Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Eleventh Spy

Listening to Netanyahu's speech, I almost got carried away. Almost. For a fleeting few moments I thought that we might just get through the event without any damage. It almost seemed that Netanyahu had read my ‘dream speech’ and was actually influenced by it.

Even when he mentioned the unmentionable two words (hyphenated with the add-on –demilitarized) I wasn’t overly surprised. My immediate reaction was, ‘well, he had no choice, and he’s laid down conditions that are far beyond the capabilities of our next-door neighbors to even attempt to agree to. After all, we know that they’ll never agree to Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ because that undermines their basic premise that Israel equals Palestine. The Arab's ‘right of return’ demand guarantees that this will not only remain a statement, but rather a not too distant reality.

Clearly, they will also reject a ‘demilitarized state’ because these two terms are seemingly contradictory. A ‘state’ which is sovereign must have the right to a military force, otherwise it really isn’t sovereign. So, one way or the other – is it a state, or not?

Of course, the password, a ‘united Jerusalem’ was almost the icing on the cake. (Except that Netanyahu forgot to add on the final clause, ‘under Israeli sovereignty.’)

Much of the speech was positive, speaking of our rights to our land, speaking complementarily of the ‘settlers’ in Judea and Samaria, and perhaps most importantly, declaring that the major obstacle to peace is Arab rejection of the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel.

All well and good.

Then, with a little thought, reality caught up with me.

Clearly Netanyahu believes, and perhaps very rightly so, that Israel’s Arab neighbors will never accept the conditions he has required in order for Israel to agree to creation of a palestinian state. But Bibi has made now the same mistake he made 10 years ago, a mistake first made by one of his predecessors, some 30 years ago.

At the end of last week my wife and I (celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary) spent a couple of days wandering around Jerusalem. One of our stops was the Davidson Center, adjacent to the Western Wall, which presents a fascinating computer reproduction of the vicinity of Temple Mount 2,000 years ago. Still having a couple of hours free Friday afternoon, we decided to visit the Begin Center, not far from the Old City. We had heard that the exhibit there was interesting and decided to check it out.

The Center itself, I found to be enchanting. Tremendous thought and work were invested in telling the story of the life of Menachem Begin, a most significant character in pre-State, and later, post-State Israel. The exhibit was broken up in various periods in Begin's life. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the content, up to a point.

When the program was over I told my wife that twice during the presentation I almost cried: when Begin was elected Prime Minister in 1977, and later, seeing a destroyed home in Yamit, with Begin quoted as having said that the pain of the destruction would remain with him till his dying day. She dittoed my thoughts.

Begin surely opposed a Palestinian state. He suggested only 'palestinian autonomy.' The magnetic magnitude of peace surely took precedence over a few thousand people in Yamit and the other Sinai communities. So Begin thought. But he never took into account the historic significance of the precedents he established with those fateful decisions in the early 1980s. Autonomy has translated into sovereign statehood and Yamit into the legitimacy to obliterate Gush Katif and north Samaria communities four years ago.

One of the most serious repercussions was not only the actual decisions, but the person who made and implemented them. Menachem Begin was the leader of the Israeli right, with a capital T. He set a precedent, not only for Rabin-Peres, but also for Binyamin Netanyahu in 1997 in Hebron, and for Ariel Sharon in 2005. Netanyahu and Sharon were also undisputed leaders of the right. If the right can do it, than what can they possibly say when the left takes power and follows in their footsteps?

This was the trap set for Binyamin Netanyahu again, now, in 2009, and he fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

When Bibi opened his mouth and spilled out the mantra - palestinian state, despite the fact that he hyphenated that phrase with the word 'demilitarized,' he too acknowledged and sanctioned this vile concept as legitimate, even in the eyes of the Israeli right. This is an historic error of which the ramifications are beyond measure.

In 1997, prior to finalizing the Hebron Accords, Bibi met with Hebron leaders. He promised them explicitly that should the community come under attack from the hills or neighborhoods abandoned to Arafat, he would 'send in the tanks.' Bibi made many mistakes, but one of the most serious was his illusion that he'd be Prime Minister forever. When the shooting did start, he was far, far from the Prime Minister's office.

As is was then, so too it is today. It might be assumed that Netanyahu really doesn't want a Palestinian state and that the conditions he set down will prevent creation of such a terrorist entity for the time being. At least during Netanyahu's reign. But what about after Netanyahu? He will not be Prime Minister for eternity. Just as Begin's autonomy has filtered into 'a sovereign state,' so too, Netanyahu's demilitarized Palestinian state will transform into a 'palestinian state' with the 'demilitarized' lost in the paperwork. So too, his demand that Israel be recognized as a "Jewish state' will fade into 'acceptance of Israel, leaving the door open for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of so-called 'palestinian refugees' to 'come home.' Where will we be then? After all, THE LEADER - a RIGHT-WING LEADER, gave his stamp of approval!

I have no doubt that the 10 spies, some 3,500 years ago, had no idea of the damage they would cause when they rejected Eretz Yisrael, as we read in last week's Torah portion. Had they an inkling of the historic backlash of their words, I'm sure they would have acted differently. But that cannot be an accepted excuse. We are held accountable for our actions, and serious errors can have even more serious aftereffects. Utterances are not just words. They are predecessors of actions.

So too with Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to acquiesce to King Hussein in the White House. He has placed the gods of the 'international situation' above the G-d of Israel. He spoke of the intrinsic value of Eretz Yisrael, while in his next breath admitting that part of our beloved homeland would be sacrificed to the idols of 'peace.' He praised residents of Judea and Samaria, but… what about Hebron and Kiryat Arba, what about Shilo and Beit El, what about Eli and Tapuach, what about Beit Hagai and Maon? What will be the fate of Ma'arat HaMachpela, or more importantly, Temple Mount?

Netanyahu's acceptance of a palestinian state in the heart of Eretz Yisrael is the ultimate betrayal of our land, our people, our Torah, our G-d. He has placed himself on a very short list of ignominious people.

Binyamin Netanyahu – the latest eleventh spy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Special secret preview of Netanyahu's Sunday speech

Sivan 20, 5769, 6/12/2009

Special secret preview of Netanyahu's Sunday speech

My fellow countrymen,
Yesterday, on the holy day of Shabbat, worshipping at a synagogue close to my Jerusalem home, I listened intently to the weekly Torah portion. It tells the story of 12 spies, sent by Moses, to study Eretz Yisrael and its residents, prior to the Israelites entering into the Land. 
The end is quite well known; Ten of the spies opposed any attempt to conquer the land, saying that it was filled with giants and well-fortified cities and walls. Only two men, Joshua and Kalev had the courage to reject the spy's slander, and called on all the Israelites to push forward, saying that of course they could conquer Israel. 
As a result of the people's rejection of the land G-d decreed that they should spend forty years in the desert. Almost all those alive at that time, died before entering the land and were not privileged to see the Promised Land. The ten spies died horribly tragic deaths. Joshua and Kalev were rewarded for their faith and were later leaders in Eretz Yisrael. And of course, the same day when the Israelites rejected Eretz Yisrael, Jews have suffered through the centuries. That day is Tisha b'Av, the date when the first and second Temples were destroyed. 
I have also witnessed, in our generation, the results of forfeiting Eretz Yisrael.

Following Menachem Begin's relinquishment of Sinai and the destruction of Yamit and other communities in the south, Israel immediately faced a deadly war in the north. Begin later resigned and lived for almost a decade in isolation.

When Ariel Sharon abandoned Gush Katif to our enemies, and destroyed those communities, uprooting loyal citizens from their homes, we were forced to deal with two wars, from the north and from the south. Former Prime Minister Sharon has been in a coma for years. Most of the leaders directly involved with the Gush Katif fiasco have been disgraced, such as former army chief of staff Dan Halutz and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and many others. 

And of course, I cannot forget to mention the fate of Yitzhak Rabin, following initiating and signing of the Oslo Accords. 
Ehud Barak agreed to a Palestinian state throughout almost all of Judea and Samaria. As did Ehud Olmert. Events speak for themselves. 
In truth, I myself had to deal with the same fate. Following my erroneous and fatal decision to divide Hebron, abandoning  most of the city to Arafat, and my subsequent signing of the Wye accords, I was defeated at the polls by a very wide margin. I also had to deal with personal challenges, having been investigated several times by the police for crimes that never occurred. 
I have come to a realization that, whatever the price, Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, is an intrinsic element of our people. Our Land is a
G-d -given gift to our people, and it is not ours to give away, to anyone, at any time, for any price. 

Of course, peace is a Divinely defined ideal; but only when peace is real, not phony. Since the Olso Accords were signed, almost 2,000 Jews have been killed in terror attacks, murdered in cold blood, by the very people who were supposed to be at peace with the State of Israel. 
We have witnessed to formation of a new terror-entity on our southern border, which continues to fire rockets into our country. We still have no assurances that Hamas will not eventually control the Arab populations in Judea and Samaria, as they have taken over Gaza. Israel will not lend a hand to formation of another terror state on our eastern border. 
I am very aware of demands to find a national home for the Palestinians.
First, it should be reiterated: the State of Jordan, which was created by the British after World War Two, has a population which is 80% Palestinian; that is 80% of the population is identical to the 'palestinians' living in Judea and Samaria. It should be recalled that Jordan ruled the west bank of the Jordan River from 1950 until 1988. 
Very clearly, Jordan is a Palestinian state and can and should be recognized as such. Any Arabs living in Judea and Samaria who do desire, should be able to receive Jordanian citizenship. 
As for the Arabs in Gaza: it would only be natural for Gaza to be absorbed by the State of Egypt. I believe that the issues facing us are international, and should be addressed by all nations of the world, including the Egyptians. Egypt, having received the Sinai from Israel, should be an active participate in the continuing peace process. Therefore, Israel is volunteering any and all assistance to green the Sinai desert, thereby provided both food and employment for tens and hundreds of thousands of Gazans.

Peace is not, and cannot be dependent on any one country or culture. All must play a role in bringing real peace to the world. Therefore, we expect the Arab world, the European Union, the Russians, and the United States, as well as member countries of the United Nations, to partake in funding and implementing this plan, which will allow the Palestinians to live as free citizens of their countries, without continuing to endanger the State of Israel, and without forcing Israel to divide its holy land. 
Finally, concerning Jerusalem, there should not be any illusions about Israeli policy. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, beginning with the Davidic Kingdom. After Jews were exiled from this holy city and from our holy land, Jerusalem was left desolate and abandoned. 
Temple Mount is the holiest place in the world, site of the sacred Beit HaMikdash, the Temple. The Jewish people lost this holiest of sites because of our rejection of Eretz Yisrael during the days of Moses. I am sure that only when we, as a country, as a people, officially recognize our allegiance to this site, and via this, to our G-d in heaven, that eventually we will achieve an authentic, eternal peace. Israel will never, ever divide Jerusalem. 
My fellow countrymen: We must be aware that there are many who will reject my proposals. In 1948 Israeli independence was rejected by the Arab world. Despite this, despite being surrounded by massive enemy forces, despite attacks on all fronts, we were victorious, because we believed in what we had to do: 100% of the Jews here in Israel believed 100% in our goals. 
If we believe in ourselves, in our rights to our land, if we believe in our past and look to our future, if we believe in our G-d - given right to our land, then there is no doubt that we will be victorious again, today.  
G-d bless you all.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Cycle of Life

Sivan 17, 5769, 6/9/2009

The Cycle of Life

Over the years I've authored many different kinds of articles, dealing with various subjects; some political, some personal, some satire, some sad, some happy. Today's is a real mix.
A few nights ago I attended a special wedding in Kiryat Arba. The chatan, or groom, is the son of a friend, who many of you may know, or have heard of. Gary and Andrea Cooperberg moved to Kiryat Arba in 1981, just a month or so after my wife and I settled there. Andrea is a dedicated nurse in the local medical center. Gary has been working with Yeshivat Nir Kiryat Arba for many years and is well known for his articles, titled: A Voice from Hebron.
The Cooperbergs then lived in an apartment adjacent to ours, and when Andrea left to give birth in Jerusalem on a Shabbat morning, she sent her other children to spend the day with us. That night we received the happy news: a new baby boy now belonged to their family.
Of course, the brit milah, the baby's circumcision was due to take place eight days later. The eighth day just happened to fall on Shabbat, Chol HaMoed Succot, the Sabbath occurring during the Succot holiday. Gary and Andrea decided that their son's brit would be at none other than Ma'arat HaMachpela – the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in Hebron. Today, that's no problem. The Ma'arat HaMachpela Authority is notified and they handle all the necessary details. However back then, 28 years ago, it wasn't so easy. Not only wasn't it easy; it was almost impossible. At that time celebrating a brit at the Ma'ara was prohibited. Supposedly, according to Islam, Moslems are forbidden to drink alcohol. Therefore, in order to 'honor' (appease) the Arabs, any acts, such as a Brit, which necessitated use of wine, were banned at this holy Jewish site. Of course, grape juice, a permitted substitute for wine, was also forbidden, because it 'looked like' wine.
However, this did not deter the Cooperbergs. Due to the fact that the Brit was to take place on Shabbat of Succot, many people were worshiping at Ma'arat HaMachpela. The presence of an unusually large crowd didn't stir up suspicions. Andrea walked from Kiryat Arba to Hebron with the baby in a carriage, but this too was normal. At the entrance to the building were two soldiers; someone struck up a conversion with one of them, as did someone else with the other, while Andrea, unobtrusively whisked the newborn baby inside, without anyone paying any attention.
A few minutes later, towards the end of the morning prayer service, before anyone had any idea what was happening, the Brit Milah was performed in the largest and most important room at Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Isaac Hall, known in Hebrew as Ohel Yitzhak. This room contains an opening in the floor leading down into the actual caves of Machpela and is called "haPetach l'Gan Eden" – the entrance to Paradise, the passage to the Garden of Eden.
The baby was given a name in accordance with the site: Avi Yitzhak. Avi Yitzhak was probably the first Jew honored to have his brit in Ohel Yitzhak in literally thousands of years.

Today, almost 28 years later, Avi Yitzhak Cooperberg is an ordained Rabbi and continues his Torah studies at one of the finest yeshivas in Jerusalem, located in the Old City, adjacent to the Kotel, the Western Wall. And a few days ago Avi Yitzhak married Ester, a lovely women whose family are friends of mine. Originally from England, Ester too has made her home in the holy land. Their beautiful wedding, overlooking Hebron, seemed to be a wonderful way to end last week.
However, as life is, that joy was soon shattered.
About 16 years ago ago a Yemenite family from the Israeli city of Rehovot, moved to Hebron. The father, Rabbi Inon, is a Torah scholar, who has made study and education his life's work. Orna, the mother is also a teacher. They too were privileged to raise a large family in Hebron.
But life in Hebron is not without its perils. Some fourteen years ago Arab terrorists shot a missile into their home. Fortunately it didn't explode and no one was hurt. In later years three of their sons were wounded by terrorists in Hebron; one was seriously stabbed and the other two shot while standing on their apartment balcony. They all recovered. But this past Friday was different.
Chenya Meshulam's name is very special. Chen means grace or charm. And she certainly was a very charming young woman. The second part of her name hints at the Name of G-d. In other words, she embodied the grace of G-d. And she really did. Just over seventeen years of age, she was on the verge of graduating from a women's religious high school in Beit El. Next year she planned on participating in a program for women's volunteer national service. That is, if she didn't get married first (as do many young women, just out of high school.)

 Last weekend all the girls in her class were having a special 'parents-daughters' Shabbat at her school. For some reason, Chenya came home to Hebron on Thursday and that night, at about midnight, she invited her friends to a late-night party. She ordered pizza and asked them what they'd like to drink. When the others answered 'hot chocolate', she went upstairs to her home and prepared that for them. At one o'clock she gave all the girls a hug and kiss and went home to sleep.
The next day, Friday, Chenya spent about an hour and a half at my apartment with my daughter and another friend, preparing for the upcoming Shabbat. When she left Hebron at about 1:30, catching a ride into Jerusalem, heading back towards her school, she called another friend from her class, also from Hebron, and asked that they give her parents a ride, later on, to her high school for the special Shabbat.
At about 2:15 the car Chenya was in was hit by an Arab vehicle, which refused to yield right-of-way. By the time an emergency crew was able to get Chenya out of the wrecked car, it was too late to save her.
The pain and anguish, hearing of her sudden death was almost unbearable.
A few hours later, just before Shabbat, Chenya Meshulam was brought to rest at the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron. It seemed so unreal, that this beautiful young woman was no longer here, was being buried following such a horrible, unnecessary accident. Yet there was nothing left to do but return home and bring in Shabbat.
Saturday night: Shortly after the conclusion of Shabbat, with the pain of Friday still throbbing, we received notification: Please pray for Porat Yosef ben Shunamit.
This four and half year old boy was the son of a couple who grew up in Hebron. The child's grandparents, Ronen and Anat Cohen, and Yisrael and Miriam Ze'ev still live in Hebron. Their married children live in the mountains of Samaria. That Shabbat, while visiting friends, the child went outside to play. At some point he must have fallen into a pond, where he was later found. Despite attempts to revive him, the child didn't survive, and he too was buried in Hebron, across the field from Chenya, on Sunday afternoon.
Two funerals in three days, both so heartbreaking, very difficult to emotionally deal with.
But as life will have it, our story does not end here, on such a sad note.
Tonight - Monday night at Ma'arat HaMachpela. A joyous atmosphere, singing and dancing in the air. A marriage canopy – a chuppah, is outlined on the background of the huge ancient building atop the caves of Machpela. The bride and groom – chatan and kallah, standing side-by-side, become man and wife, and the festivity begins.
But this is no ordinary festivity. The Chatan – the groom, Shilo – is one of fourteen children, brought up here in Hebron. He is one of the few people who had the privilege to grow up at Tel Hebron, the home of Abraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivka, Ya'akov and Leah, as well as the sons of Ya'akov, Bnei Yisrael, who became the 12 tribes of Israel.

And the Kallah is also very special. Hadas is the daughter of Gilad Zar, hy"d, security chief of the Shomron, who was killed by Arab terrorists a number of years ago. She is also the niece of Anat and Ronen Cohen, who buried a grandchild yesterday.
How is it possible to dance at such a wedding?
In August of 1929, 67 Jews were murdered by Arabs during a pogrom in Hebron. Over 20 of those killed were yeshiva students, who studied at the famed "Slobodka yeshiva" in the city.
A week after the massacre, one of yeshiva students who survived, was to be married. How would the other students act, still in shock and mourning following the awful events of the previous week?
The Rabbis of the yeshiva decreed: All of the yeshiva's students would attend the wedding; no excuses would be accepted, no exceptions were to be made. And at the wedding, all the students would dance as they'd never danced before. A wedding is a happy, joyous occasion. There's a time to mourn and a time to celebrate. At weddings, we all celebrate.

And so it was then. And so it was tonight. Under the stars, next to Ma'arat HaMachpela, all joined hands to sing and dance, to celebrate the festive beginning of a new family, here in Hebron. The chatan and kallah radiated a unique elation saved for newlyweds. All those attending, including most of those who had participated in the two funerals, sang and danced as if they too were not only standing at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, but were actually there, in the Garden itself.
That is Hebron.  That is, the cycle of life.