Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Move Over, Jordan Farmar. Amar'e Stoudemire is the NBA's Biggest Jewish Star

If this story had been published around Purim, I would have said it was a "Purimspiel" (a put on). According to a story in HaAretz, New York Knick's star Amar'e Stoudemire, who recently learned that his mother is Jewish, is making his first visit to Israel. "On the flight to Israel. This is going to be a great trip," tweeted Stoudemire to his Twitter followers. "The holy land. Learn about it," he wrote, adding "ze ha'halom sheli. [This is my dream.]"

If Maccabi Tel Aviv knows what it's doing, it will have a recruiter at the airport to meet Stoudemire. Not that you have to be Jewish to play pro basketball in Israel--many non-Jewish American players have done so, including African Americans. But now that Amar'e is a member of our tribe... .

Quote of the day: The Barack Obama Birthday Card

Jim Lindgren, on receiving an e-mail invitation from Michelle Obama to sign a birthday card for President Obama:
I find it hard to say precisely why I find this email a bit creepy. At one level this seems innocuous enough–and it is definitely not a big thing.

At another level, asking millions of Americans to sign a birthday card for the President suggests a tone-deafness about the cult of personality. If we lived in a dictatorship, getting millions of subjects to celebrate the Dear Leader’s birthday would be routine, but in a free republic this appeal to get millions of citizens to celebrate a current president’s birthday strikes a discordant note to my ear.

No, I am not saying we are in a dictatorship; I am saying that because we are not, we should not be emulating the trappings characteristic of that fundamentally different sort of regime. Nor do I think this is particularly ominous, just a very small step in the wrong direction.

Last, it seems strange for Michelle Obama to be trying to get us to sign Barack’s birthday card when she is scheduled to be in Spain with [at least one of] her daughters during the President’s birthday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mel and Oliver: Will Hollywood Apply a Double Standard to Anti-Jewish Rants?

Oliver Stone (photo left, with Hugo Chavez) is a Hollywood director. Mel Gibson (photo right, as William Wallace in Braveheart) is a Hollywood actor, director and producer. Both engage in anti-Semitic rants, Gibson only when he is drunk, but Stone when he is stone sober and giving an interview to the Sunday Times. Stone said that Jews control American foreign policy and that the murder of six million Jews by Hitler [may his name and memory be erased] has to be viewed in context. He has since apologized, sort of.

For his drunken rants, Mel Gibson is now persona non grata in Hollywood. Creative Artists has dropped him as a client. The word on the street is that he will be making another film only if he finances it himself, as he did with The Passion of the Christ.

Despite his sober assessment (or more properly, assessment while sober) of Jewish control of American foreign policy, right out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Oliver Stone so far appears to still be Hollywood's golden boy. Will that change?

If it does not, then why not? For once, the answer is not "follow the money." As an actor, diretor and producer, Mel Gibson's films have made far more money than those of Oliver Stone.

However, politically Mel Gibson would appear to be ultraconservative to the point of being a reactionary. He is a devout Roman Catholic, quite literally more Catholic (or at least more reactionarily Catholic) than the Pope on some Church issues.

Oliver Stone, in contrast, likes to hang out with Latin American left-wing dictators such as Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez, about whom he recently made a fawning documentary.

Will Oliver Stone still be able to have lunch in Hollywood? Wait and see.

When the Left Wants the U.S. to Lose a War, Our Liberal Media Pitches Right In

It is all so familiar. "The leaking of a trove of U.S. documents has put the Obama administration on the defensive about its Afghanistan policy and may deepen doubts in Congress about prospects for turning around the faltering war effort." So reported the Los Angeles Times this morning.

This week's release by WikiLeaks of documents about the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan follows a well-tread path. When the Left wants the U.S. to abandon a military campaign, and it almost always does, the liberal media takes the lead in building political opposition to it, often on mendacious grounds.

Take for example Walter Cronkite's famous monologue at the conclusion of the CBS Evening News on February 14, 1968. Cronkite had just returned from a trip to Vietnam, where he had hosted a documentary on the Tet offensive, launched by the North Vietnamese regular army and Viet Cong troops on January 31, 1968. We now know that the Tet offensive was a desperate attempt by North Vietnam to sway American public opinion against the war, and it worked. The United States public was shocked by the large scale offensive against cities throughout South Vietnam, including Viet Cong attacks in the capital of Saigon.

However, in strictly military terms, the offensive was a disaster for the attackers. Despite perpetrating horrendous massacres of civilians in the areas they overran, including the slaughter of between 2800 and 6000 civilians and prisoners of war in the city of Hue, the North Vietnames army and the Viet Cong failed to hold a single military objective, and were shattered by the tremendous losses they suffered. Yet, thanks to the American media, led by Cronkite, the campaign achieved its main political objective.

Don't take my word for this--here is what General No Nguyen Giap, the Supreme Commander of the Viet Minh (NVA) forces had to say about the Tet offensive, in a 1989 interview with CBS’s Morley Safer:

“We paid a high price, but so did you…not only in lives and material…After Tet the Americans had to back down and come to the negotiating table, because the war was not only moving into…dozens of cities and towns in South Vietnam, but also to the living rooms of Americans back home for some time. The most important result of the Tet offensive was it made you de-escalate the bombing, and it brought you to the negotiation table. It was, therefore, a victory…The war was fought on many fronts. At that time the most important one was American public opinion.” (The Vietnam War: An Encyclopedia of Quotations, Howard Langer, 2005)

Walter Cronkite did the heavy lifting for the American media. Here are some of his remarks from the February 14 editorial:

Who won and who lost in the great Tet offensive against the cities? I’m not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw.

It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.

But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. (Emphases added)

It may be argued in Cronkite's defense that he was probably unaware of the effect the heavy losses of the Tet campaign had on the North Vietnamese army and the Viet Cong. Still, there were miliatary analysts then who correctly opined that the Tet offensive had been a desperate effort by the Communist forces, a disaster for them and a military victory for the United States and South Vietnam. However, those analysts did not have the sway on public opinion of "America's most trusted man." It is said that when President Lyndon Johnson learned of Cronkite's remarks, he said “That’s it. If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”

[American Thinker is the source of much of the above material.]

After the Cronkite speech, and President Johnson's decision a short time later to not seek re-election, came the Pentagon Papers, a top secret Department of Defense report leaked by Daniel Ellsberg to the New York Times.

In due course, after Nixon Administration negotiated a ceasefire with North Vietnam, after Watergate, and after the departure of most U.S. troops from Vietnam and Cambodia, the North Vietnamese flagrantly violated the ceasefire agreement with a massive invasion of the South. Congress refused to raise a hand to stop the Communist takeover, and the abandoned South Vietnamese army and government collapsed.

What were the results of America's abandonment of Southeast Asia? As Bret Stephens reminds us in today's Wall Street Journal:
"All in all, America's withdrawal from Southeast Asia resulted in the killing of an estimated 165,000 South Vietnamese in so-called re-education camps; the mass exodus of one million boat people, a quarter of whom died at sea; the mass murder, estimated at 100,000, of Laos's Hmong people; and the killing of somewhere between one million and two million Cambodians."

And all that, despite the fact that Sydney Schanberg, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, assured America that "it is difficult to imagine how [Cambodian] lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." Mr. Schanberg added that "it would be tendentious to forecast [genocide] as a national policy under a Communist government once the war is over."

Now the Left is using the Wikileaks publication of Afghan battlefield reports to build opposition to the war in a crescendo of doubt and criticism. Superficially, it is hard to understand how the leaked reports lend themselves to a condemnation of the current Afghan war effort. They almost entirely relate to a period from 2004-2009, prior to the current Allied counter-insurgency effort.

It would be as if in 1943 the American press had published reports about the disastrous defeat of U.S. troops by Rommel's Afrika Korps at the Battle of Kasserine in February 1942, and pacifists called for the U.S. to withdraw from the war. (That did not happen largely because of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, followed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th of that year. Until Hitler attacked Stalinist Russia, the American Left, orchestrated by the Communist Party U.S.A., opposed entering the war on the side of Britain and France.) Despite the terrible setback at Kasserine Pass in this first encounter of American troops against the German Army (in which American and British forces suffered 10,000 casualties--a third of their forces--against only 2000 Axis losses), by May 1943 the German and Italian armies in North Africa were compelled to surrender to the British and American forces.

So we will have to see how the American press spins the WikiLeaks reports to build anti-war sentiment. One thing is certain, however--never underestimate the initiative of leftwing media when it comes to opposing a war. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks (photo above left), has already alluded to "war crimes" allegedly disclosed by the reports.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Beautiful New Shopping Center Opens in Gaza! Will Western Media Report on the Gaza Galleria?

You know Gaza, right? The place that Hamas' useful idiots, such as British left-wing activist Laura Booth, the sister-in-law of Tony Blair, routinely call "the world's largest concentration camp"?

This week, right under the eyes and noses of their Israeli prison guards (well, alright, the Israelis are not actually in Gaza, but they are watching), right smack dab in the middle of the world's largest concentration camp, a beautiful brand spanking new shopping mall opened--a regular Gaza Galleria. For a fuller account, reported by Tom Gross in Winnipeg's Jewish Post & News, including photographs of the fully-stocked mall, please follow the link and read the entire story. Mr. Gross points out that he had previously published "photos and film of Gaza’s hotels, beauty spas, swimming pools, beaches and street markets -- images the BBC, New York Times and others refuse to show you." He also sagely asks, "If there 'are no building materials allowed into Gaza' how did they build this shopping center, or the new Olympic-size swimming pool pictured below?"

Good questions, Mr. Gross. Indeed, what are these nefarious Israelis up to now? First they attempt a Nazi-like genocide of the Palestinian people, only there are millions more Palestinans alive today than when this "genocide" began in 1948. Many of those Palestianians have received university educations in the seven univerities that opened in Gaza and the West Bank during the occupation by Israel that began in 1967. (No Palestinian universities existed prior to the occupation. Of course, Israel has not occupied a single foot of Gaza since September 2005, so the prospects for college education there have probably deteriorated.) When Palestinians become seriously ill, they can obtain treatment in Israel's finest hospitals, even though they equipped one woman "patient" with a suicide bomb vest to murder her benefactors. Now, Israel has allowed the inmates of the world's largest concentration camp to open a new shopping mall, to complement the fully stocked street markets. Funny, but I don't recall hearing about shopping malls in Auschwitz. What we have in Gaza, my friends, is one oddly unsuccessful genocide and one very unusual concentration camp, indeed.

Incidentally, please note in one of the photos in the Jewish News & Post story how an Arab child is reaching up toward a window display that appears to feature Farfour, the Hamas Palestinian refugee Mickey Mouse lookalike, once featured on a Hamas children's television show. Readers may recall how Farfour was written out of the show by having him murdered while under Israeli interrogation, when he refused to turn over the key to his home in the well-known Palestinian city of Tel Aviv. Oh, those perfidious Jews!

JournoList: Lefty Journalists Conspired to Promote Barack Obama and Smear the Right

When Presidential candidate Obama came under fire for his decades-long connection with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Spencer Ackerman suggested to participants in JournoList, an online organization of liberal journalists, that its participants come to the aid of Mr. Obama by launching a smear attack against Karl Rove and Fred Barnes [photo left], to attack them as racists, and divert attention from the controversial Reverend Wright. In a column in the Wall Street Journal online, Mr. Barnes quotes Mr. Ackerman's proposal:

"If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us. Instead, take one of them—Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares—and call them racists. . . . This makes them 'sputter' with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction."

And how did the JournoList participants react to this idea? Mr. Barnes notes, "No one on JournoList endorsed the Ackerman plan. But rather than object on ethical grounds, they voiced concern that the strategy would fail or possibly backfire."

Ezra Klein, a prominent columnist for the Washington Post, founded JournoList and last month, as its activities became public, terminated it. I suspect it has merely gone to ground to reorganize elsewhere.

Mr. Barnes points out that the activities of JouroList go well beyond the typical media group think, which one might attribute to common background, values and culture. He notes:

I think JournoList is—or was—fundamentally different, and not simply because one of its members proposed to make palpably false accusations. As best I can tell, those involved in JournoList considered themselves part of a team. And their goal was to make sure the team won. In 2008, this was Mr. Obama's team. More recently, the goal seems to have been to defeat the conservative team.

One need only read, or a dozen other conservative websites to confirm that there is also a conservative team of journalists, and they talk with one another, discuss political tactics and strategy and cooperate with one another. One sees the same thing on the opposite side of the spectrum at MNBC. However, the critical difference in those cases is that the political bias of the journalists is put out front for all to see. The pernicious aspect of JournoList was that its members held themselves out as "traditional mainstream journalists," not partisan activists.

Hugh Hewitt warned us about this. Up with transparency, down with hidden-agenda journalism.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Obama Administration and The U.S Navy

My law partner Robert O'Brien is an expert on foreign policy and military affairs, having served as a United States Representative to the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. His Daily Caller Post today, The Obama administration’s cuts to the U.S. Navy imperil critical missions, is well worth a read. Excerpt:
The United States Navy is drastically shrinking due to the serious cuts the Obama administration is making to the shipbuilding budget. As set forth in the Navy’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the service requires a minimum of 313 ships to accomplish its many missions. Today, however, the Navy is operating just 286 warships. Given President Obama’s plans to further cut the defense budget, the number of ships in the Navy is certain to continue to decline below even the current number with very negative consequences for the United States; one area that is significantly impacted is America’s amphibious assault capacity.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

OBAMANDIAS? Former Supporters Assail the President's Foreign Policy

Who do think recently wrote the following about President Barack Obama?

There are figures in history who wish to leave behind what Malraux called a "scar on the map," but it was Barack Obama's desire to leave behind a new map, and one without scars. His promise of global transformation was outrageously genuine, underwritten by an invincible belief in his own unprecendentedness and in his own magic; and it now looks like a personal delusion. He really did think that the world would change when he summoned it to change, as if its dangerous and miserable state was the result merely of misunderstandings and the failure of an adequately illuminated leader to manisfest himself.

The Obama turn in American foreign policy is looking more and more like what [Saul] Bellow used to call the Good Intensions Paving Company.

An Iranian friend recently told me about a letter he received from Tehran complaining that the most damaging American intervention in Iran since the [1953] overthrow of [Prime Minister Mohammad] Massadegh was Obama's non-intervention against Ahmadinejad's brutal repression.

And who recently wrote the following about President Obama?

But it shall now be part of the narrative of liberty that when Persia rose in the summer of 2009, the steward of American power ducked for cover, and that a president who prided himself on his eloquence couldn't even find the words to tell the forces of liberty that he understood the wellsprings of their revolt.

President Obama's failure to find the right words is not a failure of eloquence. It is a failure of truth and a deliberate aversioin to the truths of history.

Who is launching these vicious verbal attacks on the President? Ann Coulter, perhaps, or Bill Kristol, or some Fox Network pundit?

No, the first set of quotes is from Leon Wieseltier and the second from Martin Peretz, respectively the Literary Editor and the Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic, and appeared in the July 8 edition of that liberal publication, which endorsed President Obama in the 2008 election and still heartily supports his domestic policy initiatives. (Indeed, the magazine has developed a sort of editorial schizophrenia regarding the President.)

I think that the sharp-penned Wieseltier has best captured the ego-driven nature of the President's personal diplomacy, which has proven so inadequate to face the challenges posed by the developing anti-American alignment of Putin (Russia), Ahmadinejad (Iran), Erdogan (Turkey), Lula (Brazil) and Chavez (Venezuela). Wieseltier scathingly writes, "We exchanged an experiment in personal greatness conservatism for an experiment in personal greatness liberalism. And in the spring of 2010, Obama got his global reformation, his new map."

To me it brings to mind Percy Shelley's poem Ozymandias:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

Our Obamandias, King of Kings, and indeed the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, also had the frown and the sneer of cold command. However, the mighty of other nations, our country's rivals, have not looked on his works and despaired. Hopefully though, come November 2012, we will not find that "nothing beside remains round the decay of that colossal wreck."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

RABBI YEHUDA AMITAL, of Blessed Memory, Passes Away at Age 85

Torah scholar, founder and head of a great yeshiva, rabbinical leader, dayan (rabbinical court judge), government minister, warrior, Holocaust survivor: HaRav Yehuda Amital, who passed away overnight this past Thursday in Jerusalem, was all of the above and more during a life that spanned 85 eventful years. Here is an edited excerpt from his biography at the website of Yeshiva Har Etzion, which he founded:
Harav Yehuda Amital was born in 1924 in Transylvania. He studied Torah in Cheder and Yeshiva, and had virtually no formal secular education. In l943, with the invasion of the Nazis, he was taken to a labor camp, while his entire family - parents, sister and brother - were taken to Auschwitz where they were murdered. After his liberation, he arrived in Eretz Yisrael at the end of l944, on Chanuka 5705.

When he arrived in Israel, Rav Amital continued his yeshiva studies in Jerusalem and received Semikhah [rabbinical ordination] from HaGaon Harav R. Isser Zalman Meltzer zt”l. While in yeshiva, he joined the Haganah. The following year he married Miriam Meltzer, daughter of the Chief Rabbi of Rehovot and granddaughter of Rav Meltzer. Rav Amital fought in the War of Independence, in the battles of Latrun and western Galilee. After the war HaRav Amital became a Safra D'Dayna (rabbinic secretary) in the Rabbinical Court in Rehovot and two years later, he became a Ram (instructor) in Yeshivat HaDarom.

Rav Amital predicted that the phenomenon of Yeshiva students being exempted from army service would increase the friction between the religious and secular community, on the one hand, and would lead to emotional and ideological distance between the Yeshiva students and the State of Israel, on the other. Upon formulating the idea of Yeshivot Hesder, in which Yeshiva students combine advanced Talmudic study with active service in the Israeli Defense Forces, often in elite combat units. He took an active role developing the first hesder group at Yeshivat HaDarom.

After the Six Day War, he was called upon by Mr. Moshe Moskovic - a survivor of the l948 battle for Gush Etzion - to found a Yeshivat Hesder in Gush Etzion. In 1968, the Yeshiva opened in Kfar Etzion.

Yeshiva Har Etzion is the flagship of religious Zionist yeshivas, and draws hundreds of students from Israel and abroad yearly.

Rav Amital represented Yeshivot Hesder in the Army network and held the rank of Captain in the Armored Corps.

Rav Amital officially stepped down as head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva in 2008.

I believe he will be best remembered as a profound and articulate exponent of the philosophy of Religious Zionism. Here is a excerpt from one of his Torah lessons, which deeply inspired me, adapted from a lecture given on Yom Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, 5754 (1994). Reader, keep in mind that these are the words of someone who personally witnessed the nadir of the Jewish people, when the Jews of Europe, abandoned by the world, were helpless victims of the Nazi murderers, may their names be erased; and who survived to personally witness and play an active role in the establishment of the State of Israel and its development into a strong, vibrant nation. [One may read the entire lecture here.]

"This Day God Has Made - Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad in It"

"Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall yet again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand because of his old age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: If it will be wondrous in the eyes of the remnant of this nation in those days, it will also be wondrous in my eyes, says the Lord of hosts." [Zekharia 8:4-6]

In this description by the prophet Zekharia, no exceptional or supernatural phenomenon is mentioned. There is no unique event, nor any description of awesome strength. All we have here, in effect, is a simple, pastoral description of normal life. The grandfather and grandmother are sitting in Jerusalem, walking-sticks in hand, and the grandchildren are playing in the streets. Can it be that it is this very scene that, according to the prophet, will be "wondrous in the eyes of the remnant of this nation?" Is it possible that such a natural scene prompts God to add, "it will also be wondrous in my eyes?"

Zekharia prophesied great and inspiring events, but it is specifically here that "wondrousness" is mentioned. Moreover, Rabbi Akiva, the great Tanna, was able to look clearly, to smile and to laugh at the very destruction of the Temple when he was reminded of this prophecy. The gemara (Makkot 24b) recounts the story of Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya and Rabbi Yehoshua who were walking towards Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple:

"When they reached Mt. Scopus they tore their clothes. When they reached the Temple Mount, they saw a fox coming out of the place of the Holy of Holies. They began to cry, and Rabbi Akiva began to laugh. They said to him, 'Why do you laugh?' He answered, 'Why do you cry?' They said to him, 'The place of which it is said [Bamidbar 1], "And the stranger who comes near will die" now has foxes walking in it; shall we not cry?' He said to them, 'For that reason I laugh. For it is written [Yeshayahu 8], "I appoint for Myself faithful witnesses - Uriah Ha-Kohen and Zekharia ben Yevarekhyahu." What connection can there be between Uriah and Zekharia? After all, Uriah lived during the time of the First Temple, while Zekharia lived during the Second. But God made Zekharia's prophecy dependent on that of Uriah. Of Uriah it is written [Mikha 3], "Therefore because of you Zion shall be ploughed like a field," while in Zekharia we learn, "Old men and old women shall yet again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem." Until the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled, I was afraid that Zekharia's prophecy would never come true. Now that Uriah's prophecy has been fulfilled, Zekharia's prophecy will certainly be fulfilled as well.' With that they said to him, 'Akiva, you have comforted us; Akiva, you have comforted us.'"

But why did Rabbi Akiva mention specifically this prophecy of Zekharia? Was this all that he prophesied? Did he not prophesy greater things than this? Was it not Zekharia who said, "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for I come and I will dwell in the midst of you... and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you" [ibid. 2:14-15]? Why is this prophecy not mentioned? Did Zekharia's prophecies involve only boys and girls, old men and women? Did he not speak [ibid. 12:7-8] of God "giving victory to the tents of Yehuda first... On that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the feeblest among them shall be like David; and the house of David shall be like a divine being, like the angel of the Lord at their head?" We could bring many other examples. What is it, then, that makes this prophecy of "old men and women in Jerusalem, their sticks in their hands" and of "boys and girls playing in the streets," so special? Why is it this prophecy that brings comfort?

Prophecies concerning supernatural events that will take place in the future are understandable. The suffering was extraordinary, exile was extraordinary - the entire country was emptied of its inhabitants, all being led away into captivity, young and old alike. An extraordinary phenomenon. But the prophet announces publicly: Life will return to its usual path, life will be normal again! "Old men and old women shall yet again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem..."

A profound idea is contained herein. Someone who lacks a historical awareness, someone who sees only the present and is cut off from the past, is incapable of seeing the future, and perceives even the present in a distorted way. Rabbi Akiva was someone with historical perspective.

Someone who does not understand the meaning of an entire nation being exiled from its land, cannot understand the historical significance of its return. Eretz Yisrael was entirely emptied of all her inhabitants. Has such a thing ever happened in history? A nation that was exiled from its land, and returns to it?

The prophet says, "Old men and old women shall yet again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem." Once again there will be "boys and girls playing in its streets." Simple, normal life. Only someone with a deep historical awareness can understand the significance of such a scene. Miracles are one-time events. But Jews living a normal life in Eretz Yisrael, after seventy years (of the Babylonian exile) during which the country was empty and desolate - someone looking with historical perspective can only be astonished. Of him the prophet says, "If it will be wondrous in the eyes of the remnant of this nation in those days, it will also be wondrous in my eyes, says the Lord of hosts."

Normal life, that which other nations accept as a natural phenomenon, is perceived by us as a meta-historical one, a manifestation of the Divine. For them everything is "smooth" - "And Esav continued on his way to Se'ir;" such is the way of the world. But "Yaakov and his sons went down to Egypt." For us, every natural phenomenon becomes a supernatural one. For us, everything is always different.

After two thousand years, children play in the streets of Israel, in the squares of Jerusalem! Can this be a natural phenomenon, after two thousand years? For us, everything is always different.


Someone who sees only today, now, is disturbed by problems and questions. But someone with a feel for history knows, like Rabbi Akiva who saw a fox coming out of the place of the Kodesh Kodashim, that "old men and women shall yet again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem."

The prophet Yirmiyahu [33:10-12] says, "Thus says the Lord: Again there shall be heard in this place - which you say is desolate, empty of man and of beast; in the cities of Yehuda and in the streets of Jerusalem which are deserted and without man, without inhabitant, and without animal - the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say, 'Praise the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His kindness is forever' when they bring thanksgiving offerings to God's house. For I shall return the captivity of the land as in former times, says the Lord." For our many sins, we have yet to merit seeing the "bringing of thanksgiving offerings to God's house." But the Anshei Knesset Ha-Gedola, when they composed the blessing recited at weddings, left out the end of the verse and changed it to read: "Again there shall be heard in the cities of Yehuda and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the joyous voice of bridegrooms emanating from the chuppa and that of the young men coming from their celebration." What are the "young men" here celebrating? Are they holding a "siyum?" Or simply wasting time?

They are, in fact, the representatives of "normal life." A normal state of affairs involves young people coming out of parties, and it was them to whom the Anshei Knesset Ha-Gedola referred. Are we blind to the fulfillment of this prophecy? Have we not participated in the joy of bridegrooms and brides in Jerusalem? Have we not danced in its streets? Have we not been witness to the joyous sounds of wedding parties emanating from the chuppa?


We have prevailed in worse times and we shall prevail now. But we have to know that without a strong sense of history we shall not be able to understand what is happening here. If we fail to take our past into account, we will not understand the future, and even our apreciation of the present will be perverted.

Today let us all say, "I have faith in your loving- kindness, my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I shall sing to the Lord for He has rendered me good" [Tehillim 13:6], and "God has given me suffering - but has not left me to die!" [118:18].

"Open for me the gates of righteousness, I shall enter them and praise God... I praise You for You have answered me, and have been my salvation. The stone which the builders despised has become the chief cornerstone. This is God's doing - it is wondrous in our eyes."

May Rebbetzin Miriam Amital, the widow of the Rav, his children, his students and colleagues, and all of Israel be comforted among the mourners for Zion and Jerusalem. We have suffered an incalculable loss, but we are comforted by the words of Rav Amital, as Rabbi Akiva once comforted his companions over the destruction of the Temple in Jersusalem.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Mexico Foils Hezbollah Attempt to Set Up South American Network

Viva Mexico! As reported in HaAretz, Mexican police have thwarted an attempt by the Lebanese radical Shiite group Hezbollah to set up a terrorist network in South America, using Mexican nationals with ties to Lebanon. The Mexican police penetrated the plot, and mounted a surveillance operation on the group's leader, Jameel Nasr, who traveled frequently to Lebanon to receive information and instructions from Hezbollah commanders there. (Mullah Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, appears in the photo above left.) Nasr also frequently visited other countries in Latin America, inclulding a two-month stay in--surprise--Venezuela--in the summer of 2008. Venezuela's anti-American and anti-Israeli President, Hugo Chavez, openly courts the Islamic government of Iran, Hezbollah's patron state.

This venture would not have been Hezbollah's first Latin American terrorist venture. Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are widely believed--to the point of Argentine arrest warrants--to have carried out the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires in 1994, in which 85 people were killed.

The closing down of one network and the arrest of one leader will not end Hezbollah's terrorist efforts in Latin America. As HaAretz reports, Hezbollah has already formed alliances with Mexican drug cartels. It probably will now increase its activities against the Mexican government, with the objective of creating a haven for its operations against the United States in drug cartel-controlled areas of Mexico. According to HaAretz:

In June, a U.S. congresswoman wrote to the Department of Homeland Security to warn that Hezbollah was increasing its presence in Central and South America.

In her letter, Congresswoman Sue Myrick called on the U.S. to work with Mexican forces, as there was intelligence that Hezbollah was working in conjunction with Mexican drug cartels on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Mexican police operation is a victory in one small skirmish of a continuing war with Islamist terrorism, a war that the Obama Administration now refuses to acknowledge publicly, but which we may only hope the Administration is taking more seriously privately.

Moreover, a defense strategy against Islamist terrorist activities in Latin America cannot ignore the issue of U.S. border security. Unfortunately, one's confidence in the Obama Administration's attitude toward border security is not strenthened by the lawsuit filed today by the U.S. Justice Department, at the political direction of the President and Attorney General Eric Holder, to invalidate the State of Arizona's statutory effort to enforce U.S. immigration law.

Despite those reservations about our own government's counter terrorism policies, let's not hesitate to extend a hearty "Muchas Gracias" to the Mexican police on a successful counter-terrorism operation.