Tag: Yom Kippur


The Shofar's Call: Yom Kippur 5778: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Sept. 29, 2017 — The shofar, New Year’s symbol, blows…

Yom Kippur Thoughts: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Press, Sept. 28, 2017— Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement, is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgment.

From Poland to Lithuania: A Writer’s Search for Her Jewish Past: Charly Wilder, New York Times, Sept. 18, 2017— I think I was in an iced-over bus lot in northeastern Poland, standing in front of a mound of desecrated gravestones, when I first had the feeling that Jewish heritage travel in Europe might be a mistake.

On Becoming an American: Ben Cohen, JNS, Sept. 20, 2017— This week, I became an American citizen.


On Topic Links


Yom Kippur: Guide for the Perplexed: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Sept. 29, 2017

The Most Interesting Jews of 5778: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Sept. 29. 2017

Israeli Identity: What Has Changed This Year?: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Sept. 29, 2017

A Chorus of Mazel Tovs in Uganda: Merissa Nathan Gerson, New York Times, Sept. 22, 2017



Baruch Cohen

CIJR, Sept. 29, 2017


In Loving Memory of Malca z”l


The shofar, New Year’s symbol, blows

The long-drawn call for all humanity!

A call for peace that’s yet to be

Addressed to all humanity.


Within the little synagogue the lights are dim

We hear the shofar sound–

Piercing a silence that seems

To pray, for you and me, its call

A prayer for you and all.


A call for a peace yet to be,

A long-drawn note to all humanity:

The tone resounds,

And mankind knows

It is the call for love,

For a humanness yet to be…


All around the air is hushed!

We hear the shofar’s blast redound:

From my heart, may peace abound!


(Baruch Cohen, CIJR’s Research Chairman, will soon be celebrating his 98th birthday)





Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Jewish Press, Sept. 28, 2017


Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement, is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgment. At no other time are we so sharply conscious of standing before God, of being known by Him. But it begins in the strangest of ways.


Kol Nidre, the prayer that heralds the evening service and the beginning of the sanctity of the day, is the key that unlocks the Jewish heart. Its melody is haunting. As the cantor sings, we hear in that ancient tune the deepest music of the Jewish soul, elegiac yet striving, pained but resolute, the song of those who knew that to believe is to suffer and still to hope, the music of our ancestors that stretches out to us from the past and enfolds us in its cadences, making us and them one. The music is sublime. Tolstoy called it a melody that “echoes the story of the great martyrdom of a grief-stricken nation.” Beethoven came close to it in the most otherworldly and austere of his compositions, the sixth movement of the C Sharp Minor Quartet, opus 131. The music is pure poetry but the words are prosaic prose.


Kol Nidre means “all vows.” The passage itself is not a prayer at all, but a dry legal formula annulling in advance all vows, oaths and promises between us and God in the coming year. Nothing could be more incongruous, less apparently in keeping with the solemnity of the day. Indeed, for more than a thousand years there have been attempts to remove it from the liturgy. Why annul vows? Better, as the Hebrew Bible and the rabbis argued, not to make them in the first place if they could not be kept. Besides, though Jewish law admits the possibility of annulment, it does so only after patient examination of individual cases. To do so globally for the whole community was difficult to justify.


From the eighth century onwards we read of gaonim, rabbinic leaders, who condemned the prayer and sought to have it abolished. Five centuries later a new note of concern was added. In the Christian-Jewish disputation in Paris in 1240, the Christian protagonist Nicholas Donin attacked Kol Nidre as evidence that Jews did not feel themselves bound by their word, a claim later repeated by anti-Semitic writers. In vain, Jews explained that the prayer had nothing to do with promises between man and man. It referred only to private commitments between man and God. All in all, it was and is a strange way to begin the holiest of days.


Yet the prayer survived all attempts to have it dislodged. One theory, advanced by Joseph Bloch in I917 and adopted by Chief Rabbi J.H. Hertz, is that it had its origins in the forced conversion of Spanish Jews to Christianity under the Visigoths in the seventh century. These Jews, the first Marranos, publicly abandoned their faith rather than face torture and death, but they remained Jews in secret. On the Day of Atonement they made their way back to the synagogue and prayed to have their vow of conversion annulled. Certainly some such reason lies behind the declaration immediately prior to Kol Nidre in which the leaders of prayer solemnly grant permission “by the authority of the heavenly and earthly court” for “transgressors” to join the congregation in prayer. This was a lifting of the ban of excommunication against Jews who, during the year, had been declared to have placed themselves outside the community. That, surely, is the significance of Kol Nidre in the Jewish imagination. It is the moment when the doors of belonging are opened, and when those who have been estranged return.


The Hebrew word teshuvah, usually translated as “penitence,” in fact means something else: returning, retracing our steps, coming home. It belongs to the biblical vision in which sin means dislocation, and punishment is exile: Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden, Israel’s exile from its land. A sin is an act that does not belong, one that transgresses the moral boundaries of the world. One who acts in ways that do not belong eventually finds that he does not belong. Increasingly he places himself outside the relationships – of family, community and of being at one with history – that make him who he is. The most characteristic sense of sin is less one of guilt than of being lost. Teshuvah means finding your way back home again.


That, on this night of nights, is what Jews do. The synagogue is full of the faces of those who rarely visit it. During the year – albeit less dramatically than their medieval predecessors – they may have been Marranos, hidden Jews. They have worn other masks, carried different identities. But on Yom Kippur night the music of Kol Nidre has spoken to them and they have said: here is where I belong. Among my people and its faith. I am a Jew. In ancient Israel, there were holy places. The land itself was holy. Holier still was the city of Jerusalem, and in Jerusalem the holiest site was the Temple. Within the Temple was the supremely sacred place known as the Holy of Holies. There was holy time. There were the festivals. Above them was the Sabbath, the day God himself declared holy. Above even that was the one day in the year known as the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the most holy day of all: the Day of Atonement.


There were holy people. Israel was called “a holy nation.” Among them was a tribe of special sanctity, the Levites, and within it were individuals who were holier still, the kohanim (priests). Among them was one person who was supremely holy, the high priest. In ancient times the holiest man entered the holiest place on the holiest day of the year and sought atonement for his people. Then the Temple was destroyed. Jerusalem lay in ruins. Devastated, too, was the spiritual life of Israel. There were no sacrifices and no high priest. None of the rites of the Day of Atonement, spelled out in the Book of Leviticus, could be performed. How then could sins be purged and the people of Israel annually restore their relationship with God?


One saying has come down to us from that time, a sentence that rescued Judaism from the ruins. Its author, Rabbi Akiva, lived through the destruction. His early years were spent as an illiterate shepherd. Tradition tells us that he fell in love with Rachel, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Jerusalem. She agreed to marry him on condition that he studied and became a Torah scholar. Her father disinherited her, but she remained devoted to Akiva, who eventually became the supreme scholar of his day and one of the architects of rabbinic Judaism. He died, a martyr, at the hands of the Romans.


Rabbi Akiva was a remarkable man. It was at his insistence that the Song of Songs was included in the biblical canon. He framed a number of enactments to foster love as the basis of marriage. He said, “Beloved is mankind, for it is created in the image of God,” and declared that “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is the fundamental principle of Judaism. But above all he could see through catastrophe. When others wept at the destruction of the Temple, Rabbi Akiva preserved a spirit of hope, saying that since it had been prophesied, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, which had also been prophesied, would also come to pass. “Whatever God does is for the best.” About the Day of Atonement he said this: “Happy are you, O Israel! Before whom are you purified and who purifies you? Your Father in heaven, as it is said: ‘And I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be purified’ ” (Ezekiel 36:25).


Israel did not need a Temple or a high priest to secure atonement. It had lost its holiest place and person. But it still had the day itself: holy time. On that day every place becomes a holy place and every person a holy individual standing directly before God. By turning to Him in teshuvah it is as if we had brought an offering in the Temple, because God hears every cry that comes from the heart. When there is no high priest to mediate between Israel and God, we speak to God directly and he accepts our prayer. So it has been for almost two thousand years.


So we fast and remove our shoes and dress in white shrouds. We spend the day in prayer and confession as if each of us stood in the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem, because God heeds not who or where we are, but how we live. And though we no longer have a Temple and its offerings, we have something that is no less a powerful prayer: the “service of the heart.” Hear our voice, Lord our God, Have pity and compassion on us, And with compassion and favor accept our prayer…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                




A WRITER’S SEARCH FOR HER JEWISH PAST                                                          

Charly Wilder

New York Times, Sept. 18, 2017


I think I was in an iced-over bus lot in northeastern Poland, standing in front of a mound of desecrated gravestones, when I first had the feeling that Jewish heritage travel in Europe might be a mistake. I had been walking with a guide and an interpreter, both Polish men in late middle age, through Makow Mazowiecki, a small town about 45 miles north of Warsaw. This was where two of my great-grandparents were born in the late 19th century, when Jews made up nearly half the local population.


Like the vast majority of American Jews, I descend from Yiddish-speaking Europeans who settled along the Rhine River around the first millennium. Known as Ashkenazi Jews (Ashkenazi being an old term for German), they later moved to the edges of the Russian Empire, the so-called Pale of Settlement, an area spanning much of present-day Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Moldova, where Jews were allowed to reside.


All eight of my great-grandparents immigrated around the turn of the century from the Pale to the United States. They settled in New Jersey, where my father grew up, and Kansas City, Mo., where my mother, and later my brothers and I, were raised among the mowed lawns and flush supermarkets of Midwestern suburbia. “They lived in shtetls,” my parents would say, using the Yiddish diminutive for town. “Backward, mud-caked, poverty-stricken little villages surrounded by anti-Semites.” Or something along those lines.


It wasn’t until recently, after a decade of living in Europe, that I decided to find out more about my ancestors, to travel to the places they were from and see what, if anything, remained of the shtetl world they had left behind. In this, I wasn’t alone. Jewish heritage tourism has been growing steadily since the fall of the Iron Curtain, when the former Pale of Settlement began to open up to Western tourists. The influx of foreign interest has encouraged a re-examination of Jewish history, especially in larger urban centers. New museums, most notably Warsaw’s phenomenal Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, but also smaller institutions throughout Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic nations, cater to visitors of Eastern European Jewish descent.


“It’s a tremendous change,” said Tomasz Cebulski, a Polish Holocaust scholar whom I contacted early in my heritage quest. “Within the last 25 years in this country, it’s like day and night,” said Mr. Cebulski, whose company, Polin Travel, offers Jewish heritage tours and genealogical services. He attributes the change partly to the lifting of taboos around discussion of Judaism and the Holocaust — but also to growing interest in ancestral research. In addition to hundreds of booming genealogical resources like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch, there are numerous sites geared to Jews, most notably JewishGen, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the New York-based Museum of Jewish Heritage, with more than 20 million records and links to country-specific Jewish record archives, like Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI-Poland.org).


But like most genealogical quests, mine started the old-fashioned way, through talking to relatives. My mother knew a few facts. Samuel Frank Wengrover, her maternal grandfather, was a tailor from Makow Mazowiecki. After arriving in New York around the turn of the century, he moved to Alabama and opened a tailor shop. It was almost immediately burned down by Klansmen types. “So he picked up and moved to Kansas City and tried it again,” my mother said. My father knew that his mother’s family, the Russaks, moved around the same time from Lodz, Poland, to the Jewish section of Paterson, N.J. The whole family had once been Orthodox, but had forsaken religion and “turned into Communists.” Of his father’s Lithuanian parents, he knew almost nothing.


I set up an account on Ancestry.com and began building a tree, adding facts the website extracted from now-digitized public records. At the same time, I started reaching out through the JewishGen databases to people who had searched similar name-and-place combinations. That’s where I found Kathy Herman. I had never heard of her, but she turned out to be my second cousin on the Russak side. Her grandfather, Benny, was the brother of my great-grandfather Joe. She was the first to tell me the names of their parents: Moishe Meyer Russak and Mindel Stetin. “Family lore is that she was raped by a Cossack, and my grandfather killed the guy,” she wrote in an email. “They hanged my grandfather by his hair (I don’t even really know what that means), and then the Russaks had to get Benny out fast.” That, Kathy said, is why the Russaks moved to the United States. Not exactly “Fievel Goes West,” but I was hooked. She had two addresses in Lodz where the Russaks had lived. Armed with these anecdotal scraps and scant genealogical documents, I was off. Old Country or bust.


In Warsaw I met a man who has been working for decades as a fixer for Jewish visitors researching their Polish roots. It’s a job that often stirs resentment in Poland, especially since the current right-wing government came to power, said the fixer, a retiree with kind eyes and a talkative, disheveled demeanor who asked that his identity be concealed. Widespread anti-Semitism persists, he said, and there is fear, especially in remote, provincial areas — shtetl country — that the descendants of Polish Jews will come back and claim their stolen property. “Keep in mind that Poland before the Second World War was like the United States. We had a huge mixture of minorities, and the Jews made up 10 percent of the prewar Polish population,” he said, as we drove past fields of black currants, lindens and the occasional roadside taverns, until we reached Plock…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                



ON BECOMING AN AMERICAN                                           

                                                          Ben Cohen        

JNS, Sept. 20, 2017


This week, I became an American citizen. As I intently studied my naturalization certificate after the oath-taking ceremony, it struck me how fortunate I am to be accepted into this nation on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, of all occasions. I should stress that my own story is rather routine and uninteresting. I came to the US from the United Kingdom with my family, I had a job and a home in New York, and as the years went by, I progressed from a work visa to a “green card” to full citizenship. Along the way, I did nothing more dramatic than fill out lots of forms and attend periodic interviews with immigration officials.


But there were 199 other people in the room with me, from 60 different countries, and with vastly different experiences that, nonetheless, led us all to this single moment. As I wound my way to my seat, climbing as delicately as possible over the outstretched knees and handbags on the narrow floor between the rows in the auditorium, I said hello to individuals I learned were originally from New Zealand, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. When we went up to the stage to collect our naturalization certificates, it felt as if the entire world had been locked in the embrace of American democracy: a fellow from Cote d’Ivoire, another from Mali, a young woman from Bangladesh, an older woman from Ukraine, even a couple of people from Israel, just moments after we all swore the same oath of allegiance before the same flag.


For me, taking the oath was the most powerful part of the ceremony — the clearest reminder that America is built upon the idea of liberty, and the most compelling signal to all of us present we were now participants in the American republic. Consider, if you will, the last clause of the oath: “…and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.” Is there any pithier expression of the idea that we are, as humans, bestowed with individual consciousness, along with an innate ability to think and speak freely and make our own decisions, so long as the circumstances allow? Does any country represent and respect that idea better than the United States?


More than two centuries after the American Revolution, we accept this idea as commonplace. But that ceremony reminded me of just how revolutionary it is. Thomas Paine — a son of Norfolk, England, who came to these shores in 1774 — wrote in his splendid pamphlet, “Common Sense,” that the “independence of America, considered merely as separation from England, would have been but a matter but of little importance, had it not been accompanied by a revolution in the principles and practice of governments.”


These principles have been considered utopian, but I believe they also reveal a fundamental truth about how humans should be governed. We are imperfect, we are selfish, we will always clash, but we have as well common principles and common beliefs that bring us together — the task of government, therefore, is to reconcile those two poles in a manner that is lawful and liberal in the classical sense of that term. For all the bitterness of our current politics, who wants to live in a society where beliefs and opinions are imposed from above? I’d rather be free to pick my way through the drek of social media than have my access blocked by the government. I’d rather be free to express disappointment in the society I live in — silly and unjustified or eloquent and persuasive — than be compelled by my rulers to toe the line. That is a key element of the historic promise the US continues to offer.


In his speech to the UN on Tuesday, President Donald Trump quoted John Adams, the second US president, observing the American Revolution was “effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.” That collective sense of freedom — which breeds furiously divergent opinions, rather than dull uniformity — is what led the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville to note in 1831 that America’s free press contained “such a strange mixture of good and evil that, without its presence, freedom could not thrive and with its presence good order could hardly survive.”


That ever-present tension, perhaps, is part of freedom’s very nature ­– yet as the years have progressed, “good order” has become more stable at no discernible cost to our revolutionary liberties. And it’s that same good order that allows us to take for granted what our forefathers in foreign lands certainly did not: the right to spend a peaceful Rosh Hashanah with one’s family in a land with no established religion. This year, I will do that as an American for the very first time. Shanah Tovah.


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters an Easy Fast & Shabbat Shalom!


On Topic Links



Yom Kippur: Guide for the Perplexed: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Sept. 29, 2017—1. Yom Kippur is one of the six main annual Jewish fasting days: (a) The 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei is Yom Kippur, an annual day of repentance for one’s misconduct toward fellow human-beings – in order to minimize future missteps – the cleansing of one’s behavior, recognition of one’s fallibilities, forgiveness of fellow human-beings’ misconduct.

The Most Interesting Jews of 5778: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Sept. 29. 2017—It's become a Rosh Hashanah tradition for newspapers to publish lists of the "most influential" or "most prominent" Jews. The lists are mainly a potpourri of the wealthy, powerful, organizationally well-positioned or pop-culture famous.

Israeli Identity: What Has Changed This Year?: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Sept. 29, 2017—External threats to our existence as Israelis create an awareness of a common fate. It is tempting to focus on such threats, because they provide a comfort zone in which security-political experts can ask the familiar question: how will we continue to defend our existence over the coming year? By concentrating on this question, we have found a way to repress basic questions about Israeli identity.

A Chorus of Mazel Tovs in Uganda: Merissa Nathan Gerson, New York Times, Sept. 22, 2017—Seven years ago, Shadrach Mugoya Levi drove three hours from his rural village of Magada in the Namutumba District of Uganda to find a woman named Naomi. His friends had insisted he meet her. When he arrived at her house, her mother answered the door and said: “No, my daughter is too young.”








On Topic Links


A Yom Kippur Guide for the Perplexed, 2016: Yoram Ettinger, Algemeiner, Oct. 10, 2016

A Peek Inside the IDF 8200's Combat Intelligence Unit: Israel Defense, Oct. 12, 2016

Meet the IDF’s ‘Beduin Battalion’: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 13, 2016

Trump’s Moment of Truth: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12, 2016





Judah Ari Gross

Times of Israel, Sept. 28, 2016


Before Shimon Peres became the man of peace extolled by world leaders for his dedication to coexistence, he was a man of defense and security, setting up some of Israel’s most important military victories and strategic assets. To many, Peres is synonymous with the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, for which he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, and his eponymous Center for Peace, which promotes dialogue and opportunities for both Israelis and Palestinians. Yet few people in Israel have contributed more to the country’s military capabilities.


Following the War of Independence, Peres helped build the country’s air force into the world-renowned juggernaut that it is today and allegedly gave Israel the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, which reportedly give the country second-strike capabilities in the case of an attack. “Shimon Peres designed the character and values of the Defense Ministry; he led the strengthening and build-up of the IDF’s power and its strategic capabilities,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. “He developed security relationships with other nations in the world and took a central role in the creation of the Israel defense industries,” the ministry said in its statement.


After a brief stint in the Haganah and the fledgling Israel Defense Force, Peres led a Defense Ministry delegation to the United States in 1950 and soon after his return was named deputy director-general of the ministry in 1952. He became director-general a year later and in that capacity laid the groundwork for turning Israel’s immature, poorly supplied military into the technological powerhouse the IDF has become.


In the early 1950s, Peres started a relationship with the French government that allegedly resulted in the creation of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and in the purchase of the fighter jets and bombers to replace the IDF’s antiquated World War II-era planes, which would go on to be instrumental in Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War. Entering the position at age 29, Peres remains the youngest director-general of the Defense Ministry in Israel’s history. But his young age and inexperience did not stop him from setting up Israel’s defense ties with France essentially singlehandedly, according to Guy Ziv, an associate professor at American University’s School of International Service. “What makes this case particularly compelling is not merely that one individual yielded disproportionate influence over the relations beween the two countries, but also that this individual was not a senior policy-maker,” Ziv wrote in a 2010 article in the Journal of Contemporary History.


During the early 1950s, the Foreign Ministry and other high-level Israeli officials were essentially banging their heads against the wall trying to convince the United States to sell artillery, aircraft, guns and tanks to the young Jewish state. Peres, who had tried desperately and failed to purchase weapons from the United States in 1950, turned instead to France, the “friendliest country today,” as he referred to it in a 1954 Defense Ministry meeting. The young Peres had to convince then-defense ministers Pinhas Lavon and David Ben-Gurion that the “French connection,” and not the American, was the way to go, according to Ziv.


“It was natural that the people of post-war France, who had themselves tasted the bitterness of Nazi horror, should feel a kinship with the victims of Nazism who had suffered greater losses,” Peres wrote in his book “David’s Sling.” Through Peres’s relationship with the French, Israel purchased huge quantities of weapons, including artillery cannons, tanks and radar equipment. But most notably, Israel also acquired the French Dassault Mystère IV and Dassault Ouragan fighter jets in 1955, the Dassault Super Mystère B2 in 1958 and the Dassault Mirage IIIC, one of the most advanced aircrafts of its time, in 1962.


All of these aircrafts were used in the 1967 Six Day War, taking out the air forces of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan, which helped pave the way to an unexpected Israeli victory. But the star of the 1967 war was the Mirage, known in Israel as the Shahak, which both carried out bombing runs and engaged in aerial dogfights, shooting down the lion’s share of enemy aircraft. The Mirage remained in use until 1986, and its design was used to create the Israeli Aerospace Industries’ Nesher and Kfir fighter jets, the latter of which was in use until 1996.


But while those aircraft played hugely important roles in the military’s victory in 1967, Peres’s relationship with the French government also fundamentally changed Israel’s security strategy and position, with the creation of Israel’s Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona.


In late 1956, representatives from the United Kingdom, France and Israel, including Peres, met for three days in secret at a villa in Sèvres, France, to address Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez canal. At the meeting, it was decided that Israel would spark a conflict with Egypt and the UK and France would send in forces ostensibly to break up the war, but in fact to occupy the area and ensuring shipping through the naval passage. The then-secret agreement became known as the Protocol of Sèvres. It lauched on October 29, 1956, when Israeli forces invaded the Sinai Peninsula. The operation lasted nine days.


Israeli, British and French troops succeeded initially in taking over the area, but considerable outcries against the campaign from the United States and the British and French public forced a withdrawal and turned the secret plan into a public embarrassment for the UK and France — though Israel escaped relatively unscathed. Though it was not a formal part of the Protocol of Sèvres, during the three-day conference planning the ill-fated war, the French agreed to help Israel develop a nuclear reactor, according to a 1997 Foreign Affairs article by Avi Shlaim, a British-Israeli historian.


“It was here that I finalized with these two leaders” — France’s then-prime minister Guy Mollet and then-defense minister Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury — “an agreement for the building of a nuclear reactor at Dimona, in southern Israel,” Peres wrote in his 1995 book “Battling for Peace.” That nuclear reactor in Dimona, along with a supply of uranium, allegedly went on to create Israel’s atomic weapons.


On Wednesday, following Peres’s death, Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission praised the former president, prime minister and defense minister for his role in its creation. “Peres provided a fundamental contribution to the creation of the Negev Nuclear Research Center and to the creation of Israel’s nuclear policies. This was a significant element in securing the national resilience of the State of Israel. Peres’s legacy will lead the IAEC in its actions even in the future,” the commission said in a statement.


Israel still maintains an official policy of so-called “nuclear ambiguity,” neither confirming or denying the possession of atomic weapons. However, in 1998, Peres told reporters in Jordan that Israel had “built a nuclear option, not in order to have a Hiroshima but an Oslo.” Israel’s alleged nuclear capabilities, though controversial, are seen as crucial to the country’s survival by many security analysts. “Israel needs its nuclear weapons. This bold statement is not even remotely controversial,” Purdue University professor Louis René Beres wrote in 2014. If deprived of its nuclear weapons, whether still-ambiguous or newly disclosed, Israel would irremediably lose its residual capacity to deter major enemy aggressions,” he wrote…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Louis René Beres

Israel Defense, Sept. 25, 2016


More than likely, the first post-Hiroshima/Nagasaki use of nuclear weapons will be undertaken by North Korea or Pakistan. Should this actually turn out to be the case, the cumulative consequences would impact not only the responsible aggressor state and its multiple victims, but also still-developing strategic nuclear policies in certain other countries. The most obvious and concerning case of such a prospective secondary impact would be Israel.


For now, Israel's nuclear strategy remains "deliberately ambiguous," or in the "basement." Whether well-founded or foolishly conceived, this intentional opacity has endured as national policy because Jerusalem has not yet had to worry about confronting any enemy nuclear forces. This potentially fragile posture would almost certainly need to change, however, if Iran were sometime perceived to have become a near-nuclear adversary.


Significantly, while seldom discussed "out loud," Israel could also feel compelled to shift away from nuclear ambiguity once an actual nuclear attack had taken place elsewhere on earth. In other words, there would need to be no direct connection between such an attack and Israel for the Jewish State to acknowledge certain derivative obligations to alter or modify its own nuclear strategy.


To be sure, any such predictive analytic leap cannot readily be drawn from relevant historical examples. After all, such expectedly pertinent examples simply do not exist. Moreover, to be suitably scientific, any assessments of probability regarding an actual resort to nuclear weapons would have to be based upon the ascertainable frequency of past nuclear events. Fortunately, for human welfare, if not for the science of strategic prediction, there have been no nuclear wars.


What about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Incontestably, the American atomic bombings of Japan in August 1945 were not proper examples of a nuclear war, but rather of a unique or one-time use of nuclear weapons designed to end an ongoing and worldwide conventional war. Further, there were no other nuclear weapons states in August 1945 (Washington was not even sure that its own Little Boy and Fat Man would work), so any corollary U.S. strategic calculations could bear no resemblance to what might actually confront Israel today.


For purposes of Israeli strategic thinking, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were utterly sui generis; hence, forever dissimilar to any present or future national security circumstances. Nonetheless, we needn't make any plausible or persuasive probability assessments about North Korea, Pakistan and Israel in order to reach the following conclusion: Once North Korea and/or Pakistan fires nuclear weapons against another state or states, a principal nuclear "taboo" will have been broken, and all existing nuclear powers – especially Israel – will then begin to take more seriously the actual operational use of their own nuclear weapons. The precise manner and extent to which Israel would be impacted in such circumstances would depend, among several more-or-less intersecting factors, on prevailing geopolitical alignments and cleavages, both regional and worldwide. For example, North Korea has already had tangible ties to both Syria and Iran, and all concerned parties could be forced to take into distinctly calculable account the presumed expectations of an already resurgent Cold War.


The "spillover" impact on Israel of any actual nuclear weapons use by North Korea or Pakistan would also depend upon the particular combatants involved, expected rationality or irrationality of these same combatants, yields and range of the nuclear weapons fired, and the prompt aggregate calculation of civilian and military harms actually suffered in the affected areas. If North Korea had fired its nuclear weapons against American targets, military or civilian, Israel could correctly anticipate an overwhelmingly destructive U.S. response. If, in another apt scenario, a government in Islamabad (possibly a post-coup Islamist regime) fired "only" its tactical or theater nuclear weapons, and "only" against exclusively military targets, the Indian response might then be substantially less overwhelming.


It also ought to be noted here, for further predictive clarification, that Pakistan recently shifted certain specific portions of its nuclear targeting doctrine to expressly lower yield, shorter range weapons, presumably to enhance the underlying credibility of its nuclear deterrence posture vis-à-vis India.


All of this would pose stunningly complex calculations for Israeli strategists. Indeed, these planners would have to account capably not only for singular nuclear weapons operations by North Korea or Pakistan, but also for any multiple interactions or synergies that might be involved. It is even conceivable, to offer still another meaningful example, that any North Korean resort to nuclear attack would be followed, more-or-less promptly, by a separate Pakistani use of nuclear weapons. This prospect could represent a chaotic or near-chaotic development, in which Israel would then be faced with a palpably unprecedented analytic challenge…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





“The Yom Kippur War showed our neighbors that they cannot defeat us with weapons…It paved the path to peace with Egypt and later with Jordan…Our hands will continue to reach out to peace to those of our neighbors who want peace…Until then, we will be prepared to defend ourselves with our own forces…Families have grown, have rejoiced at celebrations and marked festivals, but one pain remains engraved in our hearts, the agonizing pain of loss, the pain of longing, the longing that has not dulled from that Yom Kippur of the past until that of today…The loss has not subsided. Once again Yom Kippur comes and another time we gather on this mountain and try to remember” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at an official ceremony marking the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. The event took place at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, and commemorated 43 years since the beginning of the war. (Times of Israel, Oct. 13, 2016)


"We started off, we had no ISIS, and now, seven and a half years later, they're in, they think, 32 countries. And she's going to get rid of them?…They are hoping and praying that Hillary Clinton becomes president of the United States, because they'll take over not only that part of the world, they'll take over this country, they'll take over this part of the world. Believe me."— Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump offered a warning for voters considering backing Clinton: If she wins, he said, the terror group I.S. would take over the US. A day after proclaiming himself unshackled from GOP officials, Trump spent the majority of a campaign rally going full throttle against Clinton. Earlier this year, Trump asserted that Clinton and President Obama were the cofounders of I.S. — a claim from which he refused to back down and later clarified was intended as sarcasm. (Yahoo, Oct. 12, 2016)


“Obama’s radically reoriented foreign policy is in ruins. His vision was to move away from a world where stability and “the success of liberty” (JFK, inaugural address) were anchored by American power and move toward a world ruled by universal norms, mutual obligation, international law and multilateral institutions. No more cowboy adventures, no more unilateralism, no more Guantanamo. We would ascend to the higher moral plane of diplomacy. Clean hands, clear conscience, “smart power.” This blessed vision has just died a terrible death in Aleppo. Its unraveling was predicted and predictable, though it took fully two terms to unfold…“What is Aleppo?” famously asked Gary Johnson. Answer: the burial ground of the Obama fantasy of benign disengagement.” — Charles Krauthammer. (Washington Post, Oct. 6, 2016)






YOM KIPPUR SOLEMNITY MARRED BY VIOLENCE AND RIOTS (Jerusalem) — As Jews prayed on Yom Kippur, Arabs rioted. The alert status was high, as 3,500 policemen reinforced security in and around Jerusalem after a terror attack on Sunday. On Tuesday, Arabs attacked Israeli police with rocks and Molotov cocktails in Silwan, East Jerusalem. Palestinian sources reported one Arab man, Ali Atef Shuyukhi, was killed in the confrontation. Arabs also attacked Israeli Security forces in East Jerusalem and Issawiya, throwing Molotov cocktails and fireworks. (Breaking Israel News, Oct. 13, 2016)

TWO MURDERED, SIX WOUNDED IN JERUSALEM TERROR ATTACK (Jerusalem) — A Palestinian who was due to begin a prison term in Israel next week went on a shooting spree on Sunday, killing a pedestrian and a police officer in Jerusalem before being shot dead by police. The assailant, who Hamas said was a member of its organization, was shot dead in an exchange of fire with police. Medical officials said six people were wounded in the attack, and that two of them, a woman and a police officer, died in hospital. Police identified the assailant as a 39-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem. A spokeswoman for the Israel Prisons Service said the attacker had been ordered by a court to start a four-month jail sentence next week after being convicted of assaulting a police officer. (Breitbart, Oct. 9, 2016)


SHIN BET FOILS HAMAS SUICIDE BUS BOMBING IN JERUSALEM (Jerusalem) — An East Jerusalem man was indicted Tuesday for planning to carry out a suicide bombing on a bus in the capital, officials said. On September 9, the Shin Bet security service arrested alleged Hamas operative Muhammad Fuaz Ibrahim Julani, a resident of the Shuafat refugee camp, a few days before he planned to carry out his attack. Over the past few months, Julani, 22, had been planning to carry out a terror attack on behalf of Hamas, the Shin Bet said. (Times of Israel, Oct. 11, 2016)


UNESCO PASSES RESOLUTION DENYING JEWISH TIES TO JERUSALEM HOLY SITES (Paris) — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution denying Jewish connections to the Temple Mount and Western Wall. 24 UNESCO member states voted in favor of the resolution, 26 abstained, and six countries voted against. The proposal, put forth by the Palestinians, along with Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, condemns Israel on several issues related to Jerusalem and its holy sites. The resolution acknowledges that the city of Jerusalem is holy to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity but says the Temple Mount holy site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention its significance to Jews. (I24, Oct. 13, 2016)


U.S. LAUNCHES AIRSTRIKES IN YEMEN IN RESPONSE TO SHIP ATTACK (Sana’a) — The U.S. military launched cruise missile strikes on Thursday to knock out three coastal radar sites in areas of Yemen controlled by Iran-aligned Houthi forces, retaliating after failed missile attacks this week on a U.S. Navy destroyer. The strikes, authorized by President Obama, represent Washington's first direct military action against Houthi-controlled targets in Yemen. U.S. officials said U.S. Navy destroyer USS Nitze launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles. The missile attacks on the USS Mason — the latest of which took place on Wednesday — appeared to be the Houthis' response to a suspected Saudi-led strike on mourners gathered in Yemen's Houthi-held capital Sanaa. (CBC, Oct. 13, 2016)


BOB DYLAN AWARDED NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE (Stockholm)Bob Dylan was named the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature Thursday, in a stunning announcement that for the first time bestowed the prestigious award to someone primarily seen as a musician. The Swedish Academy cited the American musician for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Dylan, 75, had been mentioned in Nobel speculation for years, but few experts expected the academy to extend the prestigious award to a genre such as pop music. Robert Allen Zimmerman was born on May 24, 1941, to a Jewish family in small-town Minnesota. Both sets of his grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe. (Times of Israel, Oct. 13, 2016)




On Topic Links


A Yom Kippur Guide for the Perplexed, 2016: Yoram Ettinger, Algemeiner, Oct. 10, 2016—1. Yom Kippur is a day of hope and optimism, in addition to a solemn day of soul-searching. The Day of Atonement provides a unique awareness of one’s own character and track record, as well as the opportunity to upgrade relationships with relatives, friends, associates and the community at-large.

A Peek Inside the IDF 8200's Combat Intelligence Unit: Israel Defense, Oct. 12, 2016 —They have been around for five years, operating without a name or insignia. They are the combat soldiers of the elite intelligence unit 8200. Although 8200 is better known for its glasses-wearing computer geniuses, this section of the unit helps to gather field intelligence for the elite combat units in the IDF – including Sayeret Matkal and Shayetet 13.

Meet the IDF’s ‘Beduin Battalion’: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 13, 2016—The jeep stops on a chalk-like dusty road, at an embankment that overlooks a dry riverbed. In front of us, to the northwest and spanning the gully, are two rows of metal fences. To their left, on a small hillock, is a concrete watchtower, a “pillbox,” as it’s called, harking back to World War II British Army nomenclature. A U-shaped concrete wall protects its base so that men entering and leaving are not exposed to gunfire.

Trump’s Moment of Truth: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12, 2016 —Donald Trump has declared himself unshackled from the Republican Party and says he will now campaign as he’s wanted to all along. This raises the question of whose never-before-seen campaign he’s been running for 16 months, but so be it. The self-declared strategy has the virtue of putting the onus of victory or defeat squarely where it belongs: Mr. Trump and those who led him to the GOP nomination.





Latest Syria Setback Marks Five Years of Failure for Obama Administration: Kelly McParland, National Post, Oct. 4, 2016 — Sputnik International, a government-backed Russian “news” service, has soothing words for concerns about the ongoing carnage in Syria.

Obama's November Surprise: Gregg Roman, The Hill, Sept. 26, 2016 — There is growing speculation that President Obama will spring a diplomatic surprise on Israel during the interregnum between the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8 and his departure from office in January.

Obama’s Hostile Eulogy: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 10, 2016 — US President Barack Obama’s eulogy to Shimon Peres last Friday at Mt. Herzl was a thinly disguised assault on Israel. And he barely bothered to hide it.

Yom Kippur – How It Changes Us: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Sacks, Oct. 10, 2016— To those who fully open themselves to it, Yom Kippur is a life-transforming experience.


On Topic Links


Atoning for Sins on Yom Kippur: Dvora Waysman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11, 2016

White House Silent: Palestinians Attack Jews Praying at Joseph's Tomb: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 10, 2016

Congress Blasts Obama for Preparing Anti-Israel Offensive: Jenna Lifhits, Weekly Standard, Oct. 9, 2016

Barack Obama’s Stillborn Legacy: At Home and Abroad, the President's Agenda is in Tatters: Charles Krauthammer, New York Daily News, Oct. 6, 2016






Kelly McParland

National Post, Oct. 4, 2016


Sputnik International, a government-backed Russian “news” service, has soothing words for concerns about the ongoing carnage in Syria. The Putin government’s “limited military engagement” on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad “has helped to bring stability to several regions” of the country “and boost morale of the Syrian Arab Army,” it says. Russian involvement, it continues, quoting an “analyst,” “was instrumental in helping government-led forces and their local allies break the tide of the years-long war.”


While that view doesn’t accord with Western opinion, it should be no surprise if Moscow feels justified in applauding itself a year after launching its intervention. In just 12 months, President Vladimir Putin has managed to comprehensively outmaneouvre the U.S., reverse the momentum to Assad’s favour, embarrass Washington and increase its own influence in a region that seems perpetually engulfed in conflict.


Washington, meanwhile, has been reduced to spluttering objections and threats of unspecified “actions” if Moscow fails to rein in its activities. Fat chance of that. If the Obama administration has demonstrated anything over the five years — and half a million deaths — of the Syrian tragedy, it is its inability, or perhaps unwillingness, to fabricate a policy capable of ending the misery imposed on millions of Syrians. It has been outflanked at every step by a Russian government intent on flexing its military muscle and oblivious to the polite ways of diplomacy and international opinion.


Putin demonstrated this yet again when he met the latest complaints from Washington by shipping an advanced anti-missile system to Syria, the first time it has deployed the system outside its own borders. That followed accusations by Secretary of State John Kerry that Moscow had responded to a so-called ceasefire by stepping up bombing attacks on Aleppo, the besieged city that is systematically being reduced to rubble by Russian and Syrian forces.


A State Department spokesman on Tuesday warned that diplomatic efforts to end the fighting were “on life support.” A day later Kerry gave up on diplomacy and suspended talks with Moscow, while administration officials threatened unspecified “actions…that would further underscore the consequences of not coming back to the negotiating table.” Russia in turn halted a program with the U.S. on the disposal of weapons grade plutonium while threatening that a U.S. attack on Syrian targets “will lead to terrible, tectonic shifts not only on the territory of this country but also in the region in general.”


Such is the state of affairs as Obama enters his final weeks in office. Whatever else historians conclude about his legacy, his record in Syria must go down as an utter failure. Assad now has a very real chance of clinging to power, and perhaps even regaining significant areas of the country that had been lost to him before Russia’s arrival. U.S. actions have been so ineffectual it now finds itself with few options. It cannot intervene militarily, even if it had the will, without the danger of a direct clash with Moscow. Where once it had the opportunity to impose a no-fly zone to limit Assad’s assaults, it cannot do so now for fear of starting a shooting war with Russian jets.


Obama’s clear reluctance to get caught in another Middle East war has hobbled U.S. goals from the beginning. He drew his famous “red line” against chemical weapons, and then decided not to enforce it. He not only refused to commit substantial troops, but hesitated even to arm Assad’s opponents. Diplomatic efforts have gone in circles, first with failed United Nations efforts and more recently with Kerry’s futile shuttling from capital to capital. Relations with Turkey and Saudi Arabia have soured as the Obama administration dithered and delayed.


Humanitarian actions have been similarly half-hearted. An estimated 4.8 million Syrian refugees continue to seek international assistance, almost entirely from countries other than the U.S. In August the administration announced it had admitted its 10,000th Syrian, reaching a cruelly unambitious resettlement goal for the year. Canada, with a tenth the U.S. population, has accepted 30,000 Syrians, while Germany has accepted almost 900,000 and paid a heavy political price for a war it did nothing to start.


No matter who wins the U.S. election in November, they will be left with a shambles of a situation in Syria. Putin may be turning Russia into an “outlaw nation”, as the New York Times recently charged, but it’s an outlaw the U.S. has failed utterly to bring to justice, and shows limited interest in challenging.                             





OBAMA'S NOVEMBER SURPRISE                                                                                             

Gregg Roman                                                                                                        

The Hill, Sept. 26, 2016


There is growing speculation that President Obama will spring a diplomatic surprise on Israel during the interregnum between the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8 and his departure from office in January. Some say the surprise will be a speech laying down parameters for a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute or some type of formal censure of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but the scenario generating most discussion is a decision to support, or perhaps not to veto, a UN Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state.


This would be a bombshell. Washington's long-stated policy is that a Palestinian state should be established only through an agreement negotiated directly between the two sides. In practice, this would require that Palestinian leaders agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and concede the so-called "right of return" for refugees of the 1948 war and their descendants to areas within Israel's borders, a prospect which would mean the demographic destruction of Israel.


For decades, Palestinian leaders have made it clear they won't do this: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas doesn't mince words, telling a gathering of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo in November 2014, "We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel." Efforts to win recognition of Palestinian statehood by foreign governments and multilateral institutions are designed to skirt this precondition for statehood.


Any state that comes into existence without Palestinian leaders formally recognizing Israel will be a brutal, unstable train wreck, with areas under its jurisdiction likely to remain a hotbed of terrorism. On top of whatever existing factors are producing the endemic corruption and autocracy of the Abbas regime (not to mention the Hamas regime in Gaza), unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state will vindicate radicals who have been saying all along that there's no need to compromise.


On the other hand, official Palestinian acknowledgement once and for all that Israel is not just here to stay, but has a right to stay, would deprive Palestinian leaders of time-honored tools for manipulating their constituents – appealing to and inflaming their baser anti-Jewish prejudices, promising them salvation if they'll only shut up 'til the Zionists are defeated, and so forth. Instead, they will have to do things like govern well and create jobs to win public support.


Previous American administrations have understood that recognizing Palestinian statehood before Abbas and company allow Palestinian society to undergo this transformation would be the height of irresponsibility. This is why American veto power has consistently blocked efforts to unilaterally establish a Palestinian state by way of the UN Security Council. Notwithstanding his apparent pro-Palestinian sympathies and affiliations prior to running for the Senate and later the White House, President Obama initially maintained this policy. The expressed threat of an American veto foiled Abbas' 2011 bid to win UN member-state status for "Palestine." He settled for recognition of non-member-state status by the General Assembly in 2012.


As moves by the PA to bring the issue of statehood to the UN picked up steam last year, however, it appeared to walk back this commitment. While U.S officials privately maintained there was "no change," Obama and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power refused – despite the urging of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid – to state publicly that the U.S. would use its veto to stop a resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood.


The conventional wisdom was that Obama's refusal to make such a public declaration was intended to exert pressure on Netanyahu to tone down his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, and later to punish him for it or hold it out to secure concessions. As his presidency enters its final months, it's clear something even more nefarious is at work.


President Obama's failure to clarify his administration's position has greatly damaged prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Even if it is Obama's intention to veto any resolution on Palestinian statehood that comes up at the UN, his refusal to publicly state this – or, put differently, his determination to go on the record for the history books not saying it – has fueled perceptions among Palestinians and European governments facing pressures of their own that American will is softening.


It is imperative that Congress use the tools at its disposal to make this unwise path as difficult as possible for the Obama administration. Ultimately, a one-sided UN declaration such as this serves only to postpone by a long shot the day when Palestinian leaders accept Israel as it is – the homeland of the Jewish people – and allow their subjects to enjoy the lasting peace and prosperity they and their neighbors deserve.                                                     




OBAMA’S HOSTILE EULOGY                                                                                                     

Caroline Glick                                                                                                      

Breaking Israel News, Oct. 10, 2016


US President Barack Obama’s eulogy to Shimon Peres last Friday at Mt. Herzl was a thinly disguised assault on Israel. And he barely bothered to hide it. Throughout his remarks, Obama wielded Peres’s record like a baseball bat. He used it to club the Israeli public and its elected leaders over and over again. Peres, Obama intimated, was a prophet. But the suspicious, tribal people of Israel were too stiff necked to follow him.


In what was perhaps the low point of a low performance, Obama used Peres’s words to slander his domestic critics as racist oppressors. “Shimon,” he began harmlessly enough, “believed that Israel’s exceptionalism was rooted not only in fidelity to the Jewish people, but to the moral and ethical vision, the precepts of his Jewish faith.” Fair enough. You could say that about every Israeli leader since the dawn of modern Zionism.


But then Obama went for the jugular. In a startling non-sequitur he continued, “‘The Jewish people weren’t born to rule another people,’ he [Peres] would say, ‘From the very first day we were against slaves and masters.’” We don’t know the context in which Peres made that statement. But what is clear enough is that Obama used his words to accuse the majority of Israelis who do not share Peres’s vision for peace – including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who was sitting in the front row listening to him – of supporting slavery. This libelous assault on Israel was probably the most unhinged remark ever directed at the Jewish state by an American president. What does the fact that Obama said this at Peres’s funeral tell us about Obama? What does it tell us about Peres? Obama was not merely wrong when he accused Peres’s detractors of support for slavery, he was maliciously wrong.


Due to Peres’s Oslo accords, since 1995, all the Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria have been governed by the PLO. Israel hasn’t been in charge of any aspect of their daily civic existence. And they have only suffered as a result. Between 1967 and 1996, when the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria were governed by the military government, the Palestinians were free. They only became “enslaved,” when the PLO took over. Under Israeli rule, the Palestinians enjoyed far more expansive civil rights than they have since we left. The PLO transformed their lives into chaos by implementing the law of the jungle, enforced by mob-style militias. Their property rights were trampled. Their civil rights have been gutted.


The fact that PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies delayed their municipal elections indefinitely the day after Peres’s funeral is yet another testament to the absence of freedom in the PLO – as opposed to Israeli – ruled areas. But really, Obama couldn’t care less. He didn’t come here to tell the truth about Peres. He came here to use Peres as a means to bludgeon the government the people elected. Obama began his attack as he often begins his political assaults on his opponents. He created a straw man. Peres’s critics on the Right, he said, “argued that he refused to see the true wickedness of the world, and called him naïve.” In other words, as far as Obama is concerned, Israelis are prisoners of their dark view of the world. Unlike Peres the optimist, his countrymen are tribal pessimists.


Peres, whose vision for peace rested on giving the outskirts of Tel Aviv and half of Jerusalem to terrorists wasn’t naïve. He “knew better than the cynic,” Obama continued. He was better than that. He was better than us. This brings us then to the paradox of Peres’s life’s work. Over last quarter century of his life, we, the people of Israel wanted to feel empowered by Peres’s superstar status. We wanted to get excited when Hollywood stars and A-list politicians came to his birthday bashes at the President’s House and the Peres Center. But every time we tried to see Peres’s success as our success, some visiting VIP would smile before the cameras and kick us in the shins.


The higher Peres’s star rose in the stratosphere of celebrity stardom, the worse Israel’s global position became. The international A-listers who showed up at all of Peres’s parties always seemed to view him as their guy, not our guy. He was one of them – and above the likes of us. How did this happen? How did the last surviving member of Israel’s founding generation become a prop for Israel’s chorus of international critics? The most extraordinary aspect of Peres’s long life is that he packed two full – and contradictory – careers into one lifespan.


Peres’s first career began with Israel’s founding. It ended with the Likud’s victory in the 1977 Knesset elections. Over the course of that career, Peres used his formidable diplomatic skills to build and strengthen Israel’s defenses. He cultivated and expanded complex strategic relationships with the French and British. Those ties led the two major powers to fight at Israel’s side in the 1956 Suez Campaign. They led to France’s decision to help Israel build its nuclear program and its arms industries.


In the 1970s as defense minister, Peres was able to rely on his warm ties to foreign leaders to shield the country as he established the Jewish communities in Samaria and Hebron. They empowered him to oversee the hostage rescue mission at Entebbe. But following the Likud’s rise to power, Peres changed gears. Ever since 1981 when he almost managed to scuttle the air force’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, Peres used his diplomatic talents and ties to foreign leaders to advance his own agenda, regardless of whether that agenda was aligned or contradicted Israel’s national agenda, as set out by its elected leaders.


Time and time again, on the backs of the public that failed to elect him and the politicians the public elected instead of him, Peres cultivated and used the relationships he enjoyed with foreign leaders to press his own policies. Each attempt to derail the policies of the government expanded Peres’s chorus of supporters abroad. Peres’s second career reached its high water mark in 1994 when along with Rabin and Yassir Arafat he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo process. The world embraced and celebrated Peres for his peace deal that brought neither peace nor security to his people…                                                 

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]          





Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Sacks, Oct. 10, 2016


To those who fully open themselves to it, Yom Kippur is a life-transforming experience. It tells us that God, who created the universe in love and forgiveness, reaches out to us in love and forgiveness, asking us to love and forgive others. God never asked us not to make mistakes. All He asks is that we acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them, grow through them, and make amends where we can. No religion has held such a high view of human possibility. The God who created us in His image, gave us freedom. We are not tainted by original sin, destined to fail, caught in the grip of an evil only divine grace can defeat. To the contrary we have within us the power to choose life. Together we have the power to change the world.


Nor are we, as some scientific materialists claim, mere concatenations of chemicals, a bundle of selfish genes blindly replicating themselves into the future. Our souls are more than our minds, our minds are more than our brains, and our brains are more than mere chemical impulses responding to stimuli. Human freedom – the freedom to choose to be better than we were – remains a mystery but it is not a mere given. Freedom is like a muscle and the more we exercise it, the stronger and healthier it becomes.


Judaism constantly asks us to exercise our freedom. To be a Jew is not to go with the flow, to be like everyone else, to follow the path of least resistance, to worship the conventional wisdom of the age. To the contrary, to be a Jew is to have the courage to live in a way that is not the way of everyone. Each time we eat, drink, pray or go to work, we are conscious of the demands our faith makes on us, to live God’s will and be one of His ambassadors to the world. Judaism always has been, perhaps always will be, counter-cultural.


In ages of collectivism, Jews emphasised the value of the individual. In ages of individualism, Jews built strong communities. When most of humanity was consigned to ignorance, Jews were highly literate. When others were building monuments and amphitheatres, Jews were building schools. In materialistic times they kept faith with the spiritual. In ages of poverty they practised tzedakah so that none would lack the essentials of a dignified life. The sages said that Abraham was called ha-ivri, “the Hebrew,” because all the world was on one side (ever echad) and Abraham on the other. To be a Jew is to swim against the current, challenging the idols of the age whatever the idol, whatever the age.


So, as our ancestors used to say, “’Zis schver zu zein a Yid,” It is not easy to be a Jew. But if Jews have contributed to the human heritage out of all proportion to our numbers, the explanation lies here. Those of whom great things are asked, become great – not because they are inherently better or more gifted than others but because they feel themselves challenged, summoned, to greatness.


Few religions have asked more of their followers. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Jewish law applies to every aspect of our being, from the highest aspirations to the most prosaic details of quotidian life. Our library of sacred texts – Tanakh, Mishnah, Gemarra, Midrash, codes and commentaries – is so vast that no lifetime is long enough to master it. Theophrastus, a pupil of Aristotle, sought for a description that would explain to his fellow Greeks what Jews are. The answer he came up with was, “a nation of philosophers.”


So high does Judaism set the bar that it is inevitable that we should fall short time and again. Which means that forgiveness was written into the script from the beginning. God, said the sages, sought to create the world under the attribute of strict justice but He saw that it could not stand. What did He do? He added mercy to justice, compassion to retribution, forbearance to the strict rule of law. God forgives. Judaism is a religion, the world’s first, of forgiveness…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters an Easy Fast and May You be Inscribed in the

Book of Life! No Daily Briefing Will Be Published on Wednesday




On Topic Links



Atoning for Sins on Yom Kippur: Dvora Waysman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11, 2016—Freedom of choice is a basic Jewish doctrine from Genesis’s first story. “If you feel shame over having sinned, Heaven immediately forgives you.” These comforting words (Brachot 12B Hagiga 5A) are timely at Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but we should also remember what Mark Twain wrote: “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”

White House Silent: Palestinians Attack Jews Praying at Joseph's Tomb: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 10, 2016—The US State Department’s recent condemnation of Israel’s proposed solution of the illegal Amona outpost issue unfortunately reiterates the erroneous view that “settlements are the core problem” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Worse, it contributes to the prolongation of the conflict by incorrectly invoking international law under the pretext of “evenhandedness” toward the parties involved.

Congress Blasts Obama for Preparing Anti-Israel Offensive: Jenna Lifhits, Weekly Standard, Oct. 9, 2016—The Obama administration is manufacturing a crisis with Israel in anticipation of a post-election diplomatic push targeting the Jewish state, and this past week launched a series of broadsides criticizing the Israelis through the media and in press briefings, according to congressional sources and Jewish-American officials who spoke to the Weekly Standard.

Barack Obama’s Stillborn Legacy: At Home and Abroad, the President's Agenda is in Tatters: Charles Krauthammer, New York Daily News, Oct. 6, 2016—Only amid the most bizarre, most tawdry, most addictive election campaign in memory could the real story of 2016 be so effectively obliterated, namely, that with just four months left in the Obama presidency, its two central pillars are collapsing before our eyes: domestically, its radical reform of American health care, aka Obamacare; and abroad, its radical reorientation of American foreign policy — disengagement marked by diplomacy and multilateralism.





Rabbi Asher Jacobson: Keeping Your Word





One of the finest virtues we can ever achieve in our lives is when our word is our bond.


I will never forget when the business of one of our dear members deteriorated. He had the opportunity in civil law to declare bankruptcy but refused; instead, he ensured that every one of his creditors was paid in full.  Understandably, his family opposed his decision, it took him six years to discharge his debts, and he suffered much loss–but his word was good as gold, and his integrity shone through.


Years later, at his funeral, the accolade showered upon him with much admiration by each of his children and grandchildren was that he was a man of true honour, a man of his word!


Sadly, there are too few such great individuals today, and the inability of people to keep their commitments is a great weakness of our generation.


The Torah declares, "You must fulfill what has crossed your lips and perform what you have vowed" (Deut. 23:24). Maimonides explains, "By this injunction, we are commanded to fulfill every obligation that we have taken upon ourselves by word-of-mouth”.  This is why in Jewish law a committed word is equal to a signed contract.


The most famous Biblical example of keeping a long-standing word was Moses’ taking Joseph's bones with him at the Exodus from Egypt. Centuries earlier, Joseph had extracted an oath from his brothers, saying, "When G-d will surely remember you, and you shall bring up my bones from here and take them with you.”  On the day the Jews left Egypt, Moses kept the commitment to Joseph that had been made not by him, but by his ancestors; nonetheless, the Bible tells us "he (Moses) took with him the bones of Joseph"(Exodus 13:19)


In life, when we make a verbal commitment, we must abide by it.  Moreover, we should not say the opposite of what we feel.  The Talmud teaches that among those whom G-d hates is "one who says one thing with his mouth, while meaning another thing with his heart.”  (Pesachim 113b)


It is rare that we see the construction “G-d hates”.  What is it about lying and being hypocritical, that elicits such a reaction? 


The Kabbalists understood words not as dictionary definitions, but as living entities: every word we utter is a creative force that stands with or against us.


In Genesis, we learn that all of creation was brought into existence through the power of words, (“B`asara Mamorot Nivra Haolam”) Chazal teaches, “The seal of G-d is truth” (Yoma 69b), all of life is therefore sustained by words of truth.  When a person who is made in the image of G-d and is given powers that resemble the powers of the creator utilises words in falsehood, that is not only abuse of the gift but an affront to the very words that are sustaining that individual’s life. 


Rabbi Yosi ben Judah said, “Let your ‘yes’ be yes, let your ‘no’ be no”.  In other words, let your yes be honest, but let your no be honest too. (Bava Mazia 49a)


The virtue of keeping our word must begin when we are small children.  The Talmud says one should not promise a child something, and then not give it to him, because, as a result, the child will learn to lie.  (Sukkah 46b)


When unfulfilled promises occur often enough, our children will eventually conclude that this is how the real world works, that even when we assure someone we're going to do something for them, there's no need to follow through on our word.


There is a great legend in the Talmud that describes a conversation that every soul has with God before descending into this world, "Tehee Tzadik Ve al Tehee Rasha", We give our word to G-d that we will strive to be righteous and not be wicked.


At this upcoming Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur let us make a resolution to keep sacred the words and commitments that we have given to our loved ones, business associates and friends.  Let us learn so to lead our lives that we fulfill our pledges and vows, especially the one that our soul gave to G-d when being granted the gift of life, so that we can say, with honor, that our word was our bond.


Lieba and I and the entire Jacobson family wish for all of our members and friends to be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life and granted G-d`s favor for good health and prosperity.


                             Shana Tovah Umetukah      


(Rabbi Jacobson is the spiritual leader of Congregation Chevra Kadisha B’nai Jacob in Montreal)


Baruch Cohen: The Shofar’s Call: Yom Kippur 5775





    In Loving Memory of Malca z”l

The shofar, New Year’s symbol, blows
The long-drawn call for all humanity!
A call for peace that’s yet to be
Addressed to all humanity.

Within the little synagogue the lights are dim
We hear the shofar sound–
Piercing a silence that seems
To pray, for you and me, its call
A prayer for you and all.

A call for a peace yet to be,
A long-drawn note to all humanity:
The tone resounds,
And mankind knows
It is the call for love,
For a humanness yet to be…

All around the air is hushed!
We hear the shofar’s blast redound:
From my heart, may peace abound! 

(Baruch Cohen, CIJR’s Research Chairman,
will soon be celebrating his 95th birthday)



We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org



 Download a pdf version of today's Daily Briefing.







Rosh Hashana-Yom Kippur 5774: Baruch Cohen, Sept. 13, 2013—Many of our sisters and brothers who label themselves as secularists or agnostics are uneasy, confused by the term High Holidays. Some are unsure of the historical, poetic and cultural values of the holidays’ historic-religious content.


Rosh Hashana Without End: Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 4, 2013—The Holy One, blessed be He, has many ways to create an uproar in our souls. He can show us a moment in the life of a person who seems to live simply, and do it with such tranquility and profundity that we are immediately transformed.


Twenty Years to Oslo: Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, Sept. 13, 2013—The Oslo process — started between Israel and the Palestinians 20 years ago — clearly failed to bring a resolution to the conflict, and did not result in a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.


Israel’s Secret Doctors: Robert Fulford , National Post, Sept. 7, 2013—To help refugees from the Syrian war, Israeli doctors and aid workers must do their work furtively. When they go into refugee camps in Jordan, they change clothes so that they can fade into the background. They must be smuggled in and out.


On Topic Links


Israel, Twenty Years After Oslo: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jewish Press, Sept. 13, 2013
Israel’s 20-Year Nightmare: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2013

Three Years Too Late, Golda Meir Understood How War Could Have Been Avoided: Abraham Rabinovich, Times of Israel, Sept. 12, 2013

Facing Apocalypse: The Yom Kippur War 40 Years On: Abraham Rabinovich, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 3. 2013

Israelis Don't Forgive Golda: Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom, Sept. 13, 2013



Heshbon Hanefesh

Rosh Hashana-Yom Kippur 5774,  Sept. 13, 2013

Baruch Cohen

In loving memory of Malca z’l


Many of our sisters and brothers who label themselves as secularists or agnostics are uneasy, confused by the term “High Holidays”. Some are unsure of the historical, poetic and cultural values of the holidays’ historic-religious content.


Teshuva, the Hebrew word for repentance, means turning away from the wrong path and comeing back to the right one. Repentance is both a subjective and positive moral and ethical change, within an individual, a community and society at large.


Rosh Hashana, the New Year, has a universal motif. The prayers are not for Israel alone, but for the entire world: for redemption, compassion, brotherhood, loyalty; against hate and discrimination, and for love and respect between one another. Teshuva means to remember what we did wrong, and that we must gauge the gap between our promise and our conduct, between our standards and our actions.


The wonderful Hebrew phrase Heshbon Hanefesh means taking stock of one’s soul, an inner “account”, a sitting in judgement upon ourselves. Heshbon Hanefesh also means to confess our failure, to bring ourselves to a higher standard of humanness. Better to perform actions, we must consider what we should have done, and did not do!


Shana Tova 5774 to Am Yisroel,  all CIJR friends and to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel. A happy, healthy and peaceful 5774 to the House of Israel, and to the entire world: Shalom, peace and love!


(Baruch Cohen, who will be 94 in October, is Research Chairman of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, and a member of the Holocaust Memorial Centre.)





Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 4, 2013


The Holy One, blessed be He, has many ways to create an uproar in our souls. He can show us a moment in the life of a person who seems to live simply, and do it with such tranquility and profundity that we are immediately transformed. It would be completely impossible to continue our lives as we did before. Our very being is shattered and we feel the need to start all over again, as if we are infants who have just entered the universe. It is in that very moment that we enter the world of Rosh Hashana.


In the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam there is a portrait by Rembrandt’s most celebrated student, the master painter Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693). The painting is called Old Woman at Prayer. It is sometimes called Prayer without End because it portrays an old woman praying in total surrender. A lonesome figure resigned to her simple, lonely life, yet totally content. Nothing can disturb her while she is praying; her devotion is absolute. She prays with a profundity that is rare in the extreme. Only a few of us can reach that place.


She thanks God for her simple bread, fish and drink; for the clean tablecloth and the chair on which she sits. She is grateful for the little cat that gives color to her life, which is coming to a close. She gives thanks for being allowed to be, in spite of all the worries and suffering she has had to endure in her life. No resentful melancholy; no rebellion; no boredom; and above all, no mockery. Nothing but: Lord, thanks for my share.


But there is more: She knows that her life is of great significance in the eyes of the Lord. Not because she has achieved great things on this earth, but because she knows that all human life takes place in the presence of God – and therefore must be significant. She knows the secret of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur: that even the trivial has ultimate meaning and needs to be sanctified. She realizes that there are no negligible deeds. Man should never see his life as compatible with the ordinary. Time is broken eternity.


Consequently, every moment counts, since it is part of a great infinite mystery in which not even one second can be recaptured at a later time. The old woman’s prayer teaches her that man does not live in his own private time, but in God’s. Every second of his life he must infuse divinity into the mundane, bringing together the passing with the everlasting, the common with the unique and the momentary with the eternal (A.J. Heschel).


For this reason, man needs to learn that only in the detail can he really live a life of profundity. Detail is the breaking down of generalities into such subtle components that they touch eternity. The High Holy Days are a warning to ensure that we live vertically and not horizontally. When we live our lives in the pursuit of new objects, believing that through them we will find meaning and joy, we need only look around us and see to what extent most people are afflicted with boredom.


The excitement of new possessions often leads to the trivialization of our lives after only a few days. This is true, however, only if we see them in a horizontal position.


If we view them vertically, i.e. in the process of constant spiritual growth, then we are seeing them in the light of eternity and, consequently, in profundity. Maes’s Old Woman at Prayer is therefore immensely rich with the little she has. She doesn’t need many possessions to be more.


But more than that, though she lives in profound loneliness, her awareness of God is so intense that she is in touch with all her fellow men. It is through her distinctiveness that all people are her personal friends. Only in relationships can one be an individual, and it is through this individuality that man encounters his greatest challenge: a call for accountability from which there is no escape. It is only man who bears ultimate responsibility, and through his deeds he meets the Other, whether it is God or man.


Nothing has more far-reaching consequences than the human deed. One act may decide the fate of the world. It is through carrying out his deeds that man reveals his mind and heart. And even when the act takes place among a multitude of people, and in cooperation with others, it remains distinct and carries its own responsibility.


Rosh Hashana celebrates the birth of the human being, the first creature destined to be an individual. Among all of God’s creations, he is the only one who carries responsibility. Rosh Hashana is the time when we must learn to turn every human deed into a dignified encounter with God. On this long, 48-hour day we are reminded that our lives and deeds must redeem God’s presence and rescue Him from oblivion. We are enjoined to rediscover our fellow men as unique individuals who stand together with us before the throne of God.


When looking at Maes’s painting, one is forced to peer into one’s own soul. We should ask ourselves whether we are capable of living this life of simplicity and tranquility. Can we reach such a state of soul and mind in today’s world, where we are so completely overtaken by the ongoing barrage of crises that we ourselves have created because of social and other pressures? We have constructed a tower of financial needs and have convinced ourselves that we can no longer live without them. We hope that by satisfying these needs, we will find the tranquility enjoyed by the old woman. But we fail to realize that we have become caught in a web that we ourselves have spun, and that moves us farther away from our goal.


Like a Jungian archetype, deep in his soul the Jew realizes that at least once a year, on Rosh Hashana, he needs to return home and be part of his people and his faith. He must liberate himself from all artificiality and hear the storm that accompanies the sound of the shofar, as a wake-up call signaling that life’s tight web can be unraveled – and that real spiritual and moral liberty can be achieved.


The soul rarely knows itself. It is unaware of how to raise its deeper secrets to the level where the mind can grasp them. Most religious people act their faith, but do not realize that faith is a constant happening. It cannot be stored away somewhere for the mind to find whenever it so requires. Faith is a moment of meeting between man’s soul and God’s majesty. No ladder of philosophical arguments can be climbed to reach this moment.


The mind is walled and there are no ways to enter. All it has is some translucent windows, through which it can see the landscape of the soul and catch a glimpse of what is happening on the other side. And when man rises to reach out to God, it is the result of divine light within, which creates this yearning.


Maes’s old woman knows more than the greatest philosophers. She experiences the moment when – to use the talmudic phrase – heaven and earth kiss. She knows how to lift the veil off the horizon of the unknown and gain a vision of the eternity of her life on earth, soon to end.


A thunder in her soul transforms her into a woman in complete stillness. She knows the verse, “The Lord spoke these words to your entire assembly on the mountain, out of the fire, cloud and thick darkness, in a loud voice that continues forever” (Deuteronomy 5:19). She may not have been Jewish, but she managed to have a Rosh Hashana without end.


 The writer, who is an author and international lecturer, is dean of the David Cardozo Academy in Jerusalem, and a member of CIJR’s International Board.




Efraim Inbar

Israel Hayom, Sept. 13, 2013


The Oslo process — started between Israel and the Palestinians 20 years ago — clearly failed to bring a resolution to the conflict, and did not result in a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. The nearly 1,500 Israeli casualties and many more thousands of wounded during this period by Palestinian terrorist and rocket attacks testify to this failure. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's land-for-security formula did not work. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority, established within the framework of the Oslo process, now rules in the West Bank and promotes anti-Israel hatred through its education system and controlled media. Furthermore, Hamas, an Islamist organization dedicated to destroy the Jewish state, rules the Gaza Strip, continuing the armed struggle against Israel.


The current peace negotiations are unlikely to change the status quo. The chances that they will lead to the establishment of a stable, unified, and peaceful Palestinian state are nil. The differences in positions, particularly on refugees and Jerusalem, are unbridgeable. Moreover, the PA has displayed considerable difficulties in state building, and the resulting entity borders on a failed state. It failed to meet the essential test of statehood, monopoly over the use of force, and subsequently lost control over part of its territory, Gaza. It is hard to imagine the PA surviving without the infusion of billions of dollars of international aid. The PA mirrors the deep socio-economic and political crisis of several Arab states, putting a big question mark on the capacity of the Arab political culture to sustain modern states. Finally, both sides of the ethno-religious conflict still have the energy to fight over the things important to them. Such protracted conflicts usually end only if at least one side displays great weariness of the conflict.


Therefore, 20 years after Oslo, we are left with the entrenchment of two revisionist Palestinian national movements, one traditional and one Islamist, in parts of Palestine. Palestinian-controlled territories are nothing more than local bases of terror against Israel. Yet, Palestinian terror has largely been contained and more vigorous Israeli actions could further limit its impact on Israeli lives.


The Palestinian ability to exact great political cost is somewhat exaggerated as long as Israel benefits from moderate American diplomatic support. Appeals to ineffective international forums can be ignored, while some international institutions have only limited impact. Similarly, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign has largely failed, although some of its long-range ramifications should be a source of concern. Significantly, most world states prefer not to link their bilateral relations with Israel to the oscillations in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Moreover, the awareness that the Palestinians are not ripe for statehood has slowly spread into foreign policy decision-making forums. Subsequently, we also can detect greater international indifference to the Palestinian issue, particularly among Arab states, as plenty of crises in the Middle East and elsewhere attract greater attention.


All of the above means that the conflict with the Palestinians will not end any time soon, but that the situation is bearable. Israel's strategy in the past decade, conflict management rather than conflict resolution, should continue. Israel must display willingness to negotiate boldly and make concessions. In fact, the continuing turmoil in the Middle East sensitizes the international community to Israel's security needs, which reduces pressures for meeting impossible Palestinian territorial demands.


Israel must also point out that the fractured Oslo process has brought about one more partition of Palestine (the Land of Israel). The first partition, imposed by the British colonial power, took place in 1922, when 75 percent of mandatory Palestine, the area east of the Jordan River, was taken away from the Jewish national home to be given to a throne-less Hashemite to establish the Jordanian kingdom. A second partition, this time of western Palestine, was the result of the Arab conquests in the 1948 war (Jordan took control of the West Bank and Egypt of the Gaza Strip), leading to the so-called "1967 borders," which were actually erased following the Arab aggression in 1967.


The Oslo process amounts to a third partition because it led to a situation where eventually more than 95% of the Palestinians in the West Bank and all of the Palestinians in Gaza are living under Palestinian rule. As we have seen in other parts of the world, partitions can be messy and without clear-cut political outcomes. The limited Israeli military presence in the West Bank is only marginally concerned with the welfare of the Palestinians; the security of the Israelis is its main goal. Israel is no longer responsible for the Palestinians and they are on their own. Despite the anti-Israel rhetoric, the "occupation" of the Palestinians has practically ended. Anyone visiting Ramallah, with its cafes and shopping centers, can see it for himself.


While the Oslo process failed to attain peace and security for Israel, it was conducive to a partition of the Land of Israel, relieving Israel of the Palestinian burden. Most Israelis have supported the traditional Zionist pro-partition position. They also supported the withdrawal from Gaza and the establishment of a security barrier that signal a desire to disengage from territories heavily populated by Arabs.


Israeli society paid dearly for the Oslo experiment. It can honestly say, "We tried to make peace with the Palestinians," which is a prerequisite for treating future armed conflict as a "no-choice" (ein breira) war. Such an attitude, prevalent during the Oslo years, has been central in forging great Israeli resilience to withstand protracted conflict, and an unwillingness to make dangerous concessions.


Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.






Robert Fulford

National Post, Sept. 7, 2013


To help refugees from the Syrian war, Israeli doctors and aid workers must do their work furtively. When they go into refugee camps in Jordan, they change clothes so that they can fade into the background. They must be smuggled in and out. They don’t tell others where they’re going and when they go home they usually don’t say where they have been. Above all, they don’t want anyone to know the names of their patients.


They move “under the radar,” in the words of a clandestine organization in this field. When they treat Syrians in Israeli hospitals, they make sure no visiting journalist learns details that will identify the patients to authorities back in Syria.


Usually, Israel is glad to announce when it contributes to emergency relief. The case of Syrian aid is different. Syria does not recognize Israel and forbids its citizens to go there. Israeli doctors are not welcome in Jordan, where their work has been denounced as a violation of Jordanian sovereignty. And Israel is anxious not to be involved in the Syrian civil war. It does nothing, officially, that could make it look like the medical corps of the rebellion.


For Syrians the possibility that their own government will punish them adds to the horror of their situation. This sunner, in Nahariya, Israel, near the Golan Heights, scores of patients have been covertly brought across the border from Syria to be treated by Israeli doctors. For patients’ friends or relatives, Israel becomes a last hope when no Syrian medical help is available. Masad Barhoum, clinical director at Western Galilee Medical Center, recently told an NBC reporter that many patients arrive unconscious. “When they wake up and find that they are in Israel they are anxious and afraid.”


A Syrian woman in the hospital said that she came to Israel because her daughter was hit by a sniper’s bullet. “The hospital in my town was destroyed. They saved her here, but now I am afraid to go back. We will be marked.”


An Israeli organization, iL4Syrians, operates anonymously in Syria and other desperate countries. Providing food and medical supplies for those who need them, it relies on secrecy to protect both its local contacts and its own practitioners. Its web site identifies no directors or staff but carries a defiant slogan: “Nobody asks permission to kill. We do not ask permission to save lives.”


They explain that “We focus on countries that lack diplomatic relations with Israel, transcending differences.” They argue that a respect for the sanctity of human life expresses Jewish tradition and culture. As they see it, this applies to Israel’s toughest and cruelest enemies as well as anyone else. Since all of these efforts are unofficial and unrecorded, no one can say how many Israelis are involved. I was alerted to this phenomenon by one of the regular letters of Tom Gross, an astute British-born commentator on the Middle East.


Gross has a 15-minute film showing a couple of days spent by an aid group visiting refugees. The refugees don’t expect them to arrive and are surprised when they learn that their benefactors are Israelis. That makes some of them nervous but in the film others say in Arabic “May God bless Israel.”


The team takes along a professional clown to perform for the children while food is being handed out; in one camp, however, the adults briefly riot over limited supplies. A journalist asks one of the aid workers, “Do people call you crazy?” She answers: “Not many people know.”


Information about this work has to be pieced together from fragments of journalism, like a paragraph in an Israeli/Arabic paper: “The Arab countries offer condolences but the best role is provided by the Israelis because they are crossing the border to provide assistance to the refugees, risking their lives without a word of thank you.”


These are dark days for much of the world, dreadfully dark for Syrians. Few can even imagine a solution that does not involve even more tragedy for them. W.H. Auden, in his poem “September 1, 1939” described an even darker time and offered the only advice that made sense to him: “Show an affirming flame.” As Jews celebrate the start of the new year, it’s worth noting that these Israeli humanitarians have found a way to make their flame burn with a brave affirmation.





Israel, Twenty Years After Oslo : Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jewish Press, Sept. 13, 2013—On September 13 it will be twenty years since the Oslo Agreements were signed. Today’s political situation in the Middle East is far from the one perceived by Abba Eban when I interviewed him a few months later. …


Israel’s 20-Year Nightmare: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2013—Twenty years ago today, Israel’s so-called peace process with the PLO was officially ushered in at the White House Rose Garden. A year or so later, when the death toll of Israeli victims of the massive terror offensive that the PLO organized shortly afterwards reached what then seemed unbearable heights, a popular call went out to “Put the Oslo Criminals on Trial.”


Three Years Too Late, Golda Meir Understood How War Could Have Been Avoided: Abraham Rabinovich, Times of Israel, Sept. 12, 2013—She had been sleeping poorly for several nights but this morning she was wakened into her nightmare – a ringing telephone at 3:45 a.m. on Yom Kippur. It was her military aide, Gen. Yisrael Lior, passing on a message from Mossad chief Zvi Zamir who had just met in London with his most valued source. War, said Lior. This day, before dark.


Facing Apocalypse: The Yom Kippur War 40 Years on: Abraham Rabinovich, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 3. 2013—Abandoning itself to hubris, Israel kept its guard down as Arab armies massed on its borders in the weeks before Yom Kippur 40 years ago. As its front lines collapsed in a war it never planned, the IDF was obliged to fall back on raw courage. It was the generals who tipped Israel into the cauldron of the Yom Kippur War. It was the soldiers in the field who averted catastrophe.


Israelis Don't Forgive Golda: Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom, Sept. 13, 2013—The sad testimony of Golda Meir, Israel's prime minister during the Yom Kippur War, to the Agranat Commission highlights a tough dilemma that modern leaders face, particularly during wartime. An array of experienced military officials told Meir, based on intelligence sources, that war was not imminent. So what could she do?



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A Note to our Readers: CIJR Briefings will resume on 

September 27, 2012 after Yom Kippur.



The Essence of Yom Kippur

The Whispers of Democracy in Ancient Judaism

The Abandonment

Israel Takes Issue of Jewish Refugees to UN


On Topic Links
Ehr Kumt (He is Coming)

Confessing our Sins on Yom Kippur

The Last Command



Reuven Hammer

Jerusalem Post, September 21, 2012


One of the misconceptions concerning Yom Kippur is that the most important prayer of the day is Kol Nidre.  In the first place, Kol Nidre is not a prayer at all. It is a quasi-legal formula for nullifying vows. The only prayer in it is the conclusion, which was added in the 13th century, in which we ask to be forgiven for our sins and are assured that God will indeed forgive the people of Israel.


Historically speaking, Kol Nidre was a popular formula that sprang from the demands of the people in Babylonia sometime before the eighth century and that was actually opposed by rabbinic authorities such as Amram Gaon, who found it foolish and quite meaningless. Yet, obviously, people did not listen to the rabbis and attributed to it the importance that it has today.


There are two possible explanations for this. One is the melody, which is so haunting and moving that one can ignore the words and be uplifted just by the sound. The other is that psychologically, the release from vows frees people from guilt over those promises we have not fulfilled or those things we know we should not have done. By abolishing unfulfilled obligations there is a lifting of a burden that, whether or not we acknowledge it, we carry with us constantly. We enter Yom Kippur released from our imperfections.


Nevertheless, Kol Nidre is not the most important prayer of Yom Kippur evening or of the day that follows. The most important one is the Vidui – the confession of our sins. This is the essential prayer without which Yom Kippur has no meaning and no efficacy. We recite this confession in two forms: the short, alphabetical “Ashamnu” followed by the lengthy, more detailed “Al Het.” The essence of both of these is found in one word: “hatati” – “I have sinned.”


Originally it was considered sufficient for one to have simply said that word sincerely before the beginning of Yom Kippur in order to enter the sacred day in a state of purity and forgiveness. Tradition has a way of adding to any practice to make certain that it is done properly and taken seriously. The confession has become much more complex and is recited not only before Yom Kippur at minha, but also at each of the day’s services. The principle remains the same: the sincere admission of guilt.


It is worth looking into the meaning of the Hebrew word “hatati.” We translate “het” in English as “sin,” but somehow the connotation is different. The word “sin” carries a great deal of weight in English. It implies a measure of wickedness and of intentional wrongdoing. That meaning is sometimes found in the Hebrew as well. God warns Cain that if he does not do right, “sin (hatat) crouches at the door” – but He also tells him that “you can be its master.”


Of Sodom and Gomorrah the Lord says, “their sin is very grave.” But note that by adding the words “is very grave,” it is implied that there are some sins that are not very grave. The original literal meaning of the verb “hata” is “to miss the mark,” as in archery. This connotation carries over into the spiritual meaning as well.


Sometimes we miss the mark. This can happen because we tried but erred, or it can happen because we deliberately decide not to do what should be done. To sin, therefore, is human. It is part and parcel of our lives. In order to change, it is necessary to admit our errors. This is what we do when we recite the Vidui. It is the most important of our Yom Kippur prayers; a necessary prelude to true repentance. (Top)



Eric Rosenberg

Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2012


Jews are in the midst of a period known as the Days of Awe, which began on Sunday night with Rosh Hashanah and culminates next Wednesday with Yom Kippur. It seems almost a misnomer to call them "holidays," though the first marks the Jewish New Year. Rather, they are deeply personal events whose aim is self-reflection, self-improvement and repairing what is broken in daily relationships.


It's striking how much this most important period on the Jewish calendar shares with that most essential exercise in American democracy. Walt Whitman wrote in the late 1800s that "a well-contested American national election" was "the triumphant result of faith in human kind." This country's unique sense of optimism—the view that the future is unwritten and full of possibility, that anything can be achieved—is also the sensibility underpinning the Days of Awe.


On a cosmic level, Rosh Hashanah commemorates the birth of the world. On an individual level, it marks the rebirth of the soul as Jews examine their faults and ask forgiveness from those they have wronged. At heart, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are deeply optimistic events. A major theme in the prayers Jews recite on the High Holidays is the striving to be a better person, with the understanding that we are in control of our future.


As moderns, we take for granted how fundamentally revolutionary the Jews were in arriving at this novel concept about time, destiny and personal responsibility. Until their call to monotheism nearly four millennia ago, the worldview in the Levant was very different. Life was an endless cycle devoted to agrarian pursuits and appeasing warring gods in aid of those pursuits.


Thomas Cahill, in his riveting book "The Gifts of the Jews," underscores the point: "For the ancients, nothing new ever did happen, except for the occasional monstrosity. Life on Earth followed the course of the stars. And what had been would, in due course, come around again. . . . The future was always to be a replay of the past, as the past was simply an earthly replay of the drama of the heavens."


Perhaps the most profound gift of the Jews is that they broke down this fatalistic notion of the world, in which people were trapped on a great spinning wheel, with no future or past. In this way, the ancient Jews invented the concept of history in which the future was not an endless cycle but could be steered by our actions in the present. They inserted the individual, and individual responsibility and justice, into the equation.


This ancient Jewish view was a massive shift in how people viewed mankind's relationship to a deity—and it put responsibility squarely on the shoulders of men and women for their own destiny. This was the end of predetermination and the beginning of personal choice, justice and the quest for liberty. These themes, prevalent in the Jewish liturgy, are on display among the candidates competing for the White House, whatever the political party.


Democracy, Mr. Cahill says, "grows directly out of the Israelite vision of individuals—subjects of value because they are images of God, each with a unique and personal destiny."


Similarly, the University of Chicago historian William F. Irwin lectured in the 1940s that it was the ancient Jewish prophets and their advocacy of freedom that would find an early expression in the Magna Carta and later in the American Bill of Rights. Perhaps that is partly because the ancient Jews had such terrible experiences with monarchs.


Before the Jews swapped their political system—one of a collection of judges—for a monarchy, to be like other Near Eastern governments, the prophet Samuel warned of the predilection of kings for tyranny and over-taxation. A people will buckle under a king, Samuel warned to no avail. "He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will tithe your crops and grape harvests to give to his officials and his servants. He will take your male and female slaves. . . . As for you, you will become his slaves."


One can hear, without too much strain, the distant echoes of Samuel's admonitions in Thomas Jefferson's catalog against King George in the Declaration of Independence.  (Top)



Charles Krauthammer

Washington Post, September 13, 2012


There are two positions one can take regarding the Iranian nuclear program: (a) it doesn’t matter, we can deter them; or (b) it does matter, we must stop them.


In my view, the first position — that we can contain Iran as we did the Soviet Union — is totally wrong, a product of wishful thinking and misread history. But at least it’s internally coherent.
Iran’s quest to possess nuclear technology: Iran said it has made advances in nuclear technology, citing new uranium enrichment centrifuges and domestically made reactor fuel.

What is incoherent is President Obama’s position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable — “I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” — yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization.


A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity. And this, as Anthony Cordesman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war. It creates, writes Cordesman, “the same conditions that helped trigger World War II — years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war became all too real.”


This has precipitated the current U.S.-Israeli crisis, sharpened by the president’s rebuff of the Israeli prime minister’s request for a meeting during his upcoming U.S. visit. Ominous new developments; no Obama response. Alarm bells going off everywhere; Obama plays deaf.


The old arguments, old excuses, old pretensions have become ridiculous:


(1) Sanctions. The director of national intelligence testified to Congress at the beginning of the year that they had zero effect in slowing the nuclear program. Now the International Atomic Energy Agency reports (Aug. 30) that the Iranian nuclear program, far from slowing, is actually accelerating. Iran has doubled the number of high-speed centrifuges at Fordow, the facility outside Qom built into a mountain to make it impregnable to air attack.


This week, the agency reported Iranian advances in calculating the explosive power of an atomic warhead. It noted once again Iran’s refusal to allow inspection of its weapons testing facility at Parchin and cited satellite evidence of Iranian attempts to clean up and hide what’s gone on there.


The administration’s ritual response is that it has imposed the toughest sanctions ever. So what? They’re a means, not an end. And they’ve had no effect on the nuclear program.


(2) Negotiations. The latest, supposedly last-ditch round of talks in Istanbul, Baghdad, then Moscow has completely collapsed. The West even conceded to Iran the right to enrich — shattering a decade-long consensus and six Security Council resolutions demanding its cessation.


Iran’s response? Contemptuous rejection.  Why not? The mullahs have strung Obama along for more than three years and still see no credible threat emanating from the one country that could disarm them.


(3) Diplomatic isolation. The administration boasts that Iran is becoming increasingly isolated. Really? Just two weeks ago, 120 nations showed up in Tehran for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement — against U.S. entreaties not to attend. Even the U.N. secretary-general attended — after the administration implored him not to.


Which shows you what American entreaties are worth today. And the farcical nature of Iran’s alleged isolation.


The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran’s nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.


Which made all the more shocking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s dismissal last Sunday of the very notion of any U.S. red lines. No deadlines. No bright-line action beyond which Iran must not go. The sleeping giant continues to slumber. And to wait — as the administration likes to put it, “for Iran to live up to its international obligations.”


This is beyond feckless. The Obama policy is a double game: a rhetorical commitment to stopping Iran, yet real-life actions that everyone understands will allow Iran to go nuclear.


Yet at the same time that it does nothing, the administration warns Israel sternly, repeatedly, publicly, even threateningly not to strike the Iranian nuclear program. With zero prospect of his policy succeeding, Obama insists on Israeli inaction, even as Iran races to close the window of opportunity for any successful attack.


Not since its birth six decades ago has Israel been so cast adrift by its closest ally. (Top)



Gil Shefler

Jerusalem Post, September 21, 2012


Israel on Friday called on the international community in a special gathering at the United Nations to recognize the suffering of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and their material claims the same way it acknowledges the plight of displaced Palestinians.


Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Israel's Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor and World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder presented the case of the recently launched diplomatic campaign in front of an audience of Israeli officials, foreign diplomats, activists and journalists at the headquarters of the international organization.


"Today's event is about the past but more importantly about the future," said Prosor. "Our purpose is clear and simple: To give justice for one million Jews whose stories have been hidden and left untold."


He added: "For 64 years the history has been distorted and white washed in the UN. Arab countries have never taken responsibility for creating more than 800,000 refugees. Yet not a single syllable –and listen to this– can be heard in any of the 1888…UN resolution[s] on the Mideast."


Israel was founded on the ethos of being a safe haven for Jews in their historic homeland as a response to the persecution of Jews throughout history and the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe in particular. The story of its citizens who left, fled or were expelled from Arabic-speaking countries while the Israel-Arab conflict flared has been relatively neglected –a fact acknowledged by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in his speech.


"For some reason this issue was never raised, never discussed, and without too much mea culpa, this was wrong," Ayalon said. "But it's never too late."


Critics have said the timing of the campaign ahead of the gathering of the General Assembly of the United Nations next week is not accidental. Palestinian politicians like Hanan Ashrawi have argued Jews from Arab lands are not refugees at all and that, either way, Israel is using their claims as a counter-balance to those of Palestinian refugees against it.


"The claim that Jews who migrated to Israel, which is supposed to be their homeland, are ‘refugees’ who were uprooted from their homelands… is a form of deception and delusion," she wrote in a recently published article. "If Israel is their homeland then they are not 'refugees,' they are emigrants who returned either voluntarily or due to a political decision."


A chorus of Jewish politicians and activists at the event, however, said the rights of Palestinian and Jewish refugees were were not mutually exclusive. "We should solve both refugee issues now," said World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder. "The world has long recognized the Palestinian refugee problem and they should recognize those of Jews too."


Malcolm Honelein of the Conference of Presidents of Major North Americans took aim at the UN, where the gathering was taking place, saying it passed thousands of resolutions relating to the rights of Palestinian refugees but not one pertaining to those of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. "It was manipulation by Arab delegates as early as 48 and they took it off the agenda never for it to reappear again," he said. "They say Jews left freely and were not refugees denying reality in an attempt to keep this issue off the agenda."


Lawyer and pro-Israel activist Alan Dershowitz was even harsher in his criticism of the international organization. "Think about all the refugees from places like Kongisberg, who were forced to leave when the Soviets came or in India and Bangladesh. They have all built new lives for themselves, only the refugee problem of the Palestinians persists," he said. "Why? UN!"


Sylvain Abitbol, a Moroccan Jew who emigrated to Montreal in 1967, the year a wave of anti-Jewish violence and legislation sparked by Israel's victory in the Six Days War spread across the Arab world, sat in the crowd listening to the speeches. He shrugged when asked why it took so long for Israel to launch the current campaign. "We've been working with Israel for many years, but it took Ayalon to raise this," he said.


Whatever the reasons for the delay and regardless of the political context, he said standing up for the rights of Jews from Arab countries such as himself was a worthy and just cause. "It was very difficult for Jews in Morocco, that's why I left" he said wistfully. "It was not as bad as other countries, true, but it was bad. Listen, there used to be 200,000 Jews in Morocco and with the exception of about 2,000 who still live there they all left."(Top)


∙       Front Page Magazine, September 28, 2010
Rabbi Schlomo Lewis, Etz Haim Synagogue, Atlanta GA

∙       Canadian Jewish News, September 13, 2012
Lawrence A. Hoffman

∙        Jewish Press, September 20, 2012
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The Last Command



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Frederick Krantz


Today, the thirty-eighth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, has gone largely unremarked. Yet it is imperative, especially today, in the context of the Palestinians’ “UDI” move at the UN and the general, if not unexpected, disappointment with the “Arab Spring” movements, that this anniversary not be forgotten.


In 1973 a diplomatically isolated Israel was rocked by a “surprise” coordinated Egyptian-Syrian attack launched as the Yom Kippur holiday began. (Many indications of what was coming were in fact ignored, as a later commission of inquiry concluded.) On both fronts, the Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights, the enemy made significant initial advances before the Jewish state could marshall its forces and counter-attack.


Hanging on by the skin of their teeth in the North against Syrian tanks and armour, things in the south, after the Soviet-assisted Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal, were turned around only by Ariel Sharon’s remarkable counter-attack, which brought the IDF to within a few hours of Cairo.


(One recalls the ambiguous actions of the US, led by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who admitted later he thought a limited Egyptian “victory” might prove beneficial to “peace” negotiations, and the crucial intervention of President Richard M. Nixon, who expedited rapid air resupply of crucially needed war materiel.)


1973 was a very close call, and reminded one and all of something some have today forgotten. The Arab states then, and still today, had not given up war as a means of extinguishing the Jewish state. Recognition of that state since by only two Arab regimes is today increasingly fragile—it is under attack by the “democratic” forces in Egypt, which include a renascent Moslem Brotherhood, and by the same forces in Jordan.


And Abbas at the UN, refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and ignoring Judaism in his paean to Islam and Christianity as the pillars of the Holy Land, clearly indicated the Palestinian and Arab strategy: delegitimate the Jewish state, maintain the claimed “right of return” of millions of “refugees”, and hope for democratic Israel’s demise, through external sanctions, internal demographic crisis, or a final Arab (or Arab-Turkish-Iranian) military victory.

1973 also demonstrates clearly the key, continuing importance of military force as an instrument of state policy. What stands between the unending Arab aspiration that Israel somehow disappear, and the accomplishment of that vicious desire, is certainly not the support of “the international community”. It is, finally, only the robust strength of Israeli democracy and economy, and the evident fact that the Israel Defense Force is the strongest and most effective army in the Middle East.


Israeltoday faces a grave, and deteriorating, situation; war is once again a possibility. There is renewed Egyptian intransigency, a resurgent and well-armed Islam under Erdogan in Turkey, a dangerous, border with the crumbling Assad regime in Syria, the Hamas terrorists in Gaza and their Hezbollah kin in Lebanon, and now the clear evidence of Mahmoud Abbas’ intransigency in the West Bank. And behind all this looms the impending nightmare of the Iranian nuclear weapon.


Given this, and given American waffling, Obama’s on-again, off-again, support (mirroring US irresolution in 1973), the Yom Kippur War anniversary should remind us of a central fact of politics and history. The “legitimacy” of a state, like its basic security, is, finally, a function of its own coherence, unity, determination, and self-actualized military strength. “Legitimation” is not, in the first instance, bestowed, or bought—it is earned.


Whatever its ancillary role, UN votes do not make states, and they cannot destroy them. Democratic, Jewish Israel is founded on the Rock recognized in its Declaration of Independence, confirmed by Israel’s successful armed defeat of hostile Arab powers determined to destroy it, and grounded ultimately in its armed citizenry’s continuing determination, supported by the Jewish People, that the Jewish state will never again be destroyed.

(Prof. Krantz is Editor of the Isranet Daily Briefing,
and Director of the
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)



Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

Huffington Post, October 6, 2011

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holy of holies of Jewish time. It is that rarest of phenomena, a Jewish festival without food. Instead it is a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgment when, collectively and repeatedly, we confess our sins and pray to be written into God’s Book of Life.

Its hold on the Jewish imagination is immense and undiminished, even in a deeply secular age. Synagogues tend to be fuller on this day than any other. The atmosphere is vivid, the music solemn and majestic, the imagery gripping and powerful. It is as if the world had become a courtroom. God is sitting in judgment. The trial is about to begin. The watching angels are terrified, and we are the accused, our lives passing under Divine scrutiny. It is a drama not unlike the opening scene of the book of Job.

It is an emotionally demanding experience, but we emerge with a sense of purification. God’s forgiveness allows us to be honest with ourselves. We recognize our imperfections, admit our failures, and plead to God for clemency. We are his subjects, but we are also his children, and how angry can God be with us, given that he brought us into being in love? God judges but he also forgives: that is one of the most beautiful of the many ideas the Judeo-Christian tradition gave the world. Yom Kippur is the supreme day of forgiveness.

But there is a story to be told about the history of the day itself that is relevant to the condition of the West in the twenty-first century. Read the Bible—Leviticus, chapter 16—and you get an immediate sense of its drama in ancient times. On the holiest day of the year, the holiest man, the High Priest, would enter sacred space, the Holy of Holies, and atone for the sins of the nation. It was an elaborate ritual, involving other things the famous “scapegoat,” sent into the desert, and it continued throughout most of the biblical era.

Then came the tragedy that almost derailed Judaism completely: the failed rebellion against Rome in the first century that led to the destruction of the Second Temple. Now there was no Temple, no High Priest, no sacrifice, no scapegoat, no annual ritual of collective atonement. It was a spiritual trauma almost without precedent in Jewish history.

To be sure, the First Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians six centuries earlier, and the people had survived. But then there had been prophets—Jeremiah in particular—who gave the people hope. The accuracy of Jeremiah’s prophecies of destruction that gave credibility to his vision of return, and it happened. Now, though, Rome was in the ascendant and there seemed no hope of reversing the situation. The failure of the Bar Kochba rebellion sixty years later confirmed the depth of the crisis. Jews had entered their longest exile. What would become of the Day of Atonement? With no Temple and no functioning priesthood how could Jews mend their relationship with God?

It was then that the great revolution took place in Jewish theology. Inspired by, among others, the first century scholar Rabbi Akiva, the sages came to the conclusion that in the absence of the High Priest, each Jew could turn directly to God, and through a combination of repentance, prayer and charity achieve atonement.

Holiness was democratized. Every place where Jews gathered to pray was like a fragment of the Temple in Jerusalem. Every prayer said from the heart was like a sacrifice. Each Jew on this day of days was like a priest. It was a stunning transformation.

Its effect on the Jewish people was no less spectacular. Throughout the biblical era the Israelites were portrayed as a fractious, rebellious people, drifting into idolatry and incurring the wrath of the prophets. From the first century onward, Jews became the most faithful people in history—the only people to retain their religious identity for two millennia as a dispersed minority, the only such group to resist assimilation to the dominant culture and conversion to the dominant faith. It was a tenacity that earned the awe of people as different as Blaise Pascal and Friedrich Nietzsche.

How did it happen? How was religious tragedy turned into spiritual triumph? That, it seems to me, is worthy of the serious reflection of serious minds. It happened, I believe, because in the absence of a High Priest, responsibility for achieving atonement devolved on every Jew, which they did both individually and collectively, just as we do today when we confess our sins, not in the privacy of the confessional, but together, out loud, in the synagogue. It was the devolution of responsibility that was transformational. With no High Priest to do it for them, Jews had to atone for themselves.

Contemporary Western societies have been moving in precisely the opposite direction for the past half century. The emphasis has been on rights, not responsibilities. When it comes to piecing together the fragments of broken lives, we have tended to place the entire burden on the state and its agencies. When things go wrong, someone else will put it right. The state has become for us what the High Priest was for ancient Israel. The results are no happier now than they were then: a long vacation from responsibility. Then, the symptoms were idolatry and sin. Today they are the breakdown of marriage, fragile families, the loss of community, and the spread of consumerism and moral relativism—all signs of a society in decline.

If the history of the Day of Atonement has anything to say to us now it is: never relieve individuals of moral responsibility. The more we have, the more we grow.


Stephen Brown
FrontPage, October 7, 2011

As if any further proof was necessary, Canada stepped forward once again and showed the world that it is Israel’s best friend. In taking the field on behalf of the Jewish people this time around, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper became the first country last week to sign the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism.

“The fact that this important document was crafted in Ottawa is further testimony to Canada’s leadership role in this vital global battle,” said Shimon Fogel of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, adding that the protocol is “groundbreaking” and “will serve as the basis of the renewed international effort against anti-Semitism.”

The protocol, drawn up by international parliamentarians in a series of conferences that began in Ottawa last November, is intended to combat the ongoing, worldwide threat of anti-Semitism. It is a reaffirmation of the “commitment to institute tangible measures” to counter the scourge of anti-Jewish hatred that is often disguised as criticism of Israel. The Ottawa document is meant to plainly distinguish between the two and does so in exemplary fashion.

“The criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be anti-Semitic,” the protocol states. “But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium—let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction—is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.”

The Canadian government co-hosted last year’s initial conference along with the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism. The meeting “reaffirmed the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism as a template for fighting anti-Jewish prejudice.” In this spirit, Prime Minister Harper addressed the November gathering and, in plain language not often heard from a politician, especially on this subject, showed his great respect and support for the Jewish state as well as a high level of morality and insight lacking in most other world leaders.

“When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand,” said Harper. “…Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israel mob tell us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are in the longer term a threat to us all.”

Without directly naming the guilty party, Harper also added “a hateful ideology with global ambitions” is the “one which targets the Jewish homeland as a scapegoat” and is responsible for Jews being “savagely attacked around the world.” Hopefully, someone from the Obama administration was present and taking notes.

The Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism is just the latest manifestation of Harper’s siding with Israel on the international stage. Since coming to power in Ottawa in 2006, the Canadian prime minister and his government have garnered nothing but praise from Jewish organizations and advocates for Israel around the world. His government’s pro-Israeli policies have earned his country the unofficial title of being the Jewish state’s “greatest friend in the world” at a time when Israel is under constant attack internationally and sometimes inside Canada itself.

Harper’s principled stand vis-à-vis Israel, for example, saw Canada become the first country to withdraw from the anti-Semitic, United Nations-sponsored Durban II and Durban III conferences. Also in regard to the disgraceful anti-Israel bias at the UN, Canada was in the forefront of opposing in 2008 the appointment of Richard Falk as the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.

Falk, described as a Jewish American academic, has in the past compared Israel to Nazi Germany, a common and sick theme among Israel haters. Falk also authored an anti-Israeli article called ‘Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust’. It was also about this time that Canada was “the sole holdout” in a 46-1 UN vote for Israel dismantling its settlements.

The Harper government also successfully blocked Obama’s move to have the G-8 countries issue a press release at their meeting last May that would include the president’s suggestion that Israel should negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of returning to its 1967 borders. Obama had made the 1967 borders remark in a speech only a week earlier and obviously hadn’t planned on Canada’s opposition. Unfortunately, Canada was the only G-8 country to oppose the president’s press release plan.…

Stephen Harper’s unqualified support for Israel stems from his deep Christian convictions, like the other staunch advocates for Israel in North America, the fundamentalist Christians in the United States. Harper’s province, Alberta, is noted in Canada for its strong conservative and Christian heritage. Alberta’s provincial Conservative Party, for example, has held power in Edmonton uninterruptedly since 1971 and just elected its first woman leader.

It is from this background that the Harper government’s unbending moral convictions regarding Israel and other major issues of importance to Canadians derive. And unusual for this day and age, one can be sure the Harper government will not back down on these moral principles as long as it is in power. The Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism is just another proof of that.


Michael Freund
Jerusalem Post, October 5, 2011

It is one of the international community’s favorite adjectives to hurl at Israel. Time and again, whenever the Jewish state takes some action of one sort or another, a parade of world leaders turns to their lexicons and reaches for this old, reliable term of censure with which to berate us.

With little regard for the facts, they inevitably seek to lay the blame at Israel’s doorstep by invoking one particular slur. It is the ‘P’ word, as in “provocative” or “provocation.”

Just last week, this prejudicial profanity was repeatedly flung at Israel in the wake of the Interior Ministry’s decision to grant initial approval for 1,100 new housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.

Barely had the gavel come down on the ruling before the leaders of the Free World rushed to outdo one another with their condemnation and criticism.

Calling the move “counter-productive,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a news conference, “we have long urged both sides to avoid any kind of action which could undermine trust, including, and perhaps most particularly, in Jerusalem, any action that could be viewed as provocative”—there’s that word—“by either side”.

Going a step further, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the move “illegal” and said, “This is a time when all parties should be striving to return to talks and responding to the Quartet statement call to refrain from”—here it comes…—“provocative actions.”

It didn’t seem to matter one whit that the approval of the Gilo proposal was just one small step in a lengthy bureaucratic process and that the bulldozers won’t be starting work any time soon. The mere idea of Jewish homes being built in Jerusalem appears to be sufficient to evoke anger across the globe.

Clearly, both Clinton and Hague are suffering from “selective provocation syndrome,” which is when one deems Israel’s actions to be provocative while ignoring similar moves by the Palestinians.…

Indeed, this past Sunday, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) released data indicating that the number of Palestinian homes in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has soared by over 25% in the past four years. This year alone, the Palestinians will build more housing units than Israel did in all of last year, even though our population is more than three times the size of theirs.

According to the PCBS, in 2011 the Palestinians will finish a whopping 33,822 dwellings, or 13 times the number currently being built by Jews in Judea and Samaria.

There is no doubt that this feverish building activity by the Palestinians will have an enormous impact on the ground, greatly expanding their presence in the “disputed” territories.

So why, then, is this too not regarded as a “provocation” that undermines peace efforts? Or is it only when Jews lay down cement that construction suddenly becomes confrontational? I guess not all “provocations” are created equal.

The fact is that it is neither logical nor fair to expect Israel to freeze building in Judea and Samaria or anywhere else while the Palestinians are busy at work.…

There is a struggle going on for control of this land and it is being fought in various ways, one of which is through the use of cranes and dump-trucks.

Israel has the right and the responsibility to deploy these instruments as it sees fit. So let Clinton, Hague and the others complain all they wish. The rebuilding of the Jewish homeland can and will continue.


Barry Rubin

Rubin Reports, October 6, 2011

“…never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”—John Dunne

Rome, Italy

I’m standing on the edge of the Roman Forum, by the Arch of Titus. This is the marble structure built by the Empire to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple about 1941 years ago. Legionnaires are shown carrying off the Menorah and other items from the sanctuary. The inhabitants are sold into slavery, The Jews are finished.

Well, not really. Today, the great empire has long vanished and Israel is not just a living country but by every social, economic, and security standard a successful country.

In the late 1960s, more than 40 years ago, the Palestinian and Arab leaders were certain that Israel would not survive. The fact that they were completely wrong has not prevented a whole new rash of contemporary speculations.

The PLO view, shared by virtually all Arabs at the time, was very clearly defined. The two main points boil down to the following. First, Israel would not survive because there was no real basis for such a state and people. Second, the Arabs would destroy it using various strategies.

Here is the ultimate quote from Yasir Arafat in1968—that’s 43 years ago—on why this would work: Terrorism would “create and maintain an atmosphere of strain and anxiety that will force the Zionists to realize that it is impossible for them to live in Israel.… The Israelis have one great fear, the fear of casualties.…”

The PLO’s attacks would “prevent immigration and encourage emigration….to destroy tourism, to prevent immigrants becoming attached to the land, to weaken the Israeli economy and to divert the greater part of it to security requirements.” This would “inevitably” prevent Israel’s consolidation and bring its disintegration. The final step would be “a quick blow by the regular armies at the right moment” to finish Israel off.

All of these things failed. More immigrants came than expected and were successfully integrated. People weren’t frightened into fleeing. Casualties were absorbed and limited. The country became economically successful and militarily victorious. Thus, today Israel is stronger—far stronger—than ever.

And who were the biggest losers in this conflict? Naturally, Israel has lost a great deal, especially in lives. But the biggest losers have been the Arabs who wasted resources, lost more lives, faced repeated humiliations, and ended up with dictatorship and stagnant societies. And they will be the biggest losers if they spend the next 60 years playing the same game.…

[Yet today] it is not Israel’s existence that is threatened but that of its adversaries and in some ways of Western Europe, too.

Its enemy neighbors and near-neighbors are about to embark on a decades’-long horrifying series of civil wars: Islamists against Arab nationalists; Sunni against Shia Muslims; economic collapse; and much more. Syria is on the verge of an inter-communal bloodbath; Egypt faces not some bright new economic dawn but a terrible reckoning. At some point the oil will run out with much of that wealth squandered. Recent discoveries even suggest that Israel itself will be a rising exporter of petroleum and natural gas.…

In contrast, there are only two ways Israel might perhaps disappear. First, it might happen if Arabs and Muslims dropped radicalism, ideology, and bickering to concentrate on technological and economic progress for 50 years, only then turning on Israel. That would require, for example, the Palestinians quickly dropping all of their rejectionism and demands to make a compromise agreement with Israel that they had no intention of keeping.

Yet quite the opposite is happening now. It is radicalism, not pragmatic development strategies that is in control. Besides, the problem is that a focus on material development and moderate democracy would erode Arab and Muslim tempers to the point that they would no longer want to engage in such a foolish and futile life-and-death struggle, which is why the Islamists reject that approach.

The other way Israel might be wiped off the map is if its leaders heeded the advice they are getting from the West. That’s the irony of the situation. Those stubborn, stiff-necked people are not going to doom themselves by implementing the mistaken ideas told to them by Western media, experts, intellectuals, and governments who claim such policies are the road to safety.

Part of the problem here is that all too many Western intellectuals no longer believe in fighting—or even sacrificing—for your country; patriotic pride or nationalism or religion; or even the nation-state itself. Consequently, while many Arabs and Muslims don’t believe Israel can exist because of contempt for Jews and belief in the superiority of their nations and religion, many Westerners now believe in the wickedness of their countries and religion and the unviability of the national model.

In thinking about Israel, both these opposite arguments amount to the same thing. Yet they tell more about those having these ideas than about Israel.

When a European cabinet minister says his country has no distinct culture and another urges the locals to be nice to Muslims so they will reciprocate after they take over; when a European country’s counterintelligence chief .tells me his country has no future, and a quartet of professors from another remark to me over cocktails that they believe their country is finished, is it Israel that is in danger of collapse? Who’s really facing the abyss?…

All of this also shows why Israel is the key to understanding today’s world. Israel’s survival shows that democratic societies can fight and defeat dictators and totalitarian ideologies, Western religions do have a continuing place in Western societies and nation-states are still a viable—perhaps the most viable—way to organize many political structures.

That’s precisely why so many are working so hard to demonize and discredit Israel. If people in the West understand what Israel is and what it is doing, they will comprehend the value of those approaches and values. And if they understand how Israel is lied about and mistreated they will comprehend much wider problems with the people, ideas, and institutions governing their own lives today.