Sunday, Aug 1, 2021

My Take On The News

A Fake Government Declares War on Everything Holy

The new government has dominated the headlines this week, and that makes it a natural starting point for this column. I was in the Knesset on Sunday, and I watched the debate that ended with a vote of confidence for this new, evil government. I listened to Naftoli Bennett—I supposed I should get used to calling him “Prime Minister Bennett”—as he delivered a shallow, empty speech. His words for praise for Binyomin Netanyahu and his wife were clearly nothing more than lip service, but Bennett also had nothing of substance to tell the country about his own plans. The Knesset members and ministers of the Likud, along with MK Malchieli of the Shas party and Moshe Gafni of UTJ, heckled him ceaselessly. Yariv Levin, during his final minutes as Knesset speaker before he was replaced by Mickey Levi of Yesh Atid, tried to quiet the shouting legislators, albeit to no avail.

Bennett was followed at the podium by Yair Lapid, who holds the title of alternate prime minister. Lapid spoke very briefly, possibly because Bennett’s speech was too long, or because it was heckled so badly. They were followed by the new leader of the opposition, Binyomin Netanyahu, who gave a long speech touting his own accomplishments and accusing Bennett of incompetence. Bennett had claimed that he would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, and Netanyahu rejoined, “No one believes a word that you say!” He ended his address by promising to continue serving the people until the new government was replaced. His speech was interrupted by numerous ovations, and the Knesset speaker repeatedly reminded the audience that applause is not permitted in the Knesset.

It was a unique day. The religious public had no reason to celebrate, but others felt that they did. The hoopla was enormous. There were reporters stationed on every floor of the Knesset building; even the BBC and CNN were represented. Hundreds of members of the Knesset Guard were deployed throughout the building to prevent the many visitors from entering areas that were off limits to them. The Knesset was in a veritable state of hysteria. And the usual sights in the Knesset building gave way to new images: Until now, it was Netanyahu who walked the halls surrounded by a tight group of bodyguards, while Benny Gantz was accompanied by a slightly smaller entourage, but now that distinction has passed to Lapid and Bennett. Meanwhile, the internal computer of the Knesset showed that all 120 members of the legislature were present in the building. This is a fairly rare phenomenon; the last time it happened was on the day of the presidential election.

The Vote Is Tallied

After the first three speeches, each of the political parties had a turn at the podium. Each party was allotted nine minutes to divide among its members as it saw fit. Benny Gantz, for instance, took the entire nine minutes allotted to Blue and White for himself, while UTJ split its time between Gafni (who received five minutes) and Litzman (who spoke for the remaining four). The Shas party divided its time equally between Deri, Malchieli, and Azulai. I will write separately about those speeches.

At 8:30 p.m., in advance of the confidence vote for the new government, a vote was held to elect the speaker of the 24th Knesset. The candidate supported by the new coalition was Mickey Levi of Yesh Atid. At the last minute, Yaakov Margi of the Shas party presented his own candidacy as well, even though he knew that he wouldn’t be elected. Mickey Levi received 67 votes, while Margi received 52. Levi made his way to the speaker’s seat and relieved Yariv Levin of the position, to the sound of applause from the Knesset. Mickey Levi then proceeded to announce the vote for the new government. The vote was conducted by roll call rather than electronically. There wasn’t too much suspense in the air; it was clear to everyone that the government would be approved. At the same time, it would be significant if the government passed the threshold of 61 votes.

In the end, they did not reach that threshold. This came as a blow to the coalition’s morale, since it meant that they would not have a majority in the Knesset. The coalition holds no more than 60 seats, making it an extremely fragile government. There were 59 votes against the government; had there been one more opposing vote, it wouldn’t have passed at all. In other words, this government exists on a margin of a single vote. The Knesset erupted in pandemonium as soon as the new government was approved, with the Likud shouting that it was a disgrace.

At 9:01 p.m., Mickey Levi invited Naftoli Bennett to come to the podium and take the oath of office as prime minister and alternate prime minister at once. Bennett was followed by Lapid and then the other government ministers. An usher led him to the government table and showed him to the seat that had been occupied by Binyomin Netanyahu just a short time earlier. Benny Gantz was already there, since there was no need for him to be sworn in. Lapid took his oath and then sat down next to Gantz, followed by the other ministers. With that, the ceremony was over.

A Series of Contradictory Agreements

Israeli law requires the coalition agreements to be publicized 24 hours before the vote in the Knesset. The agreements were therefore placed on the Knesset table shortly before Shabbos and were relayed to all 120 members of the Knesset. The exposure of the agreements kicked off a major uproar. It seemed as if every important value had been compromised, as if the State of Israel had held a fire sale on everything it has ever held dear. This is true from a nationalist perspective, as the new government capitulated to all the demands of the Arab Raam party, but what is even more important was the complete surrender of all religious values.

The coalition agreements claim that the status quo on religious issues will be observed, but the parties also promised to pass new laws concerning conversion, civil marriage, the Kosel, businesses operating on Shabbos, and other issues. And if it seems odd that these agreements contradict each other, the truth is that almost every one of the agreements signed between the parties in the coalition is contradicted by other agreements. Yesh Atid’s agreement with Yisroel Beiteinu, for instance, directly contradicts the agreement it signed with Yamina, and its contract with Meretz cannot be reconciled with its agreement with Gideon Saar. Aside from that, enormous concessions were made to the Arab parties in order for this government to get off the ground, including huge sums in funding for the Arab sector, the retroactive approval of rampant illegal Arab construction, and even the establishment of new Arab cities. One can only imagine the furor that would have resulted if the chareidim had asked for even half of this. The mere act of asking—not even receiving it—would have sparked a tidal wave of indignation.

At the joint meeting of the chareidi parties, I managed to glean some more insight into what is happening in the government today. Although Yesh Atid seems to have gotten the smallest share of the spoils when the government positions were distributed, that doesn’t mean that Yair Lapid is a noble statesman who was willing to sacrifice his own interests for the greater good. On the contrary, he is a cunning strategist who is biding his time and sees the current government as a stepping stone toward his ultimate goal. Netanyahu was the only thing standing between Lapid and his dream of ruling the country, and in the government’s current term he was willing to pay any price to remove that barrier to his ambitions. As his next step, he plans to conquer the premiership without any favors from Bennett and Saar. When the next round of negotiations arrives, Lapid will not be nearly as accommodating as he was this time.

Treachery and Lies

Recent days have exposed us to countless brazen lies, and we have seen many senior government figures shamelessly break their promises and turn their backs on their constituents—such as Naftoli Bennett, who ignored his vow not to hand the reins of the country to Lapid, and Avigdor Lieberman, who promised that he would never enter a government that would depend on supporters of terror for its existence.

On the day the new government was sworn in, Bennett announced that the door is open to the chareidi parties and that he is waiting to welcome them into the government. That, however, was the boldest lie of all. For one thing, Bennett and Lapid signed a pact with Lieberman awarding the latter the right to veto the inclusion of the chareidi parties. Lieberman himself has already announced that he will not allow a single chareidi party to join the government, especially before the state budget is approved. All of this belies Bennett’s assurances that the chareidim are welcome to join him, but the problems run even deeper than that. Even if the chareidim are officially invited to join the government, it is utterly absurd to expect a chareidi party to be part of a government that is founded on such “principles.”

At the meeting of the chareidi parties, Aryeh Deri revealed a startling fact: “Netanyahu’s last offer to Gideon Saar [which would have placed Saar in the position of prime minister, followed in a rotation by Netanyahu himself and then Bennett] was serious, and Saar wanted to accept it. He wasn’t eager to give power to Lapid. But Bennett pressured him to reject the offer; he explained to Saar that he had already closed a deal with Lapid. That means that Bennett was once again responsible for preventing a right-wing government from being formed. The outcome of this entire process was sealed well in advance. And now we understand why Rav Ovadiah Yosef referred to Bennett and his cronies, who used to call themselves Bayit Yehudi, as the ‘house of goyim.’”

When Rav Ovadiah spoke out against Bayit Yehudi (the party led by Bennett when he made his first pact with Lapid in 2013), his comments became the talk of the day. He condemned Bennett in the harshest possible terms, which was quite surprising at the time. Today, however, his remarks seem practically prophetic. Perhaps I will write about this at length in the near future.

An Answer to Lapid’s Refrain

One of the most conspicuous commitments made by the new government was the massive funding pledged to the Arab sector in exchange for the support of Mansour Abbas and his three colleagues in the Knesset. This was nothing short of a political bribe that would easily have triggered petitions to the Supreme Court if Netanyahu had perpetrated it, yet it is now being allowed to pass in silence.

Yair Lapid has long been assailing the country with the question of “where did the money go?” That has been his constant refrain in his many attacks on the chareidi community. Well, it seems that he has now found the fortune that he was looking for—albeit not where he was looking for it. The money, Yair, can be found in Raam’s pockets—now that you have awarded it to them! From now on, whenever Yair Lapid cynically asks where “the money” has gone, he should be reminded that he gave it to the Arabs. And the Israeli government was extremely generous to the keffiyeh-clad minority.

None of this was based on ideology or ethical principles. The new government has turned its back on all of its values. All the causes that were once championed by its leaders have been cast aside. Yair Lapid attacked the previous government for being bloated and wasteful, yet he has duplicated those exact offenses. He mocked the establishment of a rotation for the premiership with the office of alternate prime minister, but now he has personally settled into that seat. And no one will ever again believe a word spoken by Naftoli Bennett, the man who vowed and signed a pledge not to allow Lapid to rise to power (“because I am from the right and he is from the left”) and likewise pledged not to support Abbas (“because he supports terror”) and has broken both of those promises.

Avigdor Lieberman is another such phenomenon. We all remember when he tore into the Arab sector with his slogan “no loyalty, no citizenship.” At the time, he called for a boycott of Arab businesses, yet today he supports Esawi Frij for a ministerial post and Mansour Abbas for the chairmanship of the Knesset Interior Committee. In addition, Lieberman is the one who will sign the fat checks being handed to the Arab sector. Who would ever have believed that he would do such a thing?

Meanwhile, all of the champions of the “rule of law” who used to denounce Lieberman for corruption are now in the process of handing him the keys to the government’s coffers. Yoav Segalovich, a member of Yesh Atid today who will be working alongside Lieberman in the Finance Ministry, once led an investigation into Lieberman’s activities and recommended indicting him. Segalovich fumed with anger when the case against Lieberman was closed without charges being brought against him. The two men have always harbored enmity toward each other, yet now they are working together. This is utterly mind-boggling.

An Interesting MK Named Eli Avidar

MK Eli Avidar, a member of Lieberman’s party, managed to raise the government’s collective blood pressure before the vote this Sunday when he announced that he was unwilling to vote in favor of the government, which relied on a razor-thin majority of 61 mandates. Yair Lapid hurried to arrange a safety net for himself, in the form of MK Ahmed Tibi of the Joint Arab List. Of course, that was yet another black mark on Lapid’s record, since he had previously promised never to establish a government that relied on the support of the Joint List. (Nevertheless, Lapid was willing to accept the support of Abbas’s party, Raam, as if there is some difference between the Arab factions.)

The Egyptian-born Avidar is an interesting man. In the past, he served as an ambassador to several different countries, and he still has warm feelings for Jewish tradition. This week, he told me about his late father, Reb Yitzchak Avidar (Zaki Aboudara), who earned eternal merit during his tenure as the deputy mayor of Bat Yam by preventing various breaches of religious standards at the city, mostly at the request of Rav Eliyohu Bakshi-Doron. Rav Bakshi-Doron was elected as the chief rabbi of Israel after serving as the rov of Haifa; however, he began his rabbinical career as the chief rabbi of Bat Yam.

Eli Avidar, who is a passionate and sharp-witted fellow, takes great care not to speak against the chareidi community. I wonder what he will do when the government tries to implement its anti-religious decisions….

This week in the Knesset, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of bungled attempts to quote traditional sources. Amir Ohana, the outgoing Minister of Internal Security, said this week, “Unfortunately, I spent the days after the tragedy visiting houses of mourning, from Yerushalayim to Rechasim and from Beit Shemesh to Bnei Brak. Sadly, the arm is still outstretched.” That was a bit of a verbal slip; he meant to use the Hebrew idiom “the hand [of judgment] is still outstretched,” but instead he borrowed a metaphor from Yetzias Mitzrayim.

MK Osama Saadi, an Arab member of the Knesset, also mangled a quote when he commented to outgoing Labor and Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli: “I must ask you something. It is said that when someone begins to speak, when he begins a mitzvah—let him complete it.” Perhaps Saadi should have looked up the exact wording of the statement, which actually reads, “When a person begins a mitzvah, he is told to finish it.”

Finally, last week the Knesset discussed various forms of incitement, with each sector pointing an accusing finger at others. Yariv Levin declared, “If we are speaking about incitement, then what has been happening with the prime minister has broken every record.” Ahmed Tibi announced, “I condemn the use of our keffiyehs. If you want to incite against each other, do it without using keffiyehs.” He was referring to a new practice of drawing caricatures of people wearing keffiyehs to indicate their “betrayal” of the political right. Rabin was portrayed in that fashion in the past, and now it is Bennett’s turn.

Remembering an Infamous Pogrom

Last week, the Knesset marked the 80th anniversary of the Farhud, a vicious pogrom against the Jewish community of Baghdad. Four members of the Knesset delivered speeches, in a session that was opened by the speaker and ended with an address from the deputy education minister. One of the speakers was MK Yosef Taib (Shas). Here is a brief excerpt from his speech:

“I would like to read to you the eyewitness account of a woman who survived the Farhud. I am not Iraqi,” he added parenthetically, “but I am Tunisian, and perhaps that is the reason that I was asked to speak on behalf of the Shas party. This woman wrote the following: ‘It is difficult to describe the painful testimonies and chilling accounts that were collected during those days. What happened on that Shavuos cannot be described in delicate terms. Arabs who lived next door to Jews, who were their friends, and who walked the same streets, worked with them, and did business with them, suddenly became bloodthirsty enemies. Jews who were returning from the Yom Tov davening were run over in the streets and even stabbed. Jews ran away from the rioters, and other Arabs threw dangerous objects at them from the rooftops. Babies were thrown into the river and the wells…. Shuls were torched and sifrei Torah were desecrated, and Jewish-owned stores were marked in red, looted, and set on fire. Jews’ property was stolen from their homes; some of the houses were burned and others were flooded with water. Later, the rioters were even joined by policemen and soldiers who fired at the Jews with live weapons.”

I later discovered that Yossi Taib feels a connection to the events he described on account of his aide, Rachamim Chugi, who is a grandson of survivors of the Farhud. His grandparents, Rachamim and Miriam Chugi, lived through the horrors.

Speaking of Yossi Taib, his position in the Knesset may not last much longer. He initially entered the Knesset when Aryeh Deri resigned to hold a ministerial post, in accordance with the Norwegian Law. Deri is no longer a minister at this time, and he is debating whether to return to his seat in the parliament. He was actually leaning toward resigning from the government altogether, but it was suggested to him that he should not leave the Knesset at this time. If he does decide to return, then Taib will have to vacate his seat, just as Eliyohu Bruchi will have to exit the Knesset in order to allow Maklev to return, and Eliyohu Tessler will have to give up his seat for Yaakov Litzman.

Another Victim of Arab Violence: Professor Har-Even

Now that we have learned about Arab violence in the past, we can turn our attention to the violence that is taking place in the present. As you know, in recent weeks Israel has been rocked by riots in the mixed cities of Yaffo, Haifa, Acco, and Lod. The prosecution has begun pressing charges against the perpetrators of lynches. Using the services of the police and the Shabak, the prosecution has been working hard to capture anyone who took part in a violent lynch, whether it was Jews attacking Arabs (which happened in a few isolated cases) or Arabs attacking Jews (of which there were many cases). The police have also been trying to apprehend Arab rioters who threw stones at Jewish victims or hurled Molotov cocktails into Jewish-owned homes. What is infuriating, however, is that their efforts resulted in the indictments of two or three Arabs … and the same number of Jews. Once again, this is part of a galling and disingenuous bid to create “symmetry” between Arab and Jewish crimes where there is none. The prosecution, for their part, explained that they pressed charges against any perpetrators whom they managed to identify.

Meanwhile, Professor Avi Har-Even, a recipient of the Israel Defense Prize and former director of the Israel Space Agency, passed away in Rambam Hospital in Haifa last Sunday. The 84-year-old Har-Even was severely wounded after Arab rioters set fire to the Efendi Hotel in Acco, where he was staying. He was transferred to Rambam Hospital suffering from burns and smoke inhalation, and he remained sedated and intubated throughout his hospitalization.

Har-Even held senior positions in the aerospace industry, where he worked in research, development, and marketing. He headed a program for the development and manufacture of the Israeli Shavit satellite launcher, and he served as a professional consultant to the Galileo navigational satellite program. In 1995, he was appointed the director of the Israel Space Agency, a position that he held until September 2004. Following his death, the Ministry of Science released the following statement: “The Israel Space Agency, a division of the Ministry of Science and Technology, shares in the profound pain of the Har-Even family following the death of Avi Har-Even, who was mortally injured in an arson attack on a hotel during the riots. Har-Even, 84 years old at the time of his death, was the director-general of the Israel Space Agency, a recipient of the Israel Defense Prize, and one of the senior members of the Israeli aerospace industry.”

A Series of Devastating Fires

Unfortunately, attempts to murder Jews (mainly soldiers) have been happening almost every day. Boruch Hashem, the terrorists haven’t been succeeding in their nefarious plans, and most of the terrorists have been killed by Israeli security forces. On a related note, the IDF has repeatedly thwarted attempts to smuggle weapons into Gaza. The hands of Eisov simply do not rest.

And then there is another form of Arab violence that has been rocking the country in recent days. Over the past two weeks, there have been many wildfires, some of which took place near major cities, including chareidi population centers. During one of the fires, the authorities considered evacuating the residents of Beitar Illit. A fire in the mountains surrounding Yerushalayim prompted the authorities to close the Yerushalayim-Tel Aviv Highway to vehicular traffic. At a certain point, train service was also halted in the vicinity of Shaar HaGai and at the stations in Ben Gurion Airport and Yerushalayim, but the trains resumed after a short time. In the community of Maaleh HaChamishah, which was in immediate danger from the wildfire, the residents were evacuated from their homes. Even the proceedings in the trial of Prime Minister Netanyahu were interrupted on account of the fire. In the mountains surrounding Yerushalayim, 2650 dunams of forest were destroyed. Twelve firefighting planes were deployed to fight the fire, and 267,000 liters of chemicals were used to extinguish it. The firefighting services managed to prevent the fires from penetrating the nearby communities, and no injuries were reported.

Another major fire took place near the city of Ariel in the Shomron. When the firefighting teams arrived, they encountered a wall of flame a full kilometer long, and they found that the fire was spreading rapidly due to the winds and the topography in the area. They managed to create a buffer zone between the flames and the city, and to protect the wildlife in a nearby nature reserve. They were also assisted by Palestinian firefighters. The most important aspect of these stories, however, is the fact that the fires appear to have been caused by arson.

On Sunday, the day the new government was sworn in, a large wildfire erupted near the highway connecting Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim, and several Knesset members arrived late due to the closure of the highway. The fire even forced the authorities to evacuate some residents from their homes.

Change in Meron

Another issue at hand is the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the tragedy in Meron. Amazingly, the incoming government actually made a point of promising to set up a probe—as if to imply that they care about the situation more than the chareidi parties do. What they do not realize is that the chareidi community and the grieving families will not be satisfied with an official commission of inquiry headed by a retired judge. These commissions generally aim to find someone to blame for a catastrophe, but the chareidim are interested in a different type of commission—one that will have the authority to make changes for the future.

Meanwhile, I came across a speech delivered eight years ago by the Minister of Internal Security at the time, Yitzchok Aharonovitch, who was a member of Lieberman’s party and a former police commissioner. “I was in Meron,” he announced. “This year, the number of celebrants increased by many percentages, and the police estimate that about 450,000 people arrived over the course of the holiday. I have never seen anything like this, and I have been observing this site not for one or two years, but for a period of about 30 years…. This year, the police prevented people from sleeping in the tents and huts that were erected there, because they were unsafe, yet the police were attacked for preventing this. Anyone who saw the chicken coops and the hundreds of beds there can understand that the police and the firefighting service were correct in refusing to approve those accommodations for visitors, which could have turned into a death trap…. The weather was hotter than usual, and the intense crowding in the vicinity of the kever caused many participants to decide to leave the area as soon as the bonfire was over, which led to additional crowding. Hundreds of police officers were sent to the entrances and exits of the parking lots, where they worked for many hours to direct traffic and to try to relieve the pressure….

“The decision of the police to appoint a civilian agency to manage this event has many advantages,” Aharonovitch added. “I hope that that agency can be established and take charge of the event by the time the festivities in Meron take place next year…. That is the proper formula. This is the second most heavily visited tourist site in Israel, after the Kosel, with the third being Kever Rochel. Once and for all, there must be an entity established to manage and oversee this site, which receives not 100,00 visitors but 400,000 or 500,000, and to make order. The decision was made by the government four years ago; it needs only to be implemented…. The police are responsible for security, for order, and for regulating traffic…. The problem with this great and holy event is that it is impossible for such a large number of mispallelim, on the order of 400,000 or 500,000 people, to crowd onto this mountain. It is simply impossible…. There must be an agency that will manage it, as there is at the Kosel…. The mountain and the kever cannot contain such quantities of people unless it is reorganized…. We must derive the proper lessons and establish an administrative body that will attend to this, that will oversee the site and resolve all of its problems, or else tomorrow—by which I mean next year, but it will arrive very quickly—we will reach an unfortunate place.”

A Widow’s Pain

This Shabbos will mark the yahrtzeit of the Shefa Chaim, Rav Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam of Sanz-Klausenberg, who is more commonly known as the Klausenberger Rebbe. I am always fascinated by reading about him, and I find his spiritual fortitude absolutely astounding. There are mind-boggling stories about his scrupulous avoidance of treif food in the death camps and about the encouragement he gave to his fellow prisoners as they suffered from starvation and crushing slave labor. Every Shabbos, I read divrei Torah that have been culled from his shiurim on the parsha. From time to time, especially after particularly harsh mussar, the Rebbe used to lighten the mood by sharing a story with his audience, and I have become an avid collector of those stories. Here is one such anecdote, which appeared in the weekly publication of the Klausenberger Rebbe’s teachings:

A wealthy man, one of the most prominent members of Radin, was attacked by bandits on the road and viciously murdered in the prime of his life. The bandits absconded with his wealth, and the man’s widow and orphaned children were left penniless, since he had carried all of his worldly possessions with him. When news of the tragedy reached the town, the entire community was plunged into mourning. “Those were the days before Hitler,” the Rebbe added, “when there was still some emotion and humanity left in the world, and people were pained by the suffering of others.”

When the Chofetz Chaim was informed about the tragedy, however, his reaction was different. “I knew this was going to happen,” the saintly gadol said, “and I have been waiting for a long time to hear this news.” Naturally, the Chofetz Chaim’s family members were shocked to hear these words from such a paragon of ahavas Yisroel. The Chofetz Chaim explained, “Several years ago, that man owned a building containing apartments that he leased to tenants. Unfortunately, one of his tenants, who was a wealthy man, passed away and was survived by a widow and small children. The widow did not have the ability to support her family, and she lived in crushing poverty, unable even to pay the rent. Several months passed without payment, and the landlord finally ordered her to leave the apartment, but she refused to do so. He lodged a complaint against her with the secular court, and bailiffs were sent to remove the woman and her possessions from the apartment. On a cold winter day, she was evicted from her home with all of her belongings and sent into the street, as is done today to a tenant who does not pay his rent. This unfortunate woman stood outdoors in the cold along with her children, while the gentiles hauled their beds and other household items out of the home and deposited them in the snow. As this went on, the woman and her children cried and screamed for mercy from Hashem.

“I witnessed this when I was returning from shul,” the Chofetz Chaim continued, “and I contemplated the fact that the Torah states, ‘Do not afflict a widow or orphan; if you afflict him, if he cries out to Me, I will certainly hear his cry, and My wrath will be kindled against you and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives will be widows and your sons will be orphans’ (Shemos 22:21-23). Throughout the intervening years, I wondered why the promise of this posuk was not fulfilled, but I was certain that it would eventually come to pass.”

The Klausenberger Rebbe observed, “This is an awe-inspiring thought. The Torah is not just a book of stories and mere words; it is eternal and absolutely true, and if the Torah states that a sin will cause a loss of life, then we know that it will definitely be so.”

Mike Pompeo Criticizes Biden

Mike Pompeo, who served until recently as Secretary of State, was interviewed in an Israeli newspaper this week and spoke very critically about President Joe Biden. Regarding Biden’s conduct during Operation Guardian of the Walls (when the president actually spoke out in favor of Israel) Pompeo said, “Under the previous administration, we would have done things differently. We would have immediately declared our unconditional support for Israel.”

The interviewer pointed out that Biden himself had explicitly spoken out in favor of Israel, and Pompeo replied, “Yes, President Biden certainly said the right words, but I think that most of the people felt that he was sending a completely different message … because at the same time that he was verbalizing his support for Israel, he was also sending funds to the Palestinians. At the same time that he was speaking, he removed the designation of the Houthis as a terror organization. At the same time that he was delivering this speech, American representatives were sitting in Vienna and talking with the Iranians—even if it was indirect—about how many billions of dollars they were going to give to the same wretched people who fund Hamas.”

Pompeo con-firmed that the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which was brokered by America, included a provision for the sale of F-35 aircraft to the Emirates, which Netanyahu had denied at the time. He was asked if this clause had been demanded by the UAE and Israel was given no choice but to include it, and he responded, “There was a series of actions that made it possible for the agreements to move forward and to be signed, including the point that you made. The assassination of Soleimani was also closely linked to the Abraham Accords; it proved to the entire world that the United States is resolute in its battle against Iran. The decisions to bolster the Saudi air defense and to move the embassy to Yerushalayim, along with my decision to announce that not all the settlements were illegal, led leaders throughout the world to the conclusion that these people—we, the members of the Trump administration—were serious and determined. I think that is what gave many world leaders the confidence to move forward. The agreement on the sale of the F-35 was critical for that purpose since it proved that we have confidence in them as partners in our security. The sale itself attests to the fact that the Israelis and Americans both believe that the Emirates can share their views on security, and that is extremely important.”

All I can say is that I hope this long response made sense to you….

The Lost Passport—A Story of Hashgocha Protis

I would like to share with you an incredible story of hashgocha protis that came to my attention last week. This personal account comes from a resident of Monsey whose father is one of the most prominent rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel. The protagonist, a dual citizen, possesses passports from both Israel and America, and he related the following:

“During the coronavirus pandemic, it was impossible to visit Israel. My parents were in Yerushalayim, and I was stuck in New York since before Pesach. I wanted to visit them, but I couldn’t find my American passport, and my Israeli passport expired in 2019. When I had last come to Israel for an urgent visit, I received a special dispensation to leave the country with my American passport.”

Let me explain. An Israeli citizen is generally allowed to enter or leave the country only with his Israeli passport, even if he possesses a passport from a different country. The purpose is to ensure that his travels will be properly recorded in the government’s computer system. It is sometimes possible to enter the country with a foreign passport, but the traveler is asked for his Israeli identity number, and the records are updated accordingly. In order for a citizen to leave Israel, though, the authorities insist that he must use an Israeli passport, and that it must be valid. In exceptional circumstances, a person may receive permission to leave the country with a foreign passport, along with a special permit containing his Israeli ID number. Once again, the departure is recorded in the Israeli computers.

The account continues, “I tried to renew my passport at the Israeli consulate in New York, but my efforts were of no avail. One day the consulate was on strike, and another day it was closed. This was all par for the course, and I reassured myself that I would be able to travel to Israel with my American passport. But I searched for it everywhere, and I could not find it.

“For lack of an alternative, I applied for a new American passport. Two days later, before I received the new one, it became cold in New York. It was the month of November, and the temperatures dropped steeply. I put on my coat for the first time in months, and I found my old American passport in the pocket. It was valid until 2024! My last flight to Europe before the pandemic had been in February, and my coat had sat in the closet since then, while we did not travel anywhere and I had no reason to look for the passport. But I had already renewed it and the old one was void, leaving me no choice but to tear it up and throw it away. I wondered to myself, ‘Why did Hashem do this to me? Why did I have to go through this aggravation?’ About two weeks later, the new passport arrived.

“I had received my vaccination and I had antibodies against the coronavirus, so I knew that I could travel to Israel. Knowledgeable people told me, ‘You will be able to get into Israel with your American passport, but you won’t be able to leave the country without a valid Israeli passport.’ An Israeli citizen must have an Israeli passport. I asked if I could get a temporary permit to leave with a foreign passport, and they insisted that such a document would be issued only once. I knew that I had already been given that dispensation, and I presumed that it wouldn’t be an option for me. In order to leave Israel again after I arrived, I would therefore have no choice but to make an appointment at the Interior Ministry in Israel and wait for a new passport to arrive, which would take about a month. It was out of the question, however, for me to remain in Israel for that long; my family and my work are in America. Nevertheless, I had told my father that I would come, and I didn’t want to let him down.

“Finally, I made the decision: I was going to Israel! Hashem would certainly help me. I arrived in the country, and I made some phone calls on the day after my arrival. Some kindly people arranged for me to have an appointment at the Interior Ministry in a remote city right away, and the clerk told me politely that I would have my new passport within two weeks. I replied, ‘I must return to my home in New York in two days, on Thursday.’

“‘That’s impossible,’ she said.

“‘Then can you give me a temporary permit to leave the country on my foreign passport again?’ I asked her.

“‘That permit is only issued once,’ she replied. I begged and pleaded, and she went to consult with her superiors and then returned with the same answer. ‘The computer won’t even print out the permit after it has already been done in the past,’ she said apologetically.

“A young man who was trying to help me suddenly said, ‘Wait a minute; give me your American passport.’ He took the document and examined it, and then he said, ‘I don’t see a temporary permit on this passport. Is it new?’

“‘Yes!’ I exclaimed. ‘I misplaced my old passport and had a new one issued.’

“‘In that case,’ the young man said, ‘since this passport number isn’t registered in the system with a temporary permit, there is no problem issuing another one. You will be able to leave the country with your foreign passport instead of having a new Israeli document issued.’ While he was speaking, he printed the permit.

“This happened solely because I thought I had lost my passport, while I really had it in my possession all along,” the traveler from Monsey concluded. “The purpose of that ordeal was finally revealed to me. I managed to get back to New York in time for Shabbos. In the merit of kibbud av va’eim, all the borders opened for me.”

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