Friday, April 15, 2016

My Beloved Called Out--a Seder Dvar Torah for Pesach 5776


“My beloved called out and said to me, ‘Arise my love, my fair one, and come away. For see, the winter has passed, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in the land, the time for song has come, and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land.’”
--Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs), 2:10-12

“All of the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the holy of holies.”
--Rabbi Akiva

We associate Pesach (Passover) with the Song of Songs. Indeed, we have a tradition that Rabbi Akiva, who called the Song of Songs the holy of holies, was the Baal Ha-Hagaddah, the author of the Hagaddah, the text that guides the Pesach seder. Many have the custom of reading Shir HaShirim on the night of Pesach, after the seder. Ashkenazic communities read Shir HaShirim publicly on Shabbat Choel Moed Pesach (the Sabbath that falls during the intermediate days of the Passover festival). What is behind this strong association?

A parable, based on a drash I once heard from Rabbi Aaron Abend of Chabad of North Hollywood:

Once there was a young couple, whom we will call Shlomo and Yisraela. Just before they became engaged, Shlomo told Yisraela, “If you want to marry me, you will need to follow me out to the desert, where I live. It’s a real wilderness out there. Let’s have you visit the place, and take seven weeks to learn what life is like there and what I will expect from you when we are married.”

Yisraela was so in love she would have followed Shlomo anywhere. So she agreed, and on the eve of their engagement, she tried to make a special dinner for Shlomo, a roasted lamb, just the way he liked it, and her first attempt at baking bread. Well, she burned the roast, and the bread did not rise, and to tell the truth, it was a little burnt also.  But they were in love, so they laughed it off. Yisraela even saved a bone from the roast and a piece of the burnt flat bread as mementos.

Yisraela followed Shlomo out to the desert, the seven weeks passed, and they were married. Shlomo and Yisraela even built a beautiful home where they would dwell together.

However, as the years passed, Yisraela’s devotion to Shlomo waned. She flirted with some other guys. Shlomo moved out, and one night, after he saw her with another guy, he burned the house down.

So Yisraela and Shlomo lived apart, but Shlomo did not seek a divorce, and, indeed, was always there when Yisraela stumbled to help her get back on her feet. Every year, on the anniversary of their engagement dinner, Yisraela would again make dinner for Shlomo.  She would bring out the burnt bone and burnt flat bread from her memento box, and she would say to Shlomo, “You see Shlomo! Do you remember how crazy in love we were?  How when I was your young bride, and made our engagement dinner, I burned the roast and the bread, but we laughed about it?  How I followed you out to the desert? I still love you that way! Please take me back!”

And Shlomo would reply, “Yisraela, when I know that you really mean what you say, and I will someday soon, then I will take you back, I will rebuild the house, we will live together again, and we will love one another even more than before.”

That is why we read Shir HaShirim on Pesach. That is why we put the matzoh and the roasted shank bone on the seder plate, along with the bitter herbs and tears of our long estrangement from HaShem. That is also why Shlomo haMelech (King Solomon, who is not the Shlomo in our parable) wrote Shir HaShirim in romantic, actually erotic language. At the time of yetziat Mitzraim (the Exodus from Egypt) and matan Torah (the giving of the Torah), we were like new lovers. HaShem (literally, "the name," the appellation that religious Jews use for God in conversation other than prayer) has never stopped loving Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) like a loving, faithful husband loves the bride of his youth, even if she goes astray. The alienation is our own fault; it is we who drifted away. We need to use Pesach and the Sederim (the seder meals) to recapture the feeling of love for HaShem that we felt when we went out from Mitzraim (Egypt), the way new lovers feel for one another. We need to tell HaShem that we once again feel the love of HaShem the way we did then, and that we know that HaShem has always loved us that way. Then our Beloved will surely take us back, and we will merit to see the coming of Mashiach (the Messiah), the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple in Jerusalem), and our final redemption, bimheirah vyamenu (soon and in our days).

“Go and proclaim in the ears of Yerushalayim [Jerusalem], saying, “So said HaShem, I remember for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me in the wilderness, in an unsown land.”--Yirmeyahu [Jeremiah] 2:2

“And she shall run after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them, and she shall seek them, but she shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.’
Therefore ,behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And I will give her vineyards from there, and the valley of troubling for a door of hope; and she will respond there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of Egypt.”
–Hoshea 2:9, 16-17.

Monday, March 28, 2016

And More Good News: Obama and Kerry Demand Amnesty for FARC Terrorists and Drug Lords

The Obama Administration is once again taking the lead in fighting terrorism and the worldwide narcotics trade [sarcasm alert]. In a column in today's Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O'Grady describes how Secretary of State John Kerry met with the leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) in Cuba, and how the State Department and the Obama Administration are  pressuring the Colombian government to accept a settlement with FARC under which FARC leaders would receive a full amnesty for prosecuting a civil war in which some 225,000 Colombians have died. Polls indicate that 90% of Colombians oppose amnesty for the FARC leadership, but that is of little concern to the Obama Administration, which is following the dictates of the Castro regime in Cuba, as part of the "reset" of Cuban-United States relations. [Warning: A WSJ subscription is needed to access the full column.]

Executions Double under Iranian Moderate Regime

Remember the bad old days when Iran's President was the radical and publicly nasty Mahmoud Ahmenidijad?

Now of course Iran's President is the moderate, smiling Hassan Rhouhani:

The only problem is that, as reported today in a column in the Huffington Post by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, President of the International American Council on the Middle East, based on United Nations data, in 2015, Iran executed nearly twice as many people than in 2010, under mean old Mr. Ahmenidijad, and roughly ten times as many people as in 2005.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bernard-Henri Lévy: This is War. Identify the Enemy

Bernard-Henri Lévy is a French author, philosopher and activist. His next book, to be released in 2016, is Le Génie du Judaïsme. (François BOUCHON)Bernard-Henri Levy, the French intellectual, philosopher and political writer, hardly a "poser," to use President Obama's label for those who would urge him to re-evaluate his Syria policy. Levy thoroughly demolishes President Obama's stance, and, without mentioning them by name, the refusal of the Democratic Presidential candidates to identify the enemy as Islamic extremists. His column was column published online in the Globe and Mail, and republished in edited form in The Weekly Standard online. Here is his conclusion:

This was the situation two decades ago in Sarajevo, when putative experts raised the spectre of the hundreds of thousands of ground troops that would have to be deployed to prevent ethnic cleansing from reaching its grisly apogee. Yet it turned out that a handful of special forces, backed by strikes, was sufficient. I am convinced that the IS hordes are much braver when blowing the heads off defenceless young Parisians than when facing real soldiers of freedom. Similarly, I believe that the international community possesses all of the means necessary to defeat the threat it faces, should it choose to do so.
What holds us back? Why have we been so stinting in assisting our Kurdish allies?
What is it about this war that the America of Barack Obama, at least for the moment, seems not to really want to win? I do not know the answer. But I know where the key lies.
And I know the alternative to using the key: No boots on their ground means more blood on ours.

Monday, November 16, 2015

If I were a College President, here is what I would say about Student Demands for Safe Places

If I were a college president or dean, I would say the following to current and prospective students:

"If you come to this college, you will be physically safe, but we plan to make you feel intellectually unsafe, disturbed and uncomfortable. We will try to force you to question or defend your most deeply held beliefs and assumptions. That is our responsibility to you. If that is not the education you are seeking, please go to college elsewhere."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today I am 64, praise God. And I don't feel a day over 75. Last night, after midnight, when my birthday arrived, I played the Beatles' "When I'm 64" for me and Mrs. Kosher Hedghog several times. The chorus, you will recall, goes, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" Happily for me, the answer appears to be "Yes."

An old friend from Phoenix left me a voice mail wishing me a Happy Birthday, but expressing regret at my long silence on these pages. So here's one for you, you know who you are:

My hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, says that Madame Secretary's Congressional hearing and testimony yesterday revealed nothing new. I suppose that in the larger sense the Times is correct. We already knew that she lied about the Benghazi attack and had corruptly used the influence of her office to accumulate a fortune through the Clinton Foundation, which employs her family members and friends at incredible salaries.

She is famous for her declaration, "What does it mater?", in her previous Congressional testimony. Indeed, given what we knew about Secretary Clinton already, what does it matter that the hearings disclosed for the first time that she told Chelsea, the President of Libya and the Prime Minister of Egypt on the night and day following the attack that it was not caused by a video, was pre-planned, and was perpetrated by an Al Qaeda-like organization (actually identifying the organization that committed the attack). What does it matter that all the while she, President Obama and the State Department publicly insisted that the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video? What does it matter that the U.S. government actually arrested the maker of the video, using the power of the Department of Justice to preserve the false story? What does it matter that the Democrats pretend this had nothing to do with the fact that the President was running for re-election on the platform that "Bin Laden is dead, and Al Qaeda is on the run," that he knew only the first half of the slogan was true, and desperately wanted to keep the public from realizing that until after his re-election? What does it matter?

By the way, anyone whose sole news source is the Los Angeles Time would not know about the disclosures first revealed in the hearing, which I italicized above. The Times did not mention any of them in its reporting about the hearings. They do not support the Times' agenda.

Our Administration also warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week to avoid incitement, after his historically inaccurate accusation that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem had first persuaded Hitler to murder European Jewry, rather than expel them. The mass murder of European Jewry unquestionably began with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and accelerated with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Both events preceded Hitler's first meetings with the Grand Mufti. That having been said, it is unquestionable that the Mufti actively encouraged, aided, and abetted the Holocaust. He even took an active role in recruiting an SS battalion composed of Bosnian Muslims, one of whose primary missions was the murder of Jews. So Bibi was mostly guilty of exaggeration. The protest by Saeed Erekat, a Palestinian Authority official, that the Palestinians fought side-by-side with the Allies during World War II, against Nazi Germany, is laughable.

So the Administration went public with its scolding of the Prime Minister of Israel, after having remained silent when Palestinian Authority President Abbas repeatedly denied any Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, openly called for violence and said that Jews must keep their "filthy feet" off the Temple Mount. The Palestinian Authority also in the past week had its allies propose a UNESCO resolution that would have recognized "Barak Plaza" [the Western Wall and its plaza, which the resolution renamed after Mohammed's horse] as an integral part of the Al Aqsa Mosque complex. The effect would have been to deny a Jewish connection to a Jewish place of worship for nearly 2000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple (excluding the years from 1948 until 1967, when Jordan prohibited Jewish worship at the Western Wall). The plaza itself, west of the Western Wall, was constructed by Israel (not the Muslim Waqf), after the capture of the Old City in June 1967. While that UNESCO resolution was defeated, the cost was approval of a resolution condemning Israel (who else) and declaring that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem are exclusively Moslem shrines. Who knew? As always, the United Nations lives in an alternative, Bizarro universe.

At the risk of sounding bitter on my birthday, the reason I post here less often is that all the trends that I have decried in my past posts merely seem to be repeating themselves, except that the world seems to have reconciled itself to those evils and barely registers a whimper of protest. So Palestinians attack Jewish men, women and children with knives, and the world decries the shooting of the attackers.

For all that, I cannot say that I am bitter. To the contrary, I am filled with joy to be alive, and grateful beyond words for uncountable blessings that God has bestowed upon me throughout my life. Blessed are you, the Lord, our God, who has kept me alive, preserved my existence, and has brought me to this season.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Obama Administration Releases Classified Report on Israel's Nuclear Program

  Investor's Business Daily reports that the Defense Department has quietly and deliberately declassified and released a top-secret 1987 report on Israel's nuclear program.  IBD editorializes:
The same administration that refused to divulge what's in its soon-to-be-concluded nuclear "deal" with Iran, last month stealthily released a top-secret 1987 report on Israel's nuclear program — information that might be used by Israel's enemies.

IBD quotes from the reporter who initially broke the story, Michael Karpin in The Jewish Daily Forward online. Karpin writes:
I have some knowledge about the build-up process of Israel’s nuclear capacity and after reading the report in question I must express my astonishment: I have never seen an official American document disclosing such extensive revelation on subjects that until now were regarded by both administrations as unspeakable secrets.

Karpin writes that the report's authors "drew particular attention to the development and progression of Israel’s nuclear infrastructure and research labs."

The report was compiled by the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), under a contract with the U.S. Government. The IDA sent its engineers and physicists not only to Israeli installations, but also to military laboratories, factories and private companies of NATO countries. Curiously, and perhaps sinisterly, the Defense Department only declassified the information assembled by the IDA team on Israel, not on the NATO allies.

The timing and selectivity of the report suggest that once again the Obama Administration is retaliating for Israel's opposition to U.S. negotiations with Iran over the Iranian nuclear weapons program. However, this goes beyond the pale--the deliberate release of previously classified information that certainly has the potential to be used against Israel, both diplomatically and militarily, is an outrageous breach of trust.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Obama Administration Removes Iran, Hezbollah, from List of Terror Threats

Hey, everybody, there's great news. The Obama Administration has defeated terrorism in Iran and Lebanon. We know this because in the 2015 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities, delivered by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to the United States Senate in February, Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah no longer appear as terrorist threats, for the first time in years. (The Times of Israel has the story, along with a link to a PDF file copy of the unclassified version of the intelligence report.)

What felicitous timing for the Obama Administration to announce this glorious victory!  Previously, one might have been concerned that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were enabling Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, which one might hesitate to do if Iran still promoted terrorism and sponsored a terrorist organization such as Hezbollah.  Now, however, there is no danger whatsoever, because Iran and Hezbollah are no longer terrorist threats.

Never mind that just this past January 18, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found murdered in his home. His murder occurred only one day before he was scheduled to report to the Congress of Argentina on alleged collusion between Iran and the Argentine government in covering up the role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah in two terrorist bombings of Jewish targets in Buenos Aires: the 1992 car bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people and wounded more than 250 others; and the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center, which killed 87 people and injured at least 100 more.  One prominent theory is that Iran ordered Nisman's murder, but, hey, Iran would not do that, because it is not a terrorist threat.

Another serendipitous result of the removal of Iran and Hezbollah from the terrorist watch list:  the Obama Administration is increasingly cooperating with Iran and Hezbollah in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  That might give some people--although probably only neocons--pause, if Iran and Hezbollah were still engaged in and promoting terrorism.  But they're not--look, they no longer appear on the list of terrorist threats in the Worldwide Threat Assessment!  Just don't tell that to Sunni Iraqis, who live in abject fear of massacre by the Shiite militias operating under the supervision of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Is Hezbollah still helping Syrian President Bashar Assad commit mass murder of his own citizens?  Sure, but just yesterday Secretary of State Kerry announced that he is willing to negotiate with Assad.  After all, the dude gave up his chemical weapons, and now uses only artillery, armored vehicles, small arms, and barrel bombs to do his bloodletting. Plus, most of his recent victims are fighters in Sunni militias (or civilians who hang out with them), which do appear as terrorist threats in the Worldwide Threat Assessment.  So Iran, Hezbollah and Assad are just doing God's work, so to speak

Does Hezbollah still call for the eradication of Israel, and is it busily stockpiling Iranian missiles along the Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel, to prepare for carrying out that threat?  Well, sure, but look how friendly Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan appears in the photo above.  He's waving at us, for crying out loud!  In contrast, Israel's Prime Minister, as of today, is still that nasty Netanyahu fellow, of whom President Obama is not very fond.  And if Israelis don't elect a government more to President Obama's liking tomorrow, well, guess what country may make its featured debut in the 2016 Worldwide Threat Assessment.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why does the Israeli Government Cover Up for the PA, Hamas and Hezbollah?

The link below is to a crow of victory from Israel Behind the News (David Bedein). He has been reporting for two decades, since Oslo, on the military cooperation between Fatah and the PA and Hamas. Now, a respected third party has issued a report that the PA has been arming Hamas.

The fact that successive Israeli governments refused to listen to the allegations does not surprise me. Those governments, both Labor and Likud, had too much invested in the Oslo Accords.

What is surprising and bothering me is a string of revelations that seems to indicate that the Israeli government and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are deliberately keeping the Israeli public in the dark. Other examples:

1. Prior to last summer's Gaza war, the IDF repeatedly said it had no evidence of Hamas tunneling under Israeli kibbutzim and moshavim in the south, although residents kept saying they could hear sounds of digging at night. It turned out that the IDF knew about the tunnels.

2. The same thing is now going on in the north, along the Syrian and Lebanese borders. People hear sounds of shovels through their water pipes at night. The IDF denies that Hezbollah is tunneling into Israel, and comes up with all sorts of explanations for the sounds.

A plausible explanation for the apparent IDF coverup reminds me somewhat of the XYZ scandal during the John Adams Presidency, when President Adams kept secret a letter from Talleyrand, who as a pre-condition to negotiating a treaty between the U.S. and France, then under the rule of the revolutionary Directory had demanded a personal bribe of $50,000 and the assumption by the United States of all American claims against France. Had the letter become public, it would have resulted in irresistable pressure for an immediate declaration of war, a war for which Adams correctly felt the United States was not yet prepared militarily or financially. The Federalists, the party to which Adams nominally belonged, but which Alexander Hamilton actually led, wanted a war with France. The Republicans of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who virulently opposed and libeled Adams, were pro-France and supporters of the French Revolution and the Directory. Adams initially kept the letter from Tallyrand secret, but only informed Congress that his peace mission to France had failed and urged strong defense measures, including strengthening the U.S. Navy. Eventually, when Republicans in Congress accused him of war mongering and demanded to see the diplomatic dispatches. Adams released them to Congress, substituting the letters W, X, Y and Z for the names of the French agents who had delivered Tallyrand's demand. The resulting scandal, known as the XYZ Affair, temporarily increased Adam's popularity and greatly damaged Jefferson and Madison's popularity. However, Adams continued to counsel patience and resist Federalist demands for war. That cost him a second term, and the Federalists turned against him and the Republicans continued to vilify him.

Is Prime Minister Netanyahu trying to delay what would be a costly war with Hamas and Hezbollah, and perhaps Iran, with a high prospect of civilian casualties and property loss, either
until Israel is better prepared to deal with it, or until after the elections? If it is the former reason, the Prime Minister is cut from the cloth as John Adams. If it is the latter, not so much.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What was an Iranian General Doing on the Golan Heights?

An Israeli airstrike directed at Hezbollah vehicles in the Golan Heights of Syria ends up taking out an Iranian general of the Revolutionary Guard.  What was he doing there?
COMMENTARY has the answer--the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah were scouting out possible locations for ballistic missile launching sites outside of Lebanon, from which Iran and Hezbollah could rain death and destruction down on Israel.  This is the regime with which our President seeks engagement, while the Obama Administration continues its pivot away from Israel and Sunni Arab states, and toward Iran.

Why does Iran back the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen in their largely successful attempt to take over that country?  Iranian missiles supplied to a Houthi regime would threaten Israeli shipping from its Red Sea port of Eilat, which must pass through the narrow passage leading from the Red Sea to the Sea of Aden.  Of course those same missiles would also threaten the shipping of Sunni Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and indeed might block world shipping to and from the Mediterranean Sea, passing through the Suez Canal. Major wars have erupted for far less, including the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, which was triggered by Egypt's blockade of the Straits of Hormuz, which also threatened Israeli shipping from Eilat.

The United States will probably do nothing to counteract the Iranian threat in Yemen.  Like sanctions, opposition to Iran's initiative in Yemen might offend the mullahs.  As for Iran's active role in Syria, why it's an ally against ISIS.

Ironically, when President Obama announced the initiation of the bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, he cited Yemen as an example of his foreign policy successes.  A few more such successes, and we may be worrying about Iranian missiles in Venezuela.   

Sunday, October 05, 2014

White House Double Standard on Civilian Casualties from Airstrikes

On October 2, as reported by CNN, the White House announced that the rules intended to avoid civilian casualties from drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan will not apply to drone attacks or airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq.   "The specific standards at issue in the NDU speech apply only when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities,' as was noted at the time," said Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for Obama's National Security Council, referring to Obama's address at the National Defense University in the spring of 2013. "That description—outside areas of active hostilities—simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now."

So what about this past summer, when Israel was unquestionably involved in "active hostilities" with Hamas in Gaza, and received scathing criticism from the Obama Administration for civilian casualties.   Well, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured above gazing congenially at President Obama) stated before the United Nations that Hamas and ISIS represent one and the same threat, United States State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki (pictured below) pointedly disagreed, as reported by the Jerusalem Post.  "Certainly we see differences," she said.  "We would not agree with that characterization. Obviously, we’ve designated both as terrorist organizations, but ISIL [Islamic State] poses a different threat to Western interests and to the United States, and that’s just a fact.”

Let's examine that proposition.  In terms of whether Israel's use of airstrikes in Gaza produced unjustified civilian casualties, in contrast with civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes and airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, certainly the criteria for judging the Israeli policy must be the threat Hamas posed to Israel, as compared to the threat that ISIS poses to the United States.  In that regard, there are certainly telling distinctions that make ISIS a "different threat" from Hamas, but they all tend to refute Ms. Psaki's remarks and substantiate the legitimacy of  Israel's actions.

  1.   ISIS has not staged an attack on the U.S. homeland.  Hamas has attacked Israel thousands of times, including bombings of buses, restaurants and other civilian targets, armed raids, kidnappings, rockets and artillery attacks.
  2.   To date, thank God, ISIS has only taken two American lives.  Hamas terrorism has killed hundreds of Israelis and injured thousands more.  Were it not for the Iron Shield anti-missile system and the robust military response by the Israel Defense Forces, the toll of Israeli lives from Hamas attacks would be many times higher.
  3.   Hamas, as stated in its founding covenant and constantly repeated by its leadership, wants nothing less than the destruction of the State of Israel and the extermination of the Jewish people.  ISIS would like to destroy American democracy and see America ruled by Sharia law, but has never expressed a desire to kill all Americans.
  4. When Israel launched attacks in Gaza, it would first drop warning leaflets, make telephone calls, and broadcast radio announcements, notifying civilians of the impending attack and urging them to leave the area.  Neither the United States, nor any country in the history of warfare, has gone to the lengths taken by the Israel Defense Forces to reduce civilian casualties.
So, yes, Ms. Psaki, Hamas poses a very different threat from ISIS, just not in the way you intended.

USEFUL IDIOT DEPARTMENT: Anthony Bourdain visits Iran

So it seems that Anthony Bourdain, after many failed efforts, finally visited Tehran, Iran, and he reports that it was "one of the most friendly, pro-American environments that we have ever shot in," and said, "The Iran that we know and deal with on a national level is so different from what it is like to walk around Tehran once you are inside the country."

Of course, there is the little matter of the couple who invited him to their home for dinner, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who were both taken into custody by the Iranian regime shortly after the dinner.

The incredibly obtuse Bourdain comments, “They have not been heard from since and there’s been no concrete explanation of why, what possible reason they could have been detained. They were lovely people who were very proud of their Iranian roots and spoke glowingly of the country—and if anything were voices for understanding.”

What possible reason? Well, how about that they invited you to be their dinner guest for the benefit of American television, or that Mr. Rezaian reported for the Washington Post. Under the rule of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Mr. Bourdain, that is reason enough, and in any event no reason is needed, for enemies of the regime to disappear.

Yes, Tehran is a friendly, pro-American country where one's dinner hosts can be arrested and disappear without a trace.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Where is the Book of Life? A True Story

Today is the eve of Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, and we stand 10 days away from Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On Rosh Hashonah all humanity and every living thing passes before God for judgment. On Rosh Hashonah, the judgment is written, and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed. We fervently pray to be written and sealed in the Book of Life.

I want to retell an incident, which occurred at this season four years story, at my synagogue, Shaarey Zedek Congregation, just before the Kol Nidre prayer that initiates Yom Kippur. An elderly man came into the sanctuary. He had a Russian accent and in broken English he began asking people, "Where is Book of Life? I want to write my family in Book of Life." I tried to explain to him that God has the Book of Life and that we pray to God to write our names in it, but he responded, "No understand. Ruski. Where is the Book of Life?"

We have some Russian speakers at Shaarey Zedek, including Irine, the wife of our then President. So I went looking for Irine, and eventually I found her and she went to speak with the elderly man. I do not yet know what she told him or what was the result. Yet for some reason I was left with the vague feeling that I had been presented with a great test and failed it.

In my reflections on the incident throughout Yom Kippur, however, two positive thoughts emerged. First was an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God that I was born and raised in the United States of America, and not under a tyranny that did its utmost to suppress all religious practice and education, especially of Judaism, for some 70 years. The second was a feeling of awe that a man who had lived under the Soviet system for most of his life, and had been so thoroughly deprived of his Torah heritage, still had enough of a connection to God, Torah and Judaism to know that there is a Book of Life, that he wanted his family to be inscribed in it, and that the place to look for it was in a synagogue on Yom Kippur.

While, as I said, I do not yet know about his conversation with Irine, I do believe that the old Russian Jew succeeded in having his family inscribed in the Book of Life. May God find my merits to be even a small fraction of those of that man.

May all of you be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a year of great blessings, of faith in God, awe of heaven, health, happiness, prosperity and peace.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Hamas in its Own Words

In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg says that it is not hard to understand what Hamas would do to Israel and the Jewish people if given the chance.  Its charter and its spokespersons have informed us clearly and unequivocally of Hamas' program--the murder of all Jews in the world. He demonstrates how important provisions of the Hamas covenant "could have been taken, almost word for word, from Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish propaganda texts and broadcasts."

Mr. Goldberg quotes a recent column on Hamas by Sam Harris:

What do we know of the Palestinians? What would the Palestinians do to the Jews in Israel if the power imbalance were reversed? Well, they have told us what they would do. For some reason, Israel’s critics just don’t want to believe the worst about a group like Hamas, even when it declares the worst of itself. We’ve already had a Holocaust and several other genocides in the 20th century. People are capable of committing genocide. When they tell us they intend to commit genocide, we should listen. There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could. Would every Palestinian support genocide? Of course not. But vast numbers of them—and of Muslims throughout the world—would. Needless to say, the Palestinians in general, not just Hamas, have a history of targeting innocent noncombatants in the most shocking ways possible. They’ve blown themselves up on buses and in restaurants. They’ve massacred teenagers. They’ve murdered Olympic athletes. They now shoot rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas.

[Emphasis added.]

So why do so many Americans, especially those on the "progressive" left, publicly express their support for an overtly fascistic and genocidal organizational. In many cases, Charles Krauthammer argues, it is rank ignorance. Into that category I would throw the recent tweets and statements of many celebrities, such as Selena Gomez and Spaniards Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. What we have on display is an abysmal ignorance of recent history, coupled with understandable repulsion in reaction to the horrors of war, any war, including just wars. The dead of Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Hamburg and Berlin were no easier to look at than those of Gaza, and included many more women, children, civilians and, yes, even opponents of the regimes that had led Japan and Germany into wars of aggression. Nearly absolute pacifism is the prevailing fashion among the stars of cinema, television, music and the performing arts. Superficial thinking understandably produces superficial opinions.

Mr. Krauthammer is much tougher on the Europeans who flock to anti-Israel demonstrations, now all too frequently turning into anti-Jewish riots. Mr. Krauthammer believes that the European demonstrators are motivated by deep-seated, 2000-year old Christian and Islamic Antisemitism. Certainly Roger Waters of Pink Floyd seems to exemplify traditional British Antisemitism, now placed in the service of Islamo-fascism.

What of the anti-Israel demonstrators of the American progressive left? Mr. Goldberg opines that it is "a dereliction of responsibility on the part of progressives not to try to understand the goals and beliefs of Islamist totalitarian movements."

But is he being too charitable? Are those demonstrators truly ignorant of Hamas' ideology? Do they truly not understand, in the words of the title of Mr. Goldberg's article, what Hamas would do if it could do whatever it wanted? Or does the prospect of a genocide against the Jews not really bother them very much?

The militias of the Islamic State, whose ideology is the twin of Hamas, are at this moment committing mass murder and oppression in Iraq, Syria and perhaps soon in Lebanon, against Christians and any other Muslims who do not meet their test of Sunni theological purity. Scarcely a word rises in protest, not from most of Christendom or the West, not from the White House, and certainly not from Hollywood, Broadway or the pop music industry that is so critical of Israel. Will the West wake in time to save itself?

Friday, August 01, 2014

Recent Gems from Dry Bones

Good news, readers of The Hedgehog Blog, if any are left.  I have recovered or maybe rediscovered the ability to post photos and images.  We celebrate by catching up with Yaakov Kirschen at The Dry Bones Blog, which everyone should visit frequently.  Here are three of his latest:

UN Says Israel's Refusal to Share Iron Dome with Hamas is Human Rights Violation

How fair a hearing is Israel likely to receive from the United Nations Human Rights Commission on charges of war crimes? Judge for yourself:  Israel National News reports that on Thursday, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay (photo right) cited as evidence of Israeli war crimes the fact that Israel has refused to share Iron Dome with the "governing authority of Gaza," which is Hamas. She also criticized the United States for helping develop Iron Dome, stating, "No such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.”

So it is not enough that for the first time in the history of warfare, a besieger has provided the besieged party with food, water, (free) electricity, natural gas, medicine, medical treatment in the besieger's hospitals, cement and rebar that the besieged party uses to build attack tunnels and advanced warnings of attacks. Now Israel is also expected to provide a defense system against its own attacks.

Would it be too much to also demand that Hamas stop the indiscriminate rocketing and shelling of Israel and attempts to kill and kidnap its citizens? Probably.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Murder of Three Israeli Teens by Hamas

May the Almighty comfort the families of Gilad Shaar (16), Naftali Frenkel (16)and Eyal Yifrach (19) among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. As Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the founder of the yeshiva where two of the martyrs studied, has said, they were murdered only because they were Jewish, and therefore died, as they lived, l'kiddush HaShem, for the holiness of God's name.

Unlike the so-called "martyrs" of the Islamist world, they did not commit suicide or die in the attempt to kill others.

I am grateful for the condemnation of their murders by the United States government and by President Obama. However, actions speak louder than words. With three boys murdered (including an American citizen) and rockets launched from Gaza raining down on Southern Israel, the U.S. is calling for "restraint." Since Hamas will not restrain itself, in effect, the U.S. is calling for Israel not to take steps to defend its citizens. Noah Pollak, in an article in the Weekly Standard, describes the situation better than I can.

The test for the Administration's sincerity will be whether it continues to deal with a Palestinian Authority that incluces Hamas, with the blood of a 16-year old American boy on its hands, in its coalition.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dry Bones: It's WWIII in Disguise

Yaakov Kirschen elaborates on a recurring message: The war against radical Islamism is a world conflict.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Obama's Peace In Our Time

Even for those who have consitently criticized the foreign policy of the Obama Administration, it is stunning how quickly the disasters have come upon us. Yes, they warned that power abhors a vacuum, and if the United States refuses to assert its power and influence, other forces will rush in to fill the international void. But did even the Administration's critics ever imagine that matters would go so terribly wrong so quickly?

During his 2012 re-election campaign, President Obama boasted that Osama Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda was on the run. On the run, indeed. Today, as I write this post, the troops of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al Qaeda spinoff, have overrun Mosul, Iraq's largest city, and are running with captured American weapons, including armor and artillery, toward Baghdad.

ISIS now controls a huge swath of territory that includes northwest and central Iraq and a generous strip of Syria along the Iraqi-Syrian border. With access to the oil fields and cash reserves they captured in Mosul, ISIS has been called the world's richest terrorist group. ISIS may be said to have established the first Al Qaeda proto-state.

Almost as horrific as what has already occurred are the prospects of a widening regional confrontation. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that two battalions of Iranian Quds Forces (Iran's Special Forces) have joined Iraqi Shi'ite troops and are battling ISIS in the streets of Tikrit.

Some analysts say that the Iraqi fighting is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, which is funding and supplying ISIS, and Iran. If so, the confrontation is increasingly becoming less proxy and more direct. The Saudis, frustrated by American fecklessness, are looking elsewhere for military resources. They recently displayed on parade Chinese missiles capable of reaching Tehran. Tehran certainly is reciprocating.

Incredibly, while all this goes down, the Obama Administration continues to promote its accomplishments in Iraq, and the achievements of its former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Even as the ISIS troops overran Mosul, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest, responding to a question regarding Secretary Clinton's accomplishments during her tenure, remarked, "Ending the war in Iraq and winding down in a responsible fashion the war in Afghanistan, and doing that after the success of our our efforts to dismantle and destroyed Al-Qaida core that had established a base of operations in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” As Mark Steyn observed, losing a war is one way of ending it.

Certainly the juxtaposition of Iraq and Afghanistan is apt. What we are seeing today in Iraq may be a foretaste of a Taliban and Al Qaeda resurgence in Afghanisan, once the United States completes its cut-and-run there.

And one should not think that the other challengers to the crumbling American empire will pause to watch what is going on in the Middle East. The Ukraine today charged that Russian tanks as well as other military vehicles crossed the border into the Ukraine, triggering a skirmish between Russian and Ukrainian troops.

In reviewing the foreign policy accomplishments of the Obama Administration, let us not ignore the efforts of the current Secretary of State, John Kerry. During the months when Libya disintegrated, Russia seized Crimea, the Taliban regrouped in Afghanistan, civil war destroyed Syria, and that conflict spilled over into Iraq in spectacular fashion, threatening a regional confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, what preoccupied Secretary Kerry? He, President Obama, and the sages of the European Union, as well, concluded that the greatest threat to world peace was Jews building apartments in Jerusalem, Judah and Shomron.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

BSD On-Campus Activities Reminiscent of Nazi Germany

Yes, comparisons to Nazi Germany in the 1930s can be overdone and overwrought, but in the case of the activities of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement on American, Canadian and European universities, the comparison is apt and needs to be urgently and stridently made. Not only Israel and Zionism, but academic freedom are at risk.

BDS and other on-campus pro-Palestinian activists are the Brown Shirts of our day. Not content to debate issues with their opponents in a dignified and respectful manner (probably because they know that their charges of "apartheid" would not survive the sunlight of free and open debate), they exercise the heckler's veto. They believe that the righteousness of their cause justifies disrupting speakers and classes, and generally try to intimidate and suppress any expression of opinions contrary to their own.

If you believe I exaggerate, please read this account by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East of recent incidents at Vassar College, involving protests and disruption by Students for Jusice in Palestine ("SJP") of Vassar's International Studies 110 ("IS"), because of a planned academic trip to Israel.

The IS trip was taught and led by Vassar professor of Earth Science and Geography, Jill Schneiderman, and associate professor of Greek and Roman Studies, Rachel Friedman. Its educational purpose was to look “at issues of water rights and access to the Jordan River, as well as disparities in water distribution in Palestine and Israel.” Locations visited by students in the class included sites throughout Israeli and Palestinian Authority controlled territories and a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Professor Schneiderman’s teaching objective was inclusive. “I was motivated to propose and teach such a course because from my perspective as an earth scientist,” she wrote in a blog, “I understand how daily and future access to clean water in ample supply is one of the key issues about which people in the region fight. It is also a problem on which Arabs, Jews, Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis have worked together with integrity and compassion.”

The response of SJP was not to peacefully protest against the trip. Rather they tried to disrupt the class and intimidate the students enrolled in the course. As Scholars for Peace in the Middle East notes:

On February 6th, nine members of SJP appeared at the classroom for the IS course and formed a human barricade to impede students from entering the classroom. An SJP leaflet distributed to students described Israel as sponsoring apartheid and asserted that “the indigenous people of Palestine” did not want students going on the trip.

Professors Friedman and Schneiderman have noted that the demonstration by SJP was inappropriate because it took place at the classroom itself, misguided because it misrepresented both the purpose and substance of the course, and threatening and intimidating to students enrolled in the class because of the physical presence of the demonstrators and the ululating and heckling that accompanied the protest. When the class did finally begin, protestors continued to shout and students inside the classroom told the professor that they “felt unsafe,” “bullied,” and “harassed.”

The linked account relates how SJP is continuing to use stormtrooper tactics at Vassar. Incredibly, they are aided and abetted by the "Vassar Jewish Union" and the head of the Vassar Jewish Studies department, who support BDS. The Vassar Jewish Union recently declared itself an "open Hillel." Hillel is a national college student organization that is pro-Zionist by policy. Wall Street Journal writer Lucette Lagnado, a Vassar alumna, notes that the Vassar Jewish Union declared its independence so that it would be "no longer obliged to heed Hillel's pesky rule of banning speakers who demonize Israel or believe the Jewish state shouldn't exist." The press release annoucing the change "was replete with more clichés about needing a 'diverse range of personal and political opinions' that it argued Hillel failed to provide." So the Vassar BDS'ers apparently feel that Hillel must be open to a diversity of views on Israel's existence, but not Vassar itself.

Those who would argue that the Vassar Jewish Union has made a stand for academic freedom need to ask themselves: Do pro-Palestinian and pro-BDS organizations invite and welcome Zionist and pro-Israel speakers? Probably not. In fact, I would venture a guess that pro-Israel speakers are not even welcome at the Vassar Jewish Union.

Ms. Lagnado, concludes, "I am still waiting for the day a student or faculty member stands up to these academic hooligans at the Vassar Quad. Now that would show some 'critical thinking.'"