced the results of a poll they conducted: If there would be elections today for Prime Minister, who would you vote for? Check out the following results:Amir Peretz 1%
Shimon Peres 2.6%
Ehud Olmert 3.4%
Benjamin Netanyahu 46.5%
Avigdor Leiberman 46.5%

Stranger Things Have Happened

[Thanks to my nephew, Rabbi Yitzhak Bergstein, for sending me this.]

A Smile in the AM

[Thanks to Aviad Stollman]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

כח מנחם אב: יום השנה לנצי"ב מוואלאזין זצ"ל

Today marks the 113th Yahrzeit of R. Naphtali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, the Rosh Yeshiva and Rov ov Volozhin (Netziv; 1817-1893), about whom I've written before .

I have long felt a deep connection with the Netziv (for which I owe a debt of gratitude to Rav Herschel Schachter שליט"א), whose humility and strength, breadth of learning and careful insight are always a pleasure to encounter. I am proud of the fact that my personal copies of his commentary on Humash, העמק דבר and that on the שאילתות, known as העמק שאלה are in deperate need of rebinding (though I would be the absolutely last person to say he has done anything more than water skied over the ocean of his wisdom).

Of course, the Netziv to which I am drawn is not only the fabulous lamdan and insightful Biblical exegete. I am drawn by his sharp awareness of the needs of our people, his strong commitment to Religious Zionism (in its חיבת ציון form) and his belief that so-called secular studies are an integral part of the Torah (though he thought that they should not be studied within the framework of a Yeshiva).

My rebbe, R. Gedalia Felder זצ"ל, once mentioned to me that on the yahrzeit of an אדם גדול, one should spend time studying his works. I do try to do that as often as I can. In light of the present situation, I think I'll read his essay on Antisemitism at the back of his commentary on שיר השירים, entitled רנה של תורה.

You can't quote the ירושלמי in שקלים too often:

אין להם נפשות לצדיקים, דבריהן הן זכרונן

Santayana Redux

Elyakim HaEtzni offers the following historical parallel (with a few additions by yours truly):

Lessons from Carthage:
"Peace now" won out in ancient times, leading to the slaughter of thousands.
Will Israel learn the lessons?
Elyakim Haetzni

Carthage was an empire that ruled from Libya in North Africa to Sicilia to Sardinia to parts of Spain. It was the center of world finnnace.

Rome stood in opposition, but encountered Carthage's naval superiority. The fighting between them continued for 200 years and ended with the destruction of Carthage.

Theodor Mommsen, in his classic "The History of Rome", describes the people of Carthage as a nation not driven by freedom, or even by power. All they cared about was money. And they tried to use their money to buy peace and quiet from Rome, but were systematically rejected.

Corrupt peaceniks

Carthage was ruled by a "peace party" of elites - corrupt, incompetent and sold on the Romans. In opposition stood the "war party," who claimed that compromise bought only time, and that Rome's goal was to destroy, not co-exist, with Carthage.

Mommsen's description could well be talking about modern-day Israel: "In a country clearly threatened with a war of destruction, the geniuses, the determined and the committed will plan immediately to attack, but they will be swallowed up by the lazy, cowardly money-worshippers, who will push off the final battle at any cost, in order to live, and to obtain their deaths, in peace."

Army chief Hamilcar Barca and his son Hannibal planned the defensive war against Rome far away from home, with funding they had to raise themselves - from provinces they'd captured in Spain.

Hannibal crossed the Alps, attacked the Romans on their own territory and reached the gates of Rome. His fall was in part due to the fact that he was not supported financially from home, and reinforcements arrived sporadically.

Following the loss Carthage became a liability to Rome, and it appeared the peace camp had been right all along: Carthage thrived and succeeded, much to Rome's chagrin. Cato the Elder uttered his famous phrase, "Carthage must be destroyed!" [Carthago delenda est- JRW] at every opportunity. And after 56 years of "peace now," the Romans attacked. Hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered or sold into slavery.

Love peace, prepare for war

The people of Carthage, descendants of Tyre and Sidon, were our cousins (and the ancestors of the present-day Lebanese-JRW). We, too, love peace, and have built a thriving, flourishing economy. Our army and our political policies were almost thrust upon us. We, too, are torn between an approach that it is possible to appease the Arab enemy, and an approach that the enemy means exactly what it says.

Pogo Lives!

I generally avoid posting in Hebrew. I am making an exception in the case of the following, self-explanatory, e-mail I received today:

מחאה והתארגנות לחרם!!! לא להתעלם!!! הגיע הזמן למחות, זה לא יכול להמשיך כך יותר! אבסורד ופשע!!!

לציבור הרחב תחושה קשה על התנהלות ערוצי השידור מתחילת המלחמה ולא מבינים היכן לעזאזל הצנזורה או לפחות האחריות האישית המינימאלית של הכתבים.

הנה ככה זה מתחיל
"...הפעולה של צה"ל מתחילה עכשיו..." זעק בהתרגשות כתב בכיר בערוץ 2 -רוני דניאל- ביום רביעי השחור 9/8/06 בשעת ערב מאוחרת תוך צילום טנקים של צה"ל נכנסים ללבנון. זו הייתה שיאה של ההפקרות שערוצי הטלויזיה בישראל הפגינו בשעות המלחמה הקשות . תוך שהם מסכנים את חיי חיילינו וילדינו. זאת ועוד, הגדיל לעשות ערוץ 2 שהסיר כנראה כל מגבלה מעצמו. בערב שבת כאשר נפל טיל באיזור חדרה ראיין עודד בן עמי בערוץ 2 את ראש העיר חדרה, והוא אמר להם בפרוש "בואו לא נפרט כי הדיבורים עוזרים לחיזבאללה" !!!, זה לא הפריע לכתב הערוץ שהיה בדרך לחדרה לדווח טלפונית שהטיל נפל באיזור תחנת הכוח.בדיון שנערך בנושא, העלו הכתבים טענה כי אם הם לא יפרסמו אז הערוץ המתחרה יפרסם ואז (חלילה!) הם יפסידו סקופ!!!!! התאווה לסקופים גוברת על זכותם של חיילנו לצאת בחיים מן המערכה.
משיחות עם לוחמים שחזרו מלחימתם בחזית עולה כי המחבלים החיזבלונים ידעו בדיוק את תנועות צה"ל והעתיקו את המנוולים לכפרים שצה"ל הודיע בטלביזיה על כוונתו להכנס אליהם. ללא מרגלים וללא מערכת איסוף קיבל האוייב מידע חיוני מן הדיווחים והצילומים המוקדמים בשיטחי הכינוס וההערכות. עיבויֵי מערך אלו לא אִפשרו לחיילינו להפתיע את החיזבאללה ועלו לנו בחיי אדם.אחד התנאים הפוגעים בכושר קבלת החלטות היריב במלחמה הוא ערפל הקרב. למרבית החרפה ערוצינו היקרים דאגו לפזר את ערפל הקרב עבור האוייב ובכך הקלו עליו והעניקו לו יתרון- שעלה לנו בחיי חיילים .קשה מאד לשכוח את התמונות בשידור חי וישיר של חיילי סיירת אגוז המתחילים בתנועה רגלית לכיוון מָרוּן א-ראס (לא נדון כאן בהחלטה האומללה בפני עצמה-לעלות משטח נחות באור יום לקרב...)כולנו זוכרים את המחיר הכואב. הנה כי כן,כל בר-דעת מבין שתמונות אלו סייעו לחיזבאללה לגבש תמונת מצב ולהגיב בהתאם!!!!
למדנו בדרך הכואבת ביותר כי חיזבאללה אינו האוייב המצרי שלחם בששת הימים. זהו אוייב מתוחכם שהכין את עצמו עם מיטב הטכנולוגיה והאמל"ח. יכולת האיסוף המודיעיני שלו ממקורות גלויים טובה מאוד. דיי אם נזכור כי הם מצטטים ומקרינים פרשנים ודיווחים מערוצי הטלוויזיה שלנו בזמן אמת!!! זאת אומרת שהם עוקבים ולומדים מהרשתות הגלויות באופן מיידי!!!!
לא נשכח ולא נסלח איך מוקדם באותו בוקר אומלל כאשר קראנו ב"ידיעות אחרונות" ידיעה "תמימה" כי מכללה באצבע הגליל הפכה לבסיס שמשכנת בתחומה אלפי חיילים.....!!!!! (מכללת תל חי קרובה מאוד לאיזור הפגיעה בכפר גלעדי).קשה לשכוח את הדיווח הכואב של משה נוסבאום מאיזור ההרג בכפר גלעדי ואיך הוא לא התאפק לומר שהאסון יכול להיות יותר גדול כי יש שם הרבה משאיות תחמושת שלא נפגעו !!!!אין לפטור את המוני קציני צה"ל במיל' שמגיעים בחדווה לערוצי הטלוויזיה וכדי להצדיק את בחירתם, למרות שזה עידן ועידנים אין להם קשר עם העשייה הצה"לית הם פולטים את פרשנותם – ותוך כדי כך גם מסגירים לאויב פרטים מסווגים.
תזכרו מה אמר בשעתו החתן של סדאם חוסיין שערק למערב (אח"כ חזר לעירק ונשחט" – (...קיבלנו הרבה רעיונות מהטלוויזיה הישראלית איך לפזר חומר כימי ע"י מטוסים..". (לא נחזור כאן על אותם רעיונות(.

שוב יש להבליט את המכשלה של תוכניות הריאלטי עם מג"דים ומח"טים שיושבים עם כתבי הטלויויזיה אולפן השידור ומנתחים ומקשקשים על צירי תנועה שעוברים בהם הטנקים. רק אם נשקול את ההיבט הבטיחותי - ממש בושה וחרפה.
נמאס כבר לדבר איך בימים הראשונים כתבי הטלוויזיה כיוונו את הירי של החיזבאללה כאשר דיווחו וצילמו במדוייק היכן נופלים הטילים .... יואב לימור מערוץ 1 (והוא אחד האחראיים מבין הכתבים( יודע היטב כי הדיווח החי מנהריה גרם לפגיעת טיל בסמוך אליו!בקיצור, התמונה האומללה מעידה ברורות כי ההפקרות הטלוויזיונית עולה לנו בחיי אדם.אז אל תאמר אין מה לעשות, הטלויזיה שולטת בחיינו, לנו כאזרחי המדינה יש כח להשפיע!!!
ציבור שלם מתרעם ומתקומם ודבר לא משתנה. לנו יש את הכוח לשנות, אם כל אחד ואחת מאיתנו יצא מהקונכייה ויפסיק לקטר ולהמתין שאחרים יעשו.את המלאכה. אנחנו צריכים להירתם ולעשות, וזה לא מאמץ גדול.אפשר לפגוע באלו, שמחפשים רייטינג במחיר חיינו וחיי היקרים לנו, באמצעות מכה לסיבה החשובה להם מכל –הרייטינג. תכה את המופקרים הללו במקום הכואב להם ביותר - ב כ י ס אם יהיה גל גדול שייענה למחאה זו, אולי זה יוכל להשפיע (ואם לא - לא הפסדנו כלום)מאחר וערוץ 2 הגדיל בהפקרות דיווחיו בזאת אנו קוראים לציבור לצפות בערוצים אחרים...!!, תן למפרסמים להבין כי הם יפסידו כסף בשל תמיכה בהפקרות זו.

בואו נשדר לטלוויזיה ולשאר ערוצי התקשורת כי אנו דורשים מהם מגבלות ואחריות.
ביום שלישי הקרוב, 22 באוגוסט 2006, בשעה שמונה בערב נחרים את מהדורות החדשות המרכזית של ערוצי הטלוויזיה והרדיו . אפשר להתגבר על ערב אחד של התמכרות לסם המשכר הזה. עשה זאת פעם אחת ותראה כי קל יהא לשוב על כך בעתיד.זה לא הרבה, אבל זה בהחלט יכול להשפיע ולתת את התוצאות הרצויות !!!, אנא מכם, התעוררו, מחר כל אחד מאיתנו עלול להיות זה שייפגע (חס וחלילה !).אל תשאירו את המלחמה למישהו אחר, תהיו אתם שמשמיעים את קולכם, וההרגשה תהיה טובה, הרגשה של שליחות והשפעה.אנא הפיצו לכל מי שיש לו דואר אלקטרוני !!!!! תעזרו לעצמכם לעזור לחיילים שלנו !!

Monday, August 21, 2006

On The edge of the Abyss (Cont'd)

Bialystock (1939):

Vilna (1939):

[I'll explain later why I've been posting these)

It Begins (בס"ד)

When I was an undergraduate, one of my professors presented a graphic definition of a revolution. He offered that society should be envisioned as a sphere, held in place by halyards that we call values. A revolution occurs when the values supporting a society in place break down and society (quite literally) revolves. The result is that the elites are replaced by their counterparts, who have been hitherto, on the bottom.

I don't know if a revolution is underway in Israel. If so, it's a pretty unique one. If the corrupt, self-indulgent elites fall it will not be because their values are rejected. It will be because their post-modern, supercilious, fun-loving world has no values (except self-indulgence, moral relativism and the rights of the Arabs to destroy the Jewish State). It will because in their narcissism, they have abandoned 99% of the country (literally and figuratively)

The societal sphere may be moving because the people want their original values back. They want their country back. They want their national identity back. They want their history back. They want to live in a Jewish State. Most (if not all) want, dare I say it, their God back. They are willing to fight, and if required, to die to save their people and land. [Olmert's children don't want that. His sons are draft dodgers. His daughter has publically called for the dismantling of the army. There are many, many like them among the descendants of the founding fathers and mothers.]

Consider the protest begun by reserve soldiers, now camped out in the Rose Garden opposited the Prime Minister's office. The reserves have been much maligned in the press. The elites dodge reserve duty. The Herzliyah high-tech firms and the big shopping firms and the catels have been known to fire people for serving (as they fire, or don't hire, Sabbath observers). Nevertheless, the kibbutznikim and the settlers, the people from Sederot and Qiryat Shemonah do serve. There was between 90-110% response to the call up last month. They believe in this country and in its right to live.

What are they demanding? They want to fight and defeat Israel's enemies. They want to protect their homes. They don't want appeasement. They want food when they fight. They want decent equipment, with which to fight. They want the bomb shelters to be fitted so as to protect the populace. Most of all, they want leaders who believe in our country and not in polls. They want leaders who, as Ben Gurion said, care more about what the Jews do than what the Goyim say.
They want to consign Olmert, Peretz, Livni, Halutz, Ramon, HaNegbi, Bar On and thes rest of the losers to the trash bin of Israeli history.

When did you ever see an anti-government protest by discharged soldiers who want to fight?
Only in Israel, where the people are stronger and saner than their putative leaders.

While writing this, I recalled the following verses from the Book of Judges (2, 11-16):
And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of God, and served the Baalim.... And God's anger was kindled against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that despoiled them, and He gave them over into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies...And God raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.

It would appear that the first part has been fulfilled. Please God, the second will soon come to pass, as well.

Europe is on the Way to self-Immolation

If you haven't read Eurabia or Londonistan (which every intelligent person should), Ellen Horowitz has encapsulated their message with this cartoon. It appears on Professor Richard Landes' must read blog, The Augean Stables:

He Gets It...

Thank to Allison for posting this:

by Michael Diamond
I came to Israel from Scotland in 1987. I was a fresh-faced graduate of Glasgow university law faculty. At the time, like many educated liberals with no particular axe to grind, I saw the world through the rosy eyes of vaunted British socialism; I was privileged, I believed, and it was my duty to help those who were not.
In Israel I was a member of the "sane left", conceding that the Palestinians had had a rough deal, deserved justice, respect and a state of their own. I would shake my head in dismay listening to the hard-headed non-compromise of the militant right. I still believed that the world was intrinsically good, and if someone had a grievance, they deserved to be heard. And where I could, I would try to rectify the injustice.
That's why I got such a shock this week while sitting over lunch with a friend. Just two hours north of where we were, his son was being shot at by Iranian-armed Islamic extremists whose declared aim is to finish off Hitler's job of eradicating Jews from the face of the earth. Meanwhile, two thousand miles away, London was trying to come to terms with a group of British citizens who’d planned to kill hundreds of their fellow countrymen.
"When you have an ideology as powerful and uncompromising as militant Islam," I heard myself say, "…the only way to deal with it is to bring it to its knees." My colleague, a respected professor of economics - who was recently boycotted for nothing more than being Israeli - nodded. "Naively believing Nazi's could be reasoned with, Europe tried appeasement, fatefully underestimating the depth of their ideological conviction." I shook my head barely able to believe what was going through my mind. "Only a massive defeat was enough to wake the Germans from their power-craved stupor and only when faced with total annihilation did they have the courage to ask, maybe we were wrong?"
I sat back in disbelief. What had happened to the understanding, sympathetic socialist I'd been until a few weeks ago? How could I, the confirmed pacifist, be talking in such terms?
Then it occurred to me, it's not just me. Almost everyone I know in Israel who was once on the left, who once believed in peace, dialogue and equality for the Palestinian people, has shifted over to the right. For days now I’ve been trying to understand.
I expect the first thing was our withdrawal from Lebanon six years ago and from Gaza last year. The return of territory was supposed to open a door of trust, to bring us closer to our neighbours. I scoffed at the right’s predictions of calamity. But I was wrong. Instead of bringing us closer, the land became a launching pad for missiles aimed at our towns and civilians. The right said “we told you so,” but I was still an optimist.
But then the latest conflagration erupted and my perspective changed. In the first 2-3 days there was some sympathy for Israel’s position, but within a week, the world’s press - usually reflecting if not sculpting public opinion - had turned against us. Once again, we were portrayed - gleefully it seemed - by the BBC, CNN and others, as aggressors fighting a brutal war against poor, helpless and innocent victims. Newspapers filled with photos of dead Lebanese children, cynically exploited by the well-oiled Hezbollah propaganda machine as another tactic in their global Jihad. The press, all too willing to cooperate, reflected a moral equivalence between a terrorist organization that rejoices at kidnapping innocent journalists, bombing embassies and hijacking aircraft, and a punch-drunk democracy trying to save its citizens from the mass murder and extermination that Hezbollah’s victory would entail. Even if they didn’t intend moral equivalence, they bunched us all together; Israelis and Arabs are at it again - troublemakers disrupting the world’s stability. Few had the courage to describe a democracy fighting against a terrorist group set on its destruction.
When I realized that Jews are back to where we’ve been to many times before - fighting for our existence in a world that perceives us as an irritation - like many Israelis, I turned hard right. Today, Israeli conventional wisdom is probably something like this:
The Arabs hate us and always have, and so does most of delusional Europe. It doesn't matter what we do, we'll always be the scapegoat for the world's woes. But we've been in this position before and we've learned the hard way that we can only rely on ourselves. So screw the world, and let's get on with stopping these Jew-hating fascists in Lebanon. Sooner or later - probably later - Europe will wake up and realize that the bad guys are the ones who are trying to kill us all - not demonized Israel, that is consistently blamed for their wrath.
I wish I could go back to what I used to believe, but that would be naןve. As the world has seen before, evil - like that of Islamofascism - can only be defeated by overwhelming force. Today I firmly believe that good-intentioned appeasement only strengthens it.

[Note to Allison, Gideon Levy is the very last person whose opinion is worth hearing. He never met a Palestininan/Muslim that he didn't like or an Israeli/Jew whom he didn't despise. I wish Sander Gillman's book was translated. It would show people that he embodies the pathology known as Jewish Self-hatred.]

Happy Anniversary, Yael

I don't know Yael Keynan personally. Like hundreds (thousands?) of others, I feel that I do. For over two years, this self-described atypical olah has documented her Aliyah preparations and realization. She landed in the middle of a very tumultuous period, and has had her basic ideas put to the test. Still, not once has she mentioned the idea of going back. On the contrary, her resolve is incredible and inspires admiration.

This week she marked her first year here (or does it seem longer). The New Nefesh b'Nefesh olim could take a cue from her. Rarely has anyone done so much qlitah in so little time.

Kol haKavod!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Inspiring Mesirut Nefesh in Lebanon

[My wife, a graduate of Bnai Aqiva, received this e-mail today. It speaks for itself.]

From: World Bnei Akiva
Subject: From W. Bnei Akiva. Article about Shabbat Nachamu in Lebanon
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2006 12:39:36 +0200

Hilchos Shabbos During The War

The Manager of the Bnei Akiva Hachshara program, Rav Rafy Ostroff, spent the last week in Lebanon fighting the war against Yishmael, whose only desire is to obliterate the Jewish people. They were in a town in Lebanon called Maroon Aras and spent Shabbos in a bombed out house, which acted as some sort of shelter. Mortars and missiles whizzed non stop all around them and amidst the battle they set the Shabbos table. Everyone enthusiastically joined in the Shabbos preparations, including soldiers with non-religious backgrounds. They ALL joined in kabolas Shabbos and davening and sang z’miros Shabbos, accompanied by the shrieking missiles and shelling.

The day after Shabbos his unit was sent back into Israel for one day’s leave at a border village called Avivim, in order to shower and do some of the things we take for granted every day. There he sat down and wrote the following questions he and his troops had had to deal with.
To show that amidst all the havoc, Am Yisrael chai v’kayam, we present the following.

1) We were not provided with candles for Shabbos so we improvised.
The lid of a large tin can was bent into the shape of a container into which we poured tuna fish oil for fuel. For wicks we used utah (flax-like material). Our problem was that the Mishna and halacha
says that one may not use fish oil for Shabbos candles, but upon closer inspection we saw that the fish oil that is prohibited is made from fish intestines.
The Mishna Berura writes
that oil extracted from fish flesh may be used and is categorized with other oils that are permitted for Shabbos light.

2) We did not know whether to accept Shabbos early or not.
The problem was that we did not have any light and eating the Shabbos meal at the regular time would mean eating in the dark. Our option was to accept Shabbos early, which is not really a problem under the circumstances, only that we were ‘violating’ Shabbos for pikuach nefesh - operating the 2-way radio and other devices.
Halacha says it is preferable to eat with light than have wine for kiddush,
which was the decisive factor for us in accepting Shabbos early.
For clarity sake, we davened mincha before p’lag hamincha (an hour and a quarter before sunset) and ma’ariv after p’lag and made kiddush right after ma’ariv.
In retrospect, I suppose we could have organized more candle light and accept Shabbos at the regular time.

3) We were in a quandary as for the prayer “magen avos” cited in ma’ariv.
The Shulchan Aruch says
that ‘magen avos’ is not recited in a house where people gather to celebrate a wedding or in a house of mourning. The reason this tefilla is recited is because in the time of the gemora, shuls were outside town, and since davening is brief, people might remain alone in shul and be in danger. Chazal therefore added this brief prayer to give time for everyone to conclude davening. Consequently this rule only applies to permanent minyanim, not sporadic places of prayer.
The wedding entourage is not permanent, nor is the mourner’s, which negates the need for this extra prayer.
Our brief sojourn in Maroon Aras is B”H not permanent either, thereby discharging us from this tefilla.
It is noteworthy that some Sephardim have the custom to always recite this tefilla.

4) We did not posses any cups and didn’t have a clue how to make kiddush.
Some of us suggested cutting a plastic coke bottle in half and filling it with grape juice. Firstly, cutting it on Shabbos probably involves a melacha d’oraisso of making a k’li. We see that one may not make a hole in a barrel on Shabbos, even in a semi-permanent k’li.
So obviously we would cut it before Shabbos.
The second problem is that our new container is hardly a worthy k’li, surely one not fit l’chatchila for making kiddush. Under the circumstances it is also kosher, but we wanted to be stringent and do the best possible. Rav Moshe Feinstein writes
that one should not use a disposable cup for kiddush. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was not so adamant and says that since distinguished people use them at important functions, one need not be too particular if nothing else is available. Again, we tried to be machmir.
The best solution would have been to make kiddush on the grape juice bottle itself, or perhaps to fill one of our water canteens. l’chatchila the vessel needs to be fill to the top, so we would have filled the bottle with grape juice from another bottle. Maybe next time – should there be one.

5) We had a unique Shabbos table – a door ripped from its hinges and placed on bricks. The bare concrete floor was our throne.
We were not sure whether it is permitted to place the board on the bricks on Shabbos. For our fantastic Shabbos meal (consisting of fried meat loaf, instead of festive roast chicken, corn salad instead of coleslaw) we needed a table so the door seemed the best solution. Prying it from its hinges on Shabbos is ossur on account of s’tira – demolishing, so that was done before Shabbos, but we only erected it on Shabbos and the issue of ohel – making a tent arose.

The halacha is that one may erect a table tennis table on Shabbos in the regular manner, i.e. positioning the legs and placing the board on top, because one does not use the underside. A bed may not be made in the same fashion because one uses the underside to store shoes.
Accordingly, the table could be erected on Shabbos.

6) The entire floor was full of rubble and stones and we were at a loss how to move them because of muktze.
Although we could designate large bricks (blokkim) for the table and perhaps benches, we could not designate stones and pebbles to make them a k’li, which without doing so they remain muktze.
Imagine lying down on the floor in your sleeping bag and stones are poking at your sides and head. Our option was to move the stones with one’s foot etc. which is permitted according to the Mishna Berura.

7) Rav Eliashiv was asked the following. Soldiers were relieved of fighting 2 a.m. on Friday night, with the possibility of going home until after Shabbos. The soldiers had not been home since the beginning of the war and going home to be with their families would boost moral, ultimately enabling them to continue fighting with renewed energy. This was a real necessity, considering the circumstances.
His reply was that in any case they could not remain where they were, being it a m’kom sakana – a dangerous environment and had to relocate southwards.
The problem remains because once they reach safe quarters they should be permitted to continue south to their families. Perhaps a gentile could drive them, but then there’s the issue of traveling 12 mil outside the perimeter.
Some suggested implementing the halacha that soldiers may return to their town.
In any case – it’s not an easy question!!

May Hashem answer our prayers and bring our captives and soldiers home safely.

[NOTE: Keep in mind that this was while our soldiers were operating under inexcusable conditions, as pointed out today by Lenny ben David.]

Friday, August 18, 2006

Going to the Zoo

No, I'm not posting about the (lack of) future prospects for the Olmert government. I'm referring to the Tisch Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Plus Ca Change....

Nationalsocialismus lebt...umglaublich....

Hattip: LGF

And while we're at it:

Did someone say Santayana?

Too Good to Miss

As Chaim Ramon waves goodbye, IMRA provides one of his eternal pearls of wisdom:

"I will do what I did in Lebanon. Then too, they warned me that I was strengthening Hezbollah, just as you are warning me [about Hamas]. And then too, they told me there would be buses in Avivim [a reference to the deadly 1970 attack on a school bus in Avivim, near the Lebanon border] just as you're telling me there will be shoulder-fired missiles in the West Bank. But it's quiet on the northern border. [Hezbollah head Sheikh Hassan] Nasrallah doesn't dare attack Israel."

Chaim Ramon (Kadima) - in a policy debate with Ari Shavit "
On life and death By Ari Shavit
Haaretz 27 March 2006

Welcome Home!

Thirteen years ago tomorrow (for the purists it was Rosh Hodesh Elul 5753), we departed New York to come on Aliyah. We had scrimped and saved and worked and longed and pined for nine long years, leading up to that day. We had three children and a nine-month old infant. I had a letter of appointment to the Talmud Department at Bar Ilan. I felt we were righting the injustice visited upon my great-great-grandparents, when the Turks confiscated their Jerusalem business in 1914 and made life here untenable. Ironically, we landed right in the middle of the onset of Oslo, a process that threatened to continue the Ottoman policy.

In 1993, fewer than 1,000 North Americans moved here. When we arrived the only one who met us at the plane was a stalwart AACI representative who said 'Welcome Home' and "Be sure to meet with one of our Aliyah Counselors. There are things you need to know that you would never even think of asking.' (This remains extremely sage advice.)

We proceeded, unaccompanied, to the representative of Misrad HaPenim. I won't go into the details, but we had a potential snag that we were told to resolve on Sunday AM at the Jerusalem office. Suffice it to say that we resolved it, after seven hours at Misrad HaPenim. To this day, in our family, if you want to tell someone 'Go to Hell!'- you say 'Go to Misrad HaPenim!'

We've been through Oslo, Terror Attacks, a political assasination, a kuturkampf, two wars, lots of smahot, purchasing a home, two Bar Mitzvahs, two Bat Mitzvahs, the birth of a daughter, hours of guard duty, two cars (one new, one used), but our Maytag appliances are still working (ptu ptu). We, Thank God, have many Israeli and American friends (and lost some, as well). I am skeptical as to how much we"ll ever be seen as 'real Israelis' (but that may be a blessing).

One thing I know is how vatiqim looked at us, so many years ago; with bemused affection.

At least, that's how I feel when I look at the fresh faces of some of the more than 4,000 new olim who've arrived here in the past few weeks- smack in the middle of a war and its aftermath. They really have no idea what's awaiting them. They're flying on faith and may God give them more of it.
There are innumerable challenges facing them. It remains true that ארץ ישראל נקנית בייסורים.

Nevertheless, my wish for them is that they quickly learn one simple lesson. Hazal say that walking four cubits in the Land of Israel is considered a mitzvah. That means that Eretz Yisrael is the only place on earth where simply getting up and walking to brush your teeth in the morning is an act of sacred, existential significance; a contribution to the eternity of Israel.

Nothing beats that. Nothing can beat that. No one can defeat that. נצח ישראל לא ישקר.

Welcome Home Olim Hadashim!

No to the Other Cheek: A Reply to Moshe Tur-Paz

Moshe Tur Paz is your quintessential Meimad type. He's intelligent, principled, well educated, and dogmatically liberal. Not unexpectedly, he's the past-chairman of Ne'emane Torah va'Avodah. He's eloquent, soft-spoken (if one can judge from his writing style) and I am sure very spiritual. He can always be counted upon to rush to attack Right Wing Religious Fanatics and to demonstrate just how progressive and liberal (social-) democratic 'real' Judaism is.

Not infrequently, I find myself agreeing with him. However, all too often, he treats (religious) life as a 'zero-sum game.' On those (all too frequent) occasions, I experience an immediate case of emotional hives. I find his attempts to force the Torah into an ideological procrustean bed to be disingenuous (at best). I won't say what they are at worst.

Today's column is a case in point. He addresses the question of military ethics in the wake of the heavy casualties suffered by our forces, who were seeking to minimize casualies among civilians. Specifically, he is disturbed by the increasingly common complaint that we have adopted a Christian philosophy of 'turning the other cheek.' He rejects this summarily, offering that the concern for civilians is an integral part of the classic Israeli doctrine of 'tohar ha-nesheq' (lit. purity of arms'). In addition, he claims that anyone who claims that this is a Christian idea, knows nothing about Christianity. (I must admit it's odd hearing someone resort to an argument I often make.)

Well, as it happens, I happen to know something about Christianity, and something about military history, and something about Halakha. What I know leads me to think that Tur Paz has once again missed the point, bound as he is by his procrustean bed.

Despite what the article implies, there is all the difference in the world between deliberately targeting civilians and harming them unwillingly in the course of legitimate military action (especially when they are cynically used as human shields).

No self-respecting Jew (or human being) should target individual civilians per se. The problem arises when one has to weigh different considerations. Would Tur Paz not have bombed Dresden? Would he not have dropped the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima. I assume that he would not have. President Truman, however, had to decide whether he would sacrifice 100,000+ American soldiers in a land invasion or 100,000+ Japanese in an atomic bombing on a strategically significant city. No one should have to face such a decision. Truman, however, did and until his dying day was convinced that he made the right choice. This does not mean that he rejoiced over the horrific suffering of the Japanese. On the contrary, under his leadership, the United States rebuilt Japan and made it stronger economically than the US. [See the entries from his personal diary, here.]

Let's take a case closer to home.In January 1948, 35 members of the Palmach left Har Tuv (near Bet Shemesh) to reinforce the settlements of Gush Etzion. On the way, they encountered an elderly Arab shepherd. On moral grounds, they let him go. He then alerted the Arabs of Zuriff, Artas, Beit Fajar and Beit Omar that the Jews were sending reinforcements and supplies to the Gush. Arab irregulars streamed to the ascent to the Gush attacked the Palmachniks. They fought to their last bullet and were then slaughtered and castrated by the Arabs. With the supplies and men, it is possible that the Gush might not have fallen to the Arab Legion five months later. It is possible that the defenders of Kfar Etzion might not have been massacred.

Was the decision by the Lamed Heh Commander correct? According to Palmach commander Yitzhak Sadeh, saving that one life was worth the definite sacrifice of thirty-five others. Was it? War is an obscenity, that forces one to make obscene and less obscene decisions. Far be it from me to decide. There is, however, no room for procrustean beds in such circumstances.

No decent Israeli Jew celebrates the suffering of civilians of any type in the obscenity known as war. (Witness, per contra, the parties organized by Muslims after terror attacks.) I think we all subscribe to Golda Meir's remarks tha we can't forgive the Arabs for forcing us to kill. However, what Tur Paz is advocating is the idea that our blood is less red than that of our enemy. He implicitly suggests that we are bidden to die for the salvation of the morality of of the rest of the world.

For the information of Mr. Tur Paz, that is a distinctly Christian concept (though, possibly, based upon the ideas of Second Temple Era Jewish sectarians.) Rabbinic Judaism does not believe in vicarious salvation. As harsh as it seems, we are bidden to see to our own lives first, in as moral a fashion as possible. However, no one bids us to fall on our swords when the other side maneuvers us into impossible choices. Again, there is all the difference in the world between conscious targeting of civilians and the type of danger to which he refers. (I might add, that the reference to Rav Amital in the article is a bit distorted.) One might add that Islam, in its present incarnation (de minimis) cultivates a cult of death (Nasrallah says so openly). That puts us at a double disadvantage in our fight for moral survival here.

Neither neo-Quaker morality nor the horrific assertion that an enemy should die before a Jew is scratched (והמבין יבין ויזכור) are legitimate or credible Jewish positions. The lesson is to let the Torah speak for itself, irrespective of what other creeds may preach.

(I do agree, though, that the Christians do not accept 'Turn the Other Cheek.' Standard military strategy since the American Civil War, when the concept of 'total war' was invented by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, teaches that theonly way to win is by detroying the Home Front.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why Did I Expect Otherwise? Why Do I Bother?

There was a time that I sort of knew Haaretz columnist, Gidon Samet. We were both regular participants in a Religious-Secular Study Group, known as Shaharit. I recall being pleasantly surprised by his apparent openness and prima facie affinity for Jewish culture and history. Thus, I really would have expected to see him undertake the type of deep-seated re-evaluation of his positions, in the light of a changed reality, that was true of Ari Shavit (and, on the other side, many people on the Right, as well).

I was wrong. Samet is just another third-rate thinker and true believer who would never let the evidence get in the way of his prexistent mind-set. In his list of post-war lessons, Samet displays his abyss-like (or ostrich-like) ignorance.

A few examples:

1) Never before, even after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, did it become clear to what extent the era of relying on the army as the perfect fix to stabilizing national security must come to an end.- This man has no understandingof the way the Arab world works. Lewis, Pryce-Jones, Pipes et all ALL agree that in the miltarist/macho world of the Arabs, it is davka military victory which leaves an impression. It doesn't bring lasting peace because You can only have Salaam with Muslims. You can't have Salaam with kafir.

2) The new era needs to instill the realization that only real negotiations with the Palestinians, and not any hapless General Staff, can ever deal with the conflict, be it even an interim agreement.- Same problem. There are very few secular Palestinians and no secular Palestinian culture (unless you don't know the difference between values and some trappings of consumer culture.)

6)...An Israeli majority in the new era will want something entirely different: a society that is for the most part secular and pursues a good life without remorse, yet with empathy for the needy and loathes corruption; a modern society that looks forward to an agreement with the Palestinians instead of toward exclusive reliance on its military muscle.- Hate to disappoint him, but what the country wants is a Jewish country that pursues a good, fun and moral life. Empathy is a non-Jewish concept. Our country must be based upon Tzedek and Tzedakah.

Why do I bother reading this drivel? Why do I keep hoping that they changed down on Shocken Street?

It's Righteous Anger, not Heartbreak

My friend Yossi Klein HaLevi yesterday wrote that we are all 'brokenhearted,' at the victory that we handed Hizbullah, at the mealy mouthed PM and FM and DM and COS who made it possible, and at the state of our country.

He's wrong.

We're not broken-hearted. We're outraged. We are seething with anger and frustration at the arrogant, defeatist and cognitively egocentric character of our putative leaders.

Reserve soldiers don't want to go home, but to finish the war. People who spent over a month in shelters are willing to stay there until Hizbullah is destroyed. Why? Because they understand what Olmert and Co. don't. This is a war for our existence. We are not tired of fighting, since e are fighting for our very lives. Our instincts are healthy. Jews, you see, have an incredible ability to survive.

Olmert is tired...of winning. So he handed us a defeat.

You can feel the groundswell under your feet. The government's transparent attempts to blame Bibi for the defeat will speed his way back to the premiership.

Please God, the inner rot that characterizes this government (and the 'tired elites') will sweep it away and allow the healthy instincts of the Jews of Israel to come through.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Once Again, Caroline, You're Absolutely Right

Our World: The Olmert government must go
Aug. 14, 2006

From all sides of the political spectrum calls are being raised for the establishment of an official commission of inquiry to investigate the Olmert government's incompetent management of the war in Lebanon. These calls are misguided.

We do not need a commission to know what happened or what has to happen. The Olmert government has failed on every level. The Olmert government must go.

The Knesset must vote no confidence in this government and new elections must be carried out as soon as the law permits. If the Knesset hesitates in taking this required step, then the people of Israel must take to the streets in mass demonstrations and demand that our representatives send Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and their comrades out to pasture.

Every aspect of the government's handling of the war has been a failure. Take relief efforts as an example. For five weeks the government ignored the humanitarian disaster in the North where over one million Israelis are under missile assault. The government developed no comprehensive plan for organizing relief efforts to feed citizens in bomb shelters or for evacuating them.

And then there is the military failure. The IDF suffers from acute leadership failures - brought to Israel courtesy of Ariel Sharon who hacked away at the General Staff, undermined its sense of mission and treated our generals like office boys just as he decimated the Likud by undermining its political vision and promoting its weakest members.

Yet, guiding the generals to make the right decisions and finding the generals capable of making them in wartime is the government's responsibility. It was the government's responsibility to critique and question the IDF's operational model of aerial warfare and to cut its losses when after two or three days it was clear that the model was wrong. At that point the government should have called up the reserves and launched a combined ground and air offensive.

But the government didn't feel like it. It wanted to win the war on the cheap. And when the air campaign did not succeed, it abandoned its war goals, declared victory and sued for a cease-fire. When the public objected, after waiting two precious weeks, the government called up the reserves but then waited another unforgivable 10 days before committing them to battle.

All the while, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni did her best to demoralize the IDF and the public by publicly proclaiming that there is no military solution to what is clearly a military conflict.

OLMERT'S DECISION Friday to begin the ground offensive was by all accounts motivated not by a newfound understanding that this is a real war, but by the headlines in the newspapers that morning calling for his resignation. Yet, by Friday, the IDF had only 48 hours to achieve the objectives it had waited a month to receive Olmert's permission to accomplish.

Diplomatically, in the space of five weeks the government managed to undermine Israel's alliance with America; to hand Syria, Hizbullah and Iran the greatest diplomatic achievements they have ever experienced; and to flush down the toilet the unprecedented international support that US President Bush handed to Israel on a silver platter at the G-8 summit.

The UN cease-fire that Olmert, Livni and Peretz applaud undercuts Israel's sovereignty; protects Hizbullah; lets Iran and Syria off the hook; lends credibility to our enemies' belief that Israel can be destroyed; emboldens the Palestinians to launch their next round of war; and leaves IDF hostages Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in captivity.

Israel's diplomatic maneuvers were cut to fit the size of our Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who believes that her job is limited to being nice to other foreign ministers when they call her up on the telephone. In an interview with Yediot Aharonot over the weekend, Livni defended her decision not to engage in public diplomacy by claiming that this is not an important enough task for the foreign minister. It makes sense that this would be her view because as one who understands neither diplomacy nor English, she is incapable of conducting public diplomacy.

Livni argued that the job of the foreign minister is "to create diplomatic processes" - whatever that means. She also claimed that the best way to gain international support is not by publicly arguing Israel's case, but through back door discussions devoted to developing good relations with other foreign ministers. This is ridiculous. The job of the foreign minister is to defend Israel and advance Israel's national interests to foreigners, not to be their friend.

ASIDE FROM the fact that the government's bungling of the military mission meant that Olmert and Livni sprinted to the negotiating table empty handed, the reason that the UN Security Council cease-fire resolution ignores every single Israeli demand is because Israel didn't aggressively pursue its goals. While the Lebanese and the Arabs massed all their forces and pressured the UN, the Foreign Ministry asked US Jewish leaders to say nothing about the draft resolution and to make no public objections to that diplomatic process Tzipi and Ehud "created" with their "friends." And so Israel's positions were ignored.

Yet the reason that this incompetent, embarrassment of a government must go is not simply because it has delivered Israel the worst defeat in its history. This government must go because every day it sits in power it exacerbates the damage it has already caused and increases the dangers to Israel.

Iran has been emboldened. Its success in the war is now being used by the ayatollahs to support their claim of leadership over the Arab world. In evidence of Iran's success, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met in Cairo with Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. So now, after 27 years of official estrangement, Egypt is moving towards establishing full diplomatic relations with Teheran.

The Palestinians have been emboldened. Hamas leaders and spokesmen are openly stating that just as Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 precipitated the Palestinian terror war in September 2000, so Israel's current defeat in Lebanon will spur the outbreak of a new Palestinian terror war against Israel today.

THE AMERICANS have lost faith in Israel as an ally. After he gave Israel every opportunity to win this war, even signaling clearly that Israel should feel free to go as far as Beirut if necessary, President Bush was convinced that Olmert simply didn't want to fight. The Americans were shocked by Israel's performance. They know that we can win when we set our mind to it and were flummoxed when presented with an Israeli leadership that refused to even try.

Today we have 30,000 soldiers in Lebanon with an unclear mission. Because of the failure of this government, Israel now needs to contend with an emboldened Hizbullah protected by Kofi Annan. Already on Sunday, Annan sent a letter to Olmert instructing him that once the cease-fire is put into effect, the IDF will be barred from taking action even if it comes under attack. As far as Annan is concerned, resolution 1701 says that if Israel is attacked, all it is allowed to do is call his secretary.
Given that both the Lebanese army and the countries which plan to send forces to Lebanon all say that they will not deploy to the south until after Hizbullah is dismantled, it is clear that the military mission is still to be accomplished.

In its helter-skelter offensive over the weekend, the IDF performed brilliantly as it tried to accomplish in 48 hours what it had been denied permission to accomplish for an entire month. Still now, in the diplomatic minefield this government set for it, the IDF remains the only military force capable of fighting and dismantling Hizbullah. But there can be no doubt that it will not be accomplished under this government.

There will be time to inquire into what has gone wrong in the IDF. There will be time to fire the generals that need to be fired. But we don't need a commission to determine what we need to do. Because of the Olmert government's failures, ever greater battles await us. As the dangers mount by the hour, we must replace this misbegotten government with one that can defend us.

Haaretz Still Wants to Have Fun

My friend and neighbor, Baruch Schwartz, posted this to our local chat list.

A Haaretz commentator interviewed on Reshet Bet a few minutes ago was asked how he feels this morning, and the first sentence was "sad about missing out on what should have been our first happy summer in 6 years" (in other words: the intifada started because, even though we withdrew from Lebanon, we still were in Gaza. Now that we finally left Gaza, we should have had a nice, happy, carefree summer). "Too bad," the wise man continued, "We messed it up by going to war over a minor provocation." (translation: We should know not to hit back when they strike us; it only messes up the mood and disrupts our fiddling while Israel burns. Life is a Cabaret.) If that's the thinking in the editorial room at Haaretz, it will be the thinking on all the news channels in a few hours, and among all the Israeli public opinion shapers within a day, and in the cabinet and Knesset by nightfall tomorrow, and in the newsrooms of the Times and the Post by Thursday, and in the State Department by Friday.

In Step with Out of Step

Out of Step Jew came out of retirement to blog the war. As usual, his comments are right on the mark. I especially like this one (and the ones before, too.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Reb Chaim's Yahrzeit (21 Menachem Av)

Tonight marks the eighty-eighth yahrzeit of R. Chaim HaLevi Soloveitchik זצללה"ה, better known as Reb Chaim Brisker, who lived from 1853-1918. Without a doubt, he was one of the greatest scholars and leaders ever to have graced the Jewish People. The impact of his revolutionary method of Talmudic analysis on traditional Torah Study (lehrnen), while universally acknowledged, is only now being fully appreciated. (The Rov זצ"ל describes it, and its impact, here.)

Since the Rov זצ"ל was my rebbe muvhaq (and, in a deeper sense, the only rebbe I ever had), Reb Chaim was always I tangible presence in my life. As his grandson later observed, and as far as I am concerned, without his insights (even in a modified form) it is impossible to learn Gemora. (As you know, I'm not a fan of שיטת הרבדים in the context of מצוות תלמוד תורה.)

There are, however, other sides of Reb Chaim that are no less stunning than his truly massive intellect and breath-taking creativity and passion for learning and for truth. The Rov used to emphasize Reb Chaim's humanity, his great sensitivity, and his unparalleled moral greatness. In that connection, I recall that in a Motzai Shabbat shiur in Boston (in the mid-1970's) he quoted Dr. Yaakov Gromer, who had been a talmid of Reb Chaim and later worked with Albert Einstein. The Rov recounted that Gromer had once told him that while Einstein was often held up as a paragon of morality, he did not measure up to the moral greatness of Reb Chaim. Reb Chaim, he said, was a moral giant.

Intellect, is not enough to be a Gadol ba-Torah. One must strive to be compassionate, to transcend one's own kavod, to intuitively know the right thing to do, to be מחמיר in פיקוח נפש. Before leaving for his first position as the rabbi of Rasseyn, Reb Chaim told his son Reb Moshe זצ"ל, that one of the chief tasks of the Rov is to do חסד. Indeed, again according to the Rov, Reb Chaim's original tombstone bore the simple legend 'רב חסד.' (That is not the case with the current מצבה.)

This may have been his signature:However, חסד and אמת were his hallmarks and his legacy. Of whom can it better be said: אין להם נפשות לצדיקים דבריהם הן הן זכרונם?

Vent with Michelle Malkin

I just came across this incredible side of the blogosphere. New Favorite Site.

GGMS (=God Give Me Strength)

Well, we're in the intermezzo. Olmert has delivered his apologia pro vita sua (in advance of the investigation). Netanyahu looks like a real Prime Minister. The Palestinians are as barbaric as ever (though, as Yael pointed out, no one bothers to report on that). Noone doubts that the next round will be very soon. In the interim, some hopeful points selected from a David Bedein e-mail. ( I only cite the ones I agree with.)

1. Peace Now had the chance to run Israel's security system and showed, once and for all, what would happen under their rule, while the "social justice" lobby of the Labor Party had their chance to assume power and showe that they would not even take care of the social welfare ministry, leaving it with no minister and leaving Israel with no social policy, with thousands of people left to suffer..Bye Bye Peace Now and Labor Zionist Socialists.

2. On the other hand., if a Bibi or an Effie Eitam were PM, "Peace Now" would have brought 400,000 to Kikar Rabin to demonstrate after Kfar Kana and destroyed any national unity..

3. Am Yisrael is en route to being united, albeit by a new Haman, yet united.

4. Red Haifa is less pink. And bombed Kibbutzim in the north and in the Negev will be less likely to dispatch people to peace rallies in the future.

5. The permanent schism between the Zionist and anti-Zionist left is now evident....

6. The Israeli Arab leadership and the PA leadership have showed their total support for the genocidal policies of Hizbullah/Iran against the State of Israel...

7. The dire consequences of Israel's unilateral surrender policy are being felt by at least half of the Israeli population. Any government that would dare suggest any such policy now will have to cope with a seething population who will not tolerate any such suggestion.

8. Wait for the ultimate investigation commissions to be empowered and convened. It will dwarf the post- Yom Kippur War Investigation commission. Who gave the order for the IDF to run out of Lebanon on May 20th and leave their best equipment for the Hizbullah? Who covered up the warnings of the 12,000 missiles in place? Who gave orders not to prepare the shelters?

9. Aliya of thousands of Jews continues during this time.

10. In IDF units and in many places in Eretz Israel, people who had never prayed to God are now calling out to the Almighty for sustenance. It's beginning to look alot like Elul, everywhere you go...

I would add that the Jewish People acquitted themselves with galantry, courage, determination and faith. לחיי העם הזה וכמה טוב שהוא כזה.

The Eve of Destruction

No, it's not a prediction of doom and gloom. It's a rare view of a glorious community on the edge of the abyss. Cracow, 1939.

מלים כדרבנות

My Eshet Hayil has a striking ability to pithily say what many of us are feeling. In the wake of the ceasefire, she writes:

I am astounded. I don’t know what to say. WE have abandoned God and He has abandoned us.
He brought us a miracle in 1967 and we sent it back. We don’t want it. We want to be loved. We want to be like all the others. We want diplomacy. We want things that make sense. But nothing makes sense.
Citizens hide in bomb shelters, while soldiers are told to go home. Bombs fall on and destroy our homes and our government offices, but we restrain ourselves. We take our own people and throw them out of their homes to show the enemy that we can do it better with less loss of life. We convince ourselves that the unthinkable is correct. We have no rights to this land, to our lives.

Without G-d we are right.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

UN Impartiality....Give Me a Break

In her column today, the ever incisive Caroline Glick objected to Olmert's acceptance of the UN Ceasefire on a number of grounds. One was:

This is the case first of all because the resolution places responsibility for determining compliance in the hands of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Annan has distinguished himself as a man capable only of condemning Israel for its acts of self-defense while ignoring the fact that in attacking Israel, its enemies are guilty of war crimes. By empowering Annan to evaluate compliance, the resolution all but ensures that Hizbullah will not be forced to disarm and that Israel will be forced to give up the right to defend itself.

Want further proof? This is a picture of a UNIFIL position, proudly flying the flag of the UN and the banner of Hizbollah.

So much for fairness.

[Hattip: Jameel]

Olmert Must Go...Continued

This appeared in today's Maariv NRG. It speaks for itself.

מכתב לאהוד
הגברים במשפחת בן דוד משרתים כולם בקרבי, הילדים והנשים שלהם מתגוררים בהתנחלויות, וראש הממשלה שלהם משרטט את קווי המתאר של הפינוי הבא.מכתב גלוי
עינת ברזילי

לכבודראש הממשלה מר אהוד אולמרט
הנדון: הלחימה בצל אמירותיך
כל 12 הרשומים מטה, כולנו בני משפחה אחת, משפחת בן-דוד. כולם מגוייסים ברגע זה במסגרת צו 8 או במסגרת שירות סדיר. כולם מתגוררים ביישובים שהוקמו ע"י מדינת ישראל באזור המכונה "יהודה ושומרון" וירושלים המורחבת. כולנו "מתיישבים".
במסגרת השירות אליו נקראנו אנו ממלאים את תפקידנו על הצד הטוב ביותר, ומשתתפים – כל אחד בתפקידו – בהגנת העם והארץ מפני האויב בצפון ובדרום.
לכן, כבוד ראש הממשלה שלנו, הזדעזענו כששמענו אותך אומר כי הניצחון על החיזבאללה יוליך לתוכנית ההתכנסות. שהמלחמה בצפון משמשת לך כפתיל השהייה, שבסופו יתפוצץ מרקם חיינו. שכאשר נסיים להקיז את דמנו עבור העם והארץ, אתה תשליך אותנו, 12 החיילים שלך, אל מחוץ לביתם ואל מחוץ ללגיטימיות של החיים במדינת ישראל.
אתה מבין, כבוד ראש הממשלה, מה זה אומר לנו, כחיילים ?
זה אומר לנו שאם חס וחלילה יקרה לנו הגרוע מכל, וניצחון המלחמה יושג על מזבח הקרבתנו, אתה תהפוך את אלמנותינו וילדנו היתומים לפליטים חסרי בית ותטפל בהם כמו שאתה מטפל באנשי גוש קטיף ! שבמקום לשמור על יישובנו ומשפחתנו מכל משמר, אתה תהרוס את מפעל חיינו !
כבוד ראש הממשלה, כמה כוח אתה חושב שיש לנו ? האם לא הבחנת עדיין, שכמחצית מהנופלים בקרבות הצפון נושאים על ראשם כיפה סרוגה, למרות שהמגזר שלנו אינו מהווה אפילו 12% מתושבי המדינה ? יש לך מדיניות פוליטית שונה, אתה עדיין סבור שדרכך צודקת, אתה חושב שתוצאות הבחירות מוכיחות שהעם תומך בדרך הזו – שיערב לך. אבל לשסף מאחור את חייליך בשעת הקרב, ולצפות מהם להמשיך להילחם בצבא העם?
ואולי בעצם, כבוד ראש הממשלה, אולי תתחיל כבר עכשיו. עכשיו, בזמן שאנחנו בלחימה. אולי תפנה בחטף, את נשותינו וילדינו. זה רעיון נהדר. אנחנו נלחמים בפקודתך בצפון. אתה הרי מכיר אותנו, אתה יודע שלא נחזור הביתה כדי להגן על המשפחות שלנו מפניך. אתה יודע שאתה יכול לסמוך עלינו. לא נפקיר את גבול הצפון ואת גזרת לבנון, ולא נפסיק להילחם עבור עם ישראל, רק בשביל לשמור על טובתנו האישית, ועל רווחת בני משפחתנו. כך תוכל בקלות רבה ביותר להפוך את בני משפחתנו לפליטים בשעה שאנחנו בצפון. איש כמעט לא יתנגד, הרי כל הגברים במשפחה נמצאים בלחימה.
למעשה, כבוד ראש הממשלה, אתה מוזמן לבקר בכל אחד מיישובי יהודה ושומרון. יישובי איו"ש אינם תל-אביב או הרצליה פיתוח בהם מקומות העבודה עובדים כסדרם ביום ובתי הקפה מלאים בליינים בערב. להבדיל משם, ביישובים שביהודה ושומרון אין גברים. כולם מגויסים. אין מי שיתנגד לפינוי.
מעשה באתרוג

כך, אחרי שתגמור לפנות ולהרוס את הבתים שלנו, מי מאתנו שישוב בשלום מהמלחמה בוודאי יירתם למשימה לאומית אחרת,
ויקים את חבל לכיש או יחזק את עיירות הפיתוח.
ומי שלא ישוב מהמלחמה – אפילו מקום עבודה לא תצטרך למצוא לו. פתרון מושלם.
אז קדימה, כבוד ראש הממשלה, גש ישר לעניין.
אנחנו נילחם באויבים ואתה תילחם בנו.
אם הרעיון הזה נראה לך מעוות אז בוודאי תבין שגם הרעיון לדבר על "תוכנית ההתכנסות" בשעת הלחימה הינו עיוות מחשבתי ועילגות פוליטית. את קיבוע מעמדך כאתרוג הבא של התקשורת הישראלית אנא שמור לעת שכוך הקרבות.
פוליטיקה, כבוד ראש הממשלה, יש לשמור לזירה הפוליטית, ואנחנו עכשיו בזירת לחימה. תכבד את זה. תכבד אותנו. הנח לנו להגן עליך ועל עם ישראל ולנצח את המלחמה מבלי לפחד שהניצחון שלנו יוליך ישירות לחורבן בתינו.
בברכת בנין הארץ,
רס"ל נועם בן-דוד, יישוב פסגות.
רשימת בני משפחתי הקרובה המשרתים עתה במסגרת צו 8:
רב סרן בן-דוד אייל, פיקוד מרכז, בן 39, נשוי + 8, תושב היישוב חשמונאים.
רב סרן נחמה (בן-דוד) יחזקאל, סמג"ד 424, בן 30, נשוי + 4, תושב היישוב עלי.
סרן חזן (בן-דוד) אילן, מפ´ מחלקה גדוד 7056 בן 36, נשוי + 4, תושב היישוב פסגות.
רב סרן בן-דוד אורן, חטי´ צנחנים גדוד 9255 בן 38, נשוי + 6, תושב בית אל.
סגן בן-דוד ירון, חטיבה 810 גדוד 7220, בן 36, נשוי + 6, תושב בארות יצחק.
סגן בן-דוד נדב, מפקד צוות פלס"ר חטי´ 847, בן 29 תושב היישוב עלי.
רס"ל בן-דוד דורון, חטיבת צנחנים גדוד 7056 בן 40, נשוי + 5, תושב היישוב אלון.
רס"ל בן-דוד נועם, לוחם מתנדב בגדוד 967, בן 38, נשוי + 8, תושב היישוב פסגות.
סמ"ל בן-דוד ארז, לוחם באוגדה 98, בן 30, נשוי + 2, תושב היישוב פסגות.
סמל בן-דוד אביעד, לוחם באוגדה 98, בן 31, נשוי, תושב בית אל.
רב"ט בן-דוד אריאל, מתנדב ביס"ר אוגדה 98, בן 33, נשוי +6, תושב יישוב פסגות.
רב"ט בן-דוד גלעד, לוחם בנחל החרדי, בן 22, נשוי + 1, תושב קריית ארבע.
תשובה טרם התקבלה מלשכת ראש הממשלה.