The End Is Near

The recent upsurge in anti-Semitism across Western Europe and around the globe, complete with swastikas and “Death to the Jews” chants, is depressing and alarming.  It should also, however, be inspiring

For, once again, we have witnessed how outrage ostensibly over the actions of a sovereign nation, Israel, so quickly and effortlessly festered into full-blown Jew-hatred – not Israel-hatred, not even Israeli-hatred, but Jew-hatred.  That curious phenomenon might be discomfiting, but should also make us think

Can anyone imagine the all-too-real repressive policies of China being laid at the feet of Europeans of Chinese ethnicity, with protesters wildly advocating their extermination?

Can we picture anger over the actual crimes committed by Iran’s leaders being taken out on Iranians living in Europe or the United States, with attacks on their homes and institutions?

Yes, to be sure, there are mindless individuals who, seeing terrorism being committed in the name of Islam, target innocent Muslims as complicit in the inhumanities perpetrated in their religion’s name.  But such misguided avengers are generally lone wolves; and, in the end, it is a belief system, not a government, that they wish to attack.  They think that being a Muslim automatically makes one a radical Islamist.  But Israel is a country, and Jews are a people.  Leave aside that Israel makes unparalleled efforts to protect civilians.  Assume, against all evidence, that she is a monster.  Can anyone, no matter how mentally limited, assume that every Jew is an Israeli?

But that’s how Jew-hatred works; it needs no logic.  In fact, rational thinking just gets in its way.  And so, when Israel is perceived as having done wrong, it isn’t only that nation’s government that is targeted, but rather Jews, no matter where they live, no matter what they may think of Israel’s government or policies.

It’s astounding, really.  What other racial, ethnic, social, or religious group can claim the distinction of having been chosen as the target of one or another form of persecution during practically every period of mankind’s progression from ancient times to the present?  What other group, removed from its ancestral land and scattered around the globe, can claim to have ever been subsequently singled out for extermination, as happened in the memory of people alive today?

The aims of the persecutions have varied.  Some of the hatred has been racial in nature; some, of a religious sort; some political.  What all the expressions of animus have in common, though, are their focus on an unthreatening enemy: the Jews.  The particular excuse may have been cultural (ancient Greece), religious (early Christian, radical Islamist), racial (Nazi Germany), or political (Palestinian).  But the mark has been the same.

The ancient Greek loved knowledge and beauty; he hated the Jew.  The Crusader championed the “New Testament” message (peace and love of mankind, no less); he hated the Jew.  The Nazi strove for genealogical purity; he hated the Jew.  The Palestinian opposes “Zionist imperialism”; in the end it is the Jew whom he and all his hangers-on despise.

Things might be more understandable were there in fact some nefarious World Council of International Jewry plotting the next stage of the manipulation of world governments.

Or if, as parts of the world still believe, Jews in fact required Christian blood for matzos, a fantasy for which countless Jews were killed.

But we members of the tribe know well that, while Jewish organizational meetings can be infernal in their own way, they are rather more mundane than the fabled assembly of the “Elders of Zion” – and that matzo containing blood would never receive a hechsher.  Yet the myths persevered for centuries – and, sadly, still do.

As do equally bizarre contemporary equivalents of ancient blood libels – like much of the Arab world’s “knowledge” that Jews were behind the terrorist attacks of September 11; or media moral equations of Israeli attempts to fight a mortal enemy and “militants” who exult in the killing and maiming of innocents.

One can invoke ad hoc “rational” explanations: psychological concepts, social theories or geopolitical realities. But the solution to the riddle is less complicated.

As long as Klal Yisrael remains in golus, the Torah’s prediction, which we will be reading in shul mere weeks hence (parshas Ki Savo) remains tragically in effect.

And Hashem will scatter you among all the nations… and you will worship other gods… and in those nations you will not rest… you will be fearful night and day” (Devorim 28:64-66).

And so we pine for the day referenced in that very parsha’s haftara, when:

No longer will violence [“hamas,” interestingly] be heard in your land… but you will call [Hashem’s] salvation your protective walls…,” the time when “never again will your sun set, nor your moon be withdrawn” and “the days of your mourning will end” (Yeshayahu 60:18-20).

© 2014 Hamodia


Of Public Record

“ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It’s part of a plan by Zionists who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam’s name.”

Senior Dutch Justice Ministry employee Yasmina Haifi, explaining things to the world


“The time has come to say very clearly that if a woman or child is killed in Gaza , then the Jewish board of deputies [sic], who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the People of SA with the age old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye. The time has come for the conflict to be waged everywhere the Zionist supporters fund and condone the war killing machine of Isreal [sic].”

Tony Ehrenreich, the leader of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the Western Cape province and one of South Africa’s more important political voices.


“The destruction is not important, the importance is that we kill Jews and capture them.”

Gazan resident Mahmoud Barbah, 28, keeping his eye on the evil ball as he surveyed the wages of Israel’s retaliatory bombings of Gaza


To have scratched out of rock this incredibly vibrant, incredibly successful, wealthy and powerful country is a testament to the ingenuity, energy and vision of the Jewish people. And because Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival… 

President Obama.  His words were represented by some as showing his lack of concern about Israel’s survival


“I think the question really is how does Israel survive. And how can you create a State of Israel that maintains its democratic and civic traditions. How can you preserve a Jewish state that is also reflective of the best values of those who founded Israel. And, in order to do that, it has consistently been my belief that you have to find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians.”

President Obama, in the same set of remarks.  His words were cited by the same people as evidence of his lack of concern about Israel’s survival


“Did you ever think, you killed all the funny people?”

Recently deceased comedian Robin Williams, asked several years ago by a German reported why he thinks there is not much comedy in Germany


“We want to return to the era of swords and fight. We don’t want your submachine guns, your pistols, or your RPGs. Let the Arab peoples use these swords… I am certain that the Arab and Muslim… will march with their swords. If you find a single Zionist in Israel after that, get back to us.”

Political activist and Jordanian “Future TV” channel owner Husam Al-Abdala, as he waved a sword live on air

“We are seeing the beginning of the end of Jewish history in Europe… Apart from the ultra-Orthodox who will keep their identities, all other Jews who don’t have that connection to Israel will assimilate.”

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky


Enemies, Real and Imagined

1)      Hamas is evil.

2)      Israel has a responsibility to protect its citizens.

3)      Anti-Israel sentiment is usually simple Jew-hatred in (not very good) disguise.

4)      The United States needs to be fully supportive of Israel.

5)      It has been.

Some would take issue with that last sentence.  They are wrong.  And it behooves Klal Yisroel, which is meant to be imbued with the concept of hakaras hatov, to recognize that fact.

Over the past six years, some have come to imagine that the current occupant of the White House is some sort of adversary of Israel.

Anyone, of course, can disagree with President Obama on any or all issues, even, perhaps, to just dislike him for no good reason, as some apparently do. But for those of us who (even though we expected the worst, considering some of the baggage he brought to Pennsylvania Avenue) have carefully observed him, he has proven himself more than worthy of Jewish respect.

Yet he was pounced upon, after his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world for, well, the simple decision to address that world; and for basing the state of Israel’s legitimacy on the Holocaust.  What seemed to be overlooked, though, was that he made a full-throated argument for Muslim acceptance of Israel and rejection of terrorism.  And he can hardly be faulted for not raising a Torah-based argument on behalf of the Jewish right to Eretz Yisroel.

In subsequent years, he had the US boycott the Durban Conference, rejected the Goldstone Report, strongly backed the Iron Shield and David’s Sling programs (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, beyond the $3 billion the US has given Israel annually) and bluntly, publicly reiterated that the entire Arab world needs to accept Israel as a Jewish state.  He wasted not a minute in the middle of the night to, by threatening Egypt, effect the rescue of endangered Israeli embassy guards in Cairo, and condemned the Palestinian Authority’s denial of the Kosel Ma’aravi’s connection to the Jewish people.

Under Mr. Obama’s watch, moreover, the US conducted the largest joint American-Israeli military exercise in history.  And he has demonstrated determination to neutralize Islamic terrorists, including with drones and targeted assassinations (like that of Mr. Bin Laden), gravely disappointing many of his left-wing long-time supporters.  They are not likely much heartened, either, by his recent decision to launch airstrikes against Islamists in Iraq.

When Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, was reported missing, an anti-Israel, or even Israel-neutral, leader would simply have considered him a prisoner of war.  Mr. Obama publicly demanded his return.  And in asking for a cease-fire, the president made any final truce unconditionally dependent on a demilitarization of Gaza.  To ignore any of that is to forfeit any claim, leave aside hakaras hatov, to fairness – or emes.

Nor is it fair to characterize the president’s words of concern for civilians in Gaza as somehow antithetical to his support for Israel’s right to defend herself; he explicitly reiterated the latter each time he voiced the former.  Nor is it justified to lambaste Secretary of State John Kerry, a stalwart defender of Israel for the nearly 30 years of his public service, for promoting a draft peace proposal that, in fact, he had never put forth.

Some Israeli media are not guiltless here.  They slurred Mr. Kerry and “reported” details of a purported private telephone call between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu; the transcript, it turned out, was a fabrication, according to both the White House and Mr. Netanyahu.

To be sure, there has been friction between the Israeli and American leaders over past years, but which of them is at fault for that is entirely arguable. In our zeal to defend Israel, we sometimes forget that Mr. Netanyahu, whatever good qualities he may possess, is neither a novi nor a godol.  He is not, we do well to realize, beyond either errors of judgment or faults of character.  The issue here isn’t the relationship between two men, but rather Mr. Obama’s support of the state of Israel’s needs.  And in that he has acquitted himself well.

Yes, the US State Department harshly condemned an apparent Israeli shelling of an area near a school filled with Gazan civilians that killed ten people, and urged Israel to do more to “avoid civilian casualties.”  Yet that entirely understandable reaction (who among us didn’t cringe at the news ourselves?) didn’t prevent President Obama from, the very next day, signing a bill to give Israel $225 million to restock its Iron Dome missile defense system, or from declaring as he did that his administration is determined “to make sure that Israel is able to protect its citizens.”

There is a reason that people like left-wing political activist Professor Cornel West have declared Mr. Obama a “war criminal” for his support of Israel.

We’re still in golus, of course; Tisha B’Av was only days ago.  And in golus, Klal Yisrael is supposed to be, and always has been, respectful of even less-than-friendly leaders of the lands in which we live.  The phrase “kal vachomer” is inadequate to convey how we should feel about the United States’ current leader.

As events distant and recent alike well attest, Klal Yisrael has enough true enemies out there. Why in the world would we want to treat a friend like one?

© 2014 Hamodia


Ugly Times

It could well be, as some have charged, that the New York Times’ choice of photographs to accompany its reportage from Israel and Gaza has been skewed to emphasize Hamas’ grievances; or it could be that the imbalance of photos is merely a manifestation of the old journalistic adage “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Despite my general satisfaction with the paper’s actual reportage on the conflict, I lean to the former judgment.  And I have similar misgivings about headlines that are created for dispatches.  It’s not widely known that media have “headline writers” over whom reporters have no control.  There have been several examples of headlines that didn’t truly reflect the articles beneath them, and in ways that led readers (of the headlines alone, at least – and that’s a lot of readers) to regard Israel negatively.

A recent Times report began with the following sentences: “Militant rockets can be seen launching from crowded neighborhoods, near apartment buildings, schools and hotels. Hamas fighters have set traps for Israeli soldiers in civilian homes and stored weapons in mosques and schools. Tunnels have been dug beneath private property.”  Its headline?  “Israel Says That Hamas Uses Civilian Shields, Reviving Debate,” as if the technical issue of the legal definition of a human shield under international law (and what “Israel Says” about it) were more compelling than the undisputed facts that open it.  The technical definition debate is part of the piece, to be sure.  But the more essential facts that the headline might well have synopsized were what the piece’s first sentences describe.

Another head of the hydra that is the Old Grey Lady is its business department, which recently demonstrated an astoundingly deficient judgment. In an advertisement in its July 20 travel section touting a New York Times tour package to Israel and the West Bank, the paper touts how participants in its offering will experience “a fascinating journey through the geographical, cultural, historical and political landscapes of the region.”  And the “featured expert” for, presumably, the latter landscape is… Hanan Ashrawi.

Ms. Ashwari, of course is a well-known Palestinian activist, legislator and member of the PLO’s Executive Committee; and her portrayals of Israel are little short of rabid.  Citing her denial (in Arabic, in an Arab periodical) that there were ever any Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the American Jewish Committee’s David Harris remarked that “Hanan Ashrawi is to truth what smoking is to health.”

The articulate but malign Ms. Ashwari regularly uses terms like “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid” and “the premeditated killing of civilians” with regard to Israel.  “Israel’s calculated crimes” is one of her particularly cherished phrases.

Back in 2000, when two Israeli reservists, having mistakenly entered Ramallah, were captured, killed and grossly mutilated to the cheers of crowds (remember the fellow elatedly displaying his bloody hands for all to see?), Ms. Ashwari asserted, defensively and falsely, that the pair of soldiers (who were wearing army fatigues and whose car bore Israeli plates) were “undercover Israeli agents that had infiltrated” the town and were recognized by her fellow Palestinians “as members of the Death Squads that had been responsible for assassinations and provocations” (Jordan Times, Oct. 29, 2000).

Two years earlier, Ms. Ashrawi founded MIFTAH – the “Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy,” which was caught a number of times offering alleged quotes of Israeli leaders that turned out to be invented.  Last year it was forced to remove an article from its website that, in the context of attacking President Obama for hosting Pesach sedarim in the White House, accused Jews of using “the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.”  (The group, graciously, later offered its “sincerest regret” for the error.)

More recently, the Palestinian propagandist said that “Israel’s military assault on Gaza constitutes an act of state terror and a deliberate war crime” and that Israel’s building in the West Bank and Jerusalem “constitute another aspect of Israel’s aggression and impunity.”

So, to put it most mildly, Ms. Ashwari is about the least objective observer one might choose to feature as the “expert” to enlighten tourists seeking an objective and factual lesson about the region’s political situation.  But she was the Times’ choice.

One has to wonder if the newspaper would ever have dared offer, say, a right-wing member of the Knesset (whose most extreme member would pale in radicalism next to the choice the paper made) for the edification of American visitors partaking of one of its tourism packages.

Alerted to the advertisement by an Agudath Israel constituent, I immediately wrote the paper’s “public editor” or ombudsman, to ask about the wisdom of the choice of “expert” for the tour.  On July 21, her assistant, Jonah Bromwich, replied that although ads are not part of the public editor’s bailiwick he would pass on my note to an executive in the paper’s advertising department.

Despite several follow-up inquiries, Mr. Bromwich informed me that my communications had all been forwarded to the advertising department, but that “unfortunately,” he “cannot compel them to respond.”

 © 2014 Hamodia


Of Public Record

“It’s a lack of appreciation of how Israeli discourse works.  It’s your average Jewish Friday night family meal, taken to the hundredth power.”

Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, explaining the nature of differences between the U.S. and Israel, which some media have characterized as a rift between the two nations  


“Count [the Jews] one by one and kill them to the very last one… turn their food to poison and make the air they breathe blazing hot.”

Entreaty to Allah by Sheikh Abd Al-Barr Al-Rawdhi in a sermon at Al-Rahma Mosque in San Donà di Piave, Italy.  The Italian Ministry of the Interior later announced that it was expelling the sheikh for “seriously disturbing the peace”


“We need peace with the Jewish people, good relations, not war”

Raghda Hejazi, a Gazan mother of five, in a refreshingly realistic, if atypical, comment to a reporter


“The only thing we gained is destruction.”

Fouad Harara, a Gazan laborer, in another realistic comment


Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it’s Hamas’ turn,”

Headline of an advertisement featuring the words of Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, which appeared in the New York Times and other papers but which The London Times refused to run.   The reason given was: “the opinion being expressed is too strong and too forcefully made and will cause concern amongst a significant number of Times readers”


“It is one organization with two wings or two departments.”

Mousa Abu Marzook, senior Hamas political leader, offering unconvincing “clarification” about  why his declared willingness to negotiate with Israel as part of a Palestinian “unity government” will prevent Hamas’ military arm from continuing to attack Israelis


“Maybe it’s not 1939, but it may be 1934.”

Historian Deborah Lipstadt, about the explosion of anti-Semitism in parts of Europe


“The virulent reaction around the world to Israel’s latest incursion into Gaza is making rethink that argument.”

Forward editor Jane Eisner, referring to her long-held assumption that global anti-Zionism isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism


“The Arabs were not very nice [at Israel’s founding] and it led to problems.”

Filmmaker Woody Allen, offering a brief and understated history lesson after expressing his pain at the “tragic and terrible” situation in Gaza


“Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, you have to be fair. You can’t end that – I must end that because you asked me and I want to answer.”

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan, to CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer, who had asked Mr. Hamdan if he was prepared to retract his public claim that Jews use Christian blood for matzos.   Mr. Hamdan failed to do so, instead offering the less-than-satisfying defense that “This was said by everyone. I was saying they are part of what was being said”


“At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?”

“Ever wonder what would happen if the KKK had F-16s and access to a surplus population of minorities? See #Israel and #Gaza.”

“[Journalist] Jeffrey Goldberg’s story should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv.”

Tweets by Virginia Tech associate professor of English Steven Salaita, who had been offered a job by the University of Illinois, which subsequently withdrew its offer.


“unflinching support”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, characterizing the United States’ stance in a recent U.N. General Assembly session, offering thanks to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry


“I don’t see any attention from the rest of the world. In one day, they killed more than two thousand Yazidi in Sinjar, and the whole world says, ‘Save Gaza, save Gaza!’”

A member of the minority Kurdish ethnic/religious community Yazidi in Iraq, lamenting murders committed by ISIS, the “Islamic State.”  The group recently hoisted some of its victims severed heads on poles 


Of Public Record

“It’s not strange that they have been so frequently expelled. What is surprising, is that they persist… The Jewish People could have done much good for mankind” but “it is as though they were not made to coexist.”

Award-winning playwright and author Antonio Gala, in an op-ed published by the Spanish daily El Mundo


If you are revived after, say, 100 years, your new life will in no way resemble your old one… existence as you knew it will have been irrevocably discontinued. And unless key members of your social circle froze themselves with you, you’re going to be very lonely.

Author Judith Shulevitz, inadvertently channeling Choni Hame’agel, in an essay about the prospect of freezing dying people to later revive them.


“We reviewed your report of “Death to zionst baby killer israeli jews” [Facebook page name]. Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the Page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”

Initial response by Facebook administrators to a complaint.  The company later removed the page at issue.


“We all remember how the Jews used to slaughter Christians, in order to mix their blood in their holy matzos. It is a fact, acknowledged by their own books and by historical evidence. It happened everywhere, here and there.”

Osama Hamdan, top Hamas representative in Lebanon and a member of the Hamas political bureau, in a television interview  


“Your governments always say they don’t pay. When you go back, I want you to tell your people that your government does pay. They always pay.”

An Al Qaeda guard to a kidnapped Italian woman.  An investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008


“You have to wonder w the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see media.”

Nick Casey of the Wall Street Journal, in a tweet that was quickly deleted, although he was still put on a Hamas list of journalists who “lie/fabricate info for Israel” and “must be sued” – although Hamas has resorted to less legal means of revenge.


The belief that all of reality can be fully comprehended in terms of physics and the equations of physics is a fantasy… The fact you are unwilling to examine the philosophical foundations of what you do does not mean those foundations are not there; it just means they are unexamined.

Physicist George Ellis, considered one of the world’s greatest cosmologists, in an interview


“Send her to Gaza for a few hours, then she’ll get rid of the pain.”

A Belgian physician manning a medical hotline in Flanders, responding to the son of a Jewish woman who had fractured a rib.  Health ministry officials were “looking into the incident”


“Jews are a litmus test of what’s going on. It’s not only Jews who will leave the country. It’s not only France who will go down the drain, it’s not only Europe, it’s the entire Western world, including the United States.”

Dr. Richard Prasquier, former president of France’s national Jewish association, on the implications of rising anti-Semitism in his country and other European nations


“I’m sure that people who bring their kids to Maimonides find the case is never probed. Maimonides is very dependent on the Haredi community.”

Rabid anti-charedi blogger Shmarya Rosenberg, quoted in The Daily Beast, sharing his belief in a conspiracy theory to hide instances of disease in Jewish babies.


“That Mayor de Blasio has stepped back from Bloomberg’s position is outrageous—he is in essence saying, ‘Go kill your infants as long as you vote for me.’”

“Activist” Ben Hirsch, quoted in the same article, on his conclusion that New York’s new mayor may not seek to regulate the practice of metzitza bipeh as his predecessor did.


“These haredi get in at 8 and work till 5, they don’t move… When they work, they really work.”

Liat Mordechay, co-founder 24me, an iOS calendar lifestyle application, on why she employs “the ultra-Orthodox”


“It is very difficult to identify Hamas because they don’t have uniforms or any visible insignia; our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun.”

Eileen Murphy, the New York Times’ vice president for corporate communications, responding to an inquiry about why, among the many Gaza photographs the paper has published, none depict Hamas members.


“I acted as a doctor through to the very end.”

French physician Nicolas Bonnemaison, who, at least seven times, ended the lives of comatose patients in his care without permission from their families.  A Paris jury acquitted him of all charges.


Pain and Gain

Living lives of comfort and ease, it’s difficult for many of us to fulfill the direction of the first siman in the Shulchan Aruch to “be pained and distressed over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh.”  Do we experience agony at the fact that the holiest spot in the universe lies in picturesque ruin, trampled daily by the feet of deluded masses? Do we feel sick over the reality that, no matter how nice the weather and the house and the bungalow and the cars, we are in golus?

It’s easier these days, unfortunately.  We’re reminded.

It will be less of a challenge, too, to access the sadness of Eicha and our kinos this Tisha B’Av, when (unless we’re wonderfully surprised first by Moshiach’s arrival) we will focus entirely on the churban Beis Hamikdosh and its appalling offspring, the subsequent tragedies of Jewish history.

Because, no matter how one chooses to regard past weeks’ events in Eretz Yisrael, and no matter what may have been accomplished or might yet be, the situation is in fact dire and seemingly hopeless.

Some may take heart in the elimination of terrorists who, in their happiest dreams, and all too often in reality, exult in the murder of innocents.  To be sure, it is certainly not improper to feel relief in the removal of destructive forces from this world.  But anyone who thinks that there isn’t a steady supply of others ready to step into the bloody boots of recently dispatched psychopaths is fooling himself.

And the same is true of anyone who feels satisfaction at the discovery of so many “offensive tunnels.”  (The phrase’s adjective is doubly apt; the subterranean structures are not only intended as means for killing and kidnapping Jews, but offend morality itself.)  To be sure, each tunnel destroyed is one less conduit for murder and extortion.  But there are governments and groups that will be only too happy to send the necessary funds and materials to burrow new holes in the ground for the vipers and rodents.  (Yes, dehumanizing words.  Claims to humanness can be forfeited.)

And then there are the korbonos, the brave young men whose lives were abruptly ended as they were protecting their friends and relatives by fighting evil.  In our world, sometimes, at least in the short run, evil wins.

Even the dream-within-imagining of Hamas’ destruction, though still far from coming true, would lead, experts warn, to worse.  Other groups of (if it can even be envisioned) even more murderous Islamists wait in the wings; and a Gaza serving as their pernicious playground would not bode well at all for Israel’s citizens, or for civilization itself.

We may not overlook, either, the global anti-Semitism that has found a convenient reason to resurrect and invigorate itself, and is expressing itself so openly and honestly, with Jews being attacked, shuls besieged, swastikas brandished.  And the “soft” anti-Semitism of some of nations who ignore body-counts everywhere but in Gaza.

Yes it seems hopeless.  But pain, in the end, at least in Judaism, must not lead to despair.  On the contrary, anguish is what paves the way to redemption.  “All who mourn Yerushalayim,” Chazal inform us (Bava Basra 60b), “merit to see its rejoicing.”

There’s a reason, in other words, why Tisha B’Av is followed by the Shiva Dinechemta, the “seven weeks of consolation.”  The reassuring Haftoros we will read over those weeks offer not platitudinous comfort but, rather, pointed reminders of how things are destined to end, with a world enveloped by “knowledge of Hashem as water covers the seas.”

And so our pain on Tisha B’Av is rightly felt.  And it is more accessible than ever for those of us who in the past might have felt only pain, as the Chiddushei HaRim put it, at the fact that we weren’t feeling pain.

The key is to realize that all the world’s evils, all the wars and hatreds, all the terrorists and despots, all the bloodshed and madness, derive their power, in the end, from the distance we have put between ourselves and Hashem, a distance manifest in the fact that the Beis Hamikdosh is still absent.  When we look at Gaza today, and the West Bank, and all the Jews living under the threat of implacable, rabid and irrational enemies, we need to understand that it is the churban, in fact, that we are seeing.

The month of Av, we might remind ourselves, leads to that of Elul, in which we begin to prepare for Rosh Hashana, when we will declare Hashem’s Kingship over creation.  That Divine dominion is a reality, even if the King isn’t making it evident to all the world.  The day will come, though.

And may our mourning merit that we see it ourselves, and soon.

© 2014 Hamodia


Of Public Record — quotes culled from recent days’ media

“I lied.  Like they do”

Ron Dermer, current Israeli ambassador to the U.S., as a college undergraduate, responding to his mother when she asked him how he had managed, on his professor’s demand, to argue persuasively that Israel should be condemned for its treatment of Palestinians


“We are like brothers.  We can fight, and we can reconcile.”

Ayed Thawabteh, a Fatah activist from Hebron, on his current support for Hamas, despite its murder of hundreds of his compatriots.


“For the first time in the history of the abhorred country, the state of Israel, sirens are heard around the clock and over three million people flee to their hideouts. Schools, governmental departments, and airports came to a halt. When have we ever heard of such things? This is the beginning of good things to come.”

Sheik Tareq Al-Hawwas, a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, in a Friday sermon on Qatar TV


Nie Wieder Juden-Hass” (“Never Again Jew-Hatred”)

Front-page headline in Bild, the largest circulation paper in Germany


“They are not shouting ‘Death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris. They are screaming ‘Death to the Jews’ ”

Roger Cukierman, of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France


“arguably the most virulent anti-Israel leader in the world”

American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen, describing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and demanding the return of a “Profile of Courage” award the group gave Mr. Erdoğan in 2004


“But I have no doubt in my mind that along with all of them, Birthright shares some measure of the blame.”

Slate senior editor Allison Benedikt, opining on the death in Gaza of an American-born oleh serving in the IDF  


“Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Jews are not, under any circumstances.”

A sign, in Turkish, in a Belgian café, which was eventually removed by police


“Kill Jews” “Hitler should finish you off”  “Baby killers”

Phrases shouted at 22-year-old Samantha Hamilton, who was among six Canadian supporters of Israel attacked by a 100-strong mob in Calgary.  Her brother, she said, had a Star of David shirt ripped off, and was bitten and stomped on, suffering a concussion.  Her mother was punched in the stomach and knocked to the ground.


“… I would just like to remind you of the ruling by the Israeli rabbis, who have instructed the soldiers to knead the [dough for] the bread that the Jews eat with the blood of Arab and Palestinian children.”

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab


Something Is Wrong With Gazans

The solution to the long and ongoing war between Hamas and Israel is an obvious one, and it consists of two words: Gazan Spring.

Everyone knows the facts.  Hamas, pledged to Israel’s destruction, is the de facto government in Gaza.  In the Palestinian parliamentary elections of January, 2006, it won 74 out of 132 seats.  Even though the United States and the European Union refused to recognize Hamas’ right to govern any area of the Palestinian Authority, it took control of Gaza and, began to fight with Fatah, its Palestinian rival. Over subsequent years, clashes and truces between the two groups became the recurrent reality.  Many hundreds of Palestinians have been killed there by their fellow Palestinians.

Just before the recent spate of violence between Hamas and Israel, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas entered into an agreement with Hamas to form a unity government. That latest attempt to heal the rift between the Palestinian faction that aims to eradicate Israel and the one that professes to back a two-state solution was widely expected to eventually meet the fate of previous, similar Fatah-Hamas pacts, which fell apart as a result of the two groups’ inherently diametric stances.

Now, with Israel’s full-hearted campaign to undermine Hamas’ ability to target of Israeli population centers – with some missiles having reached as far as Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim – there seems little hope that Hamas will emerge with anything but the defiant pride of a gravely wounded but still standing “freedom fighter” or, to use the more apt term here, “terrorist.”

The key lies in the phrase “still standing.”  It was the Palestinian population that provided Hamas what legitimacy it has as an elected entity.  A population giveth, but it can also taketh away.  The media claims that there are many Gazans, perhaps even a majority of them, who are disillusioned, and deeply, with Hamas.

That would be no wonder.  Gaza’s infrastructure has been deteriorating for years; civil servants’ salaries haven’t been paid for months, and Hamas’ coffers (although, tragically, not its arsenals) are empty. The blockade of its ports and borders has prevented the building of new homes (with the tons of concrete smuggled into Gaza employed exclusively to reinforce the tunnels used to attack Israelis). Social services have faltered, corruption of officials has increased, Egypt has withdrawn its support from the government and now, once again, Hamas’ lust to kill Jews has brought the population a rain of bombs and their resultant casualties (mostly, but, unfortunately and inevitably, not all of them terrorists).

Any sane Gazan should recognize the origin of his problems.

And if there are sane Gazans, they have presumably heard that despotic rulers and oppressive governments have, for better or worse, been toppled by populaces over recent years in places like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Were there a similar uprising in Gaza, a Gazan Spring, Mr. Abbas would be relieved of the temptation, to which he cravenly succumbed, to make any new deal with the devil that is Hamas, and might be emboldened to do more toward making peace with Israel than just mouth the bluster and platitudes that have been his stock in trade until now.

Whether Israel could come to trust a Palestinian leader of a unified populace is not easily predictable.  But the removal of Hamas from governance and its relegation to a mere renegade terrorist group firmly rejected by the clear majority of Palestinians would certainly sweeten the pot for Israelis (who, through regular elections, choose governments to represent their collective will).

A Gazan Spring wouldn’t come without bloodshed.  Societal upheavals, particularly in the Arab world, seldom do.  But shouldn’t that world’s defiant slogan Ash-sha`b yurid isqat an-nizam (“the people want to bring down the regime”) be ringing out in Gaza City?  Shouldn’t the vision of a bomber-less sky over their heads and open borders, not to mention of an eventual Palestinian state living in cooperation and prosperity alongside Israel, motivate Gazans to stand up for their futures?

One has to wonder at the fact that it hasn’t, that after eight years of Hamas rule, with all the suffering they have brought, the Gazan street hasn’t seen fit to assert itself.  Perhaps the populace just lacks the courage and determination that so many other Middle Eastern peoples seem to possess.

Or perhaps – though one hopes it isn’t the case – Gazans just share the visceral and ugly animosity that is the lifeblood of Hamas and similar groups.

After all, as Chazal teach us, just as love can bend the clear line of reason, so can hatred.

© 2014 Hamodia