Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024

My Take On The News


The President’s Plans

President Joe Biden is due to land in Israel on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. You can be certain that Prime Minister Lapid will squeeze the maximum number of photo-ops out of this event and will try to keep everyone else in his shadow, including Benny Gantz, who is the Minister of Defense and one of Lapid’s main competitors in the upcoming election.

In a somewhat embarrassing story for Israel, the rivalry between Gantz and Lapid has already led to some rather unpleasant results. During the talks between American and Israeli personnel regarding the schedule for Biden’s visit, a rancorous dispute erupted between Gantz’s staff and Lapid’s assistants regarding the plans for the president to visit Kfar Hamaccabiah and the Palmachim Beach. The dispute became so ugly that the American team decided to leave the Israelis to bicker among themselves.

As of now, this is the president’s schedule: His visit will begin with a reception at the airport and some brief speeches. The first meeting between Lapid and Biden will take place at the airport, after which the president is officially slated to travel to Palmachim Beach, where he will see an Iron Dome missile battery, which Israel received as a gift from the United States. This part of his itinerary, however, is no longer certain, since a message arrived from Washington at the last minute notifying the Israelis that the visit to Palmachim will probably not take place. Either way, President Biden’s next stop will be at the King David Hotel in Yerushalayim, where he will be given plenty of time to rest.

On Thursday morning, the president will visit Yad Vashem, which is a standard destination for every important visitor to Israel. He will presumably be greeted there by Rav Yisroel Meir Lau, who is the chairman of Yad Vashem. One can presume that Biden will be accompanied on this visit by a few senior Israeli officials, possibly including Prime Minister Lapid. From Yad Vashem, he will travel to the Waldorf Astoria hotel for an official meeting with Lapid. The two will hold an online conference with the participation of the president of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed, and the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi. He will then return to the King David Hotel for some more rest.

At 4:35 p.m. (the exact time specified on the itinerary that we received), President Biden is scheduled to leave his hotel and head to the President’s Residence, which is a few minutes’ drive away, to meet with President Yitzchak Herzog and to receive the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor. His next stop is supposed to be at the Maccabiah at Teddy Stadium in Yerushalayim. The Maccabiah is a sporting competition attended by athletes from all over the world, and Biden plans to go there in order to meet with the American delegation. However, this part of his trip is likewise potentially subject to cancellation.

His next stop is … well, I will let you guess. Yes, that is right! He will be heading back to his hotel for another night of sleep. On Friday morning, he will be visiting the Augusta Victoria Hospital on Har Hazeisim, for the Palestinian portion of his visit. He will proceed from there to Beis Lechem, for the Christian part of his trip. The Augusta Victoria Hospital has been receiving funds from the United States for many years. In Beis Lechem, he will meet with Abu Mazen, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority. He will then travel to Ben Gurion Airport for an elegant farewell reception, and then he will take off on a direct flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In principle, there are no direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia; however, in a gesture to President Biden, the Saudis agreed to permit this flight.

Road Closures and Traffic Snarls

The numbers associated with Biden’s visit to Israel are quite staggering. There will be hundreds of guards and other personnel maintaining security, as well as six helicopters. Biden will be accompanied by a planeload of reporters, a convoy of about 80 cars, and an airlift of equipment. Some of Biden’s veritable army of companions have already arrived in Israel; the White House sent a large team to Israel a week ago to begin dealing with the necessary coordination and preparations for the president’s visit. The American delegation includes over 500 staff members and officers of the Secret Service, who are responsible for ensuring the president’s personal safety. In recent days, several C-17 Globemaster planes have landed in Ben Gurion Airport, carrying the equipment that will accompany the president’s huge entourage—including the presidential limousine that has been dubbed “The Beast.”

Biden will be arriving in Israel on Air Force One, the famed presidential aircraft. Aside from all the usual amenities that can be found on planes designated to transport heads of state, such as a presidential suite, an office, and a briefing room, Air Force One also contains a state-of-the-art operating room to be used in the event of an emergency. And in addition to the presidential plane itself, an auxiliary plane will also be brought to Israel to serve Biden in the event that the need arises. Another plane, which will arrive on the day before Biden himself lands in the country, will carry 120 American journalists, who will constitute only a fraction of the hundreds of reporters from Israel and throughout the world who will cover Biden’s visit.

Most of Biden’s movement within Israel will take place in a heavily guarded motorcade; the Americans have also sent six Black Hawk helicopters to Israel, which can likewise be used to transport the president during his visit. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has also assigned about sixty of its employees to prepare for Biden’s visit; these workers have been ordered to set aside all their other responsibilities and to focus on the necessary coordination during his time in Israel. The Israeli police force is also expected to assign thousands of officers to the complex task of providing security for the president. Biden and his entourage will be staying at the King David Hotel, which has been completely taken over by the presidential entourage.

In case you were thinking of visiting Israel this week in honor of Biden’s arrival, I would humbly suggest that you find a different time to come to our country, since the roads will be closed while the president is present. Palmachim is on the seashore, the airport is in the center of the country, and most of Biden’s meetings will be in Yerushalayim, and the roads that connect all of these locations will be closed to travel. To make a long story short, Highway One, which is the main traffic artery in Israel, will be closed to vehicles, as will alternative highways such as Route 443 and even Route 441 (which leads to the center of the country) off and on. The city of Yerushalayim will essentially be under siege. The police have already called on Israelis to refrain from leaving home, or at least to leave their cars at home. At the very least, the public has been asked to avoid the areas where President Biden will be traveling. And the disruptions caused by his visit are not limited to the roads. The airport, too, will experience significant disruptions to its schedule, which will affect both arriving and departing flights.

What Will Be the Price for Biden’s Visit?

At this Sunday’s weekly cabinet session, Prime Minister Lapid called on the neighboring countries to normalize their relations with Israel. Why did he suddenly remember to do this? It was obviously a response to the pressure that he felt in advance of Biden’s visit. Lapid also called on the international community to impose full sanctions on Iran, and he stressed that Israel reserves the right to operate freely in every way, both diplomatically and militarily, in the struggle against the Iranian nuclear threat.

In other words, Yair Lapid is a big talker.

Lapid had a good reason to bring up the issue of the Iranian threat—and it wasn’t due to Biden’s imminent visit. “Yesterday,” he announced, “it was revealed that Iran is enriching uranium in advanced centrifuges, in clear violation of the agreements that it has signed. Israel will not stand by while its enemies seek to harm it. Our security forces are capable of reaching anyone in any place, and they will use that power.” This bluster was typical of Lapid. He added, “President Biden will be flying directly from Yerushalayim to Saudi Arabia, and he will be relaying a message of peace and hope from us to the Saudis. Israel extends its hand to all the states in this region and calls on them to build ties with us, to establish relations with us, and to change the course of history for the sake of our children.”

An article published under Biden’s name touted his visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia as “a small symbol of budding relations and a step toward normalization between Israel and the Arab world, which my administration is working to expand.” He emphasized that he would be visiting the Middle East to “open a new, promising chapter in America’s involvement in the region,” and he added that during his visit to Jeddah “leaders from the entire region will gather and focus on the possibility of a more stable and integrated Middle East, with the United States playing a vital leadership role.” Here in Israel, there is great concern that the president’s visit to Israel might end with a major blow associated with Iran. Biden is reportedly determined to sign an agreement that will include Iran, and Israel fears that he may be too lenient with the Iranians in a bid to induce them to sign that pact.

In short, there are no free gifts in this world. If President Biden is visiting Israel and smiling at everyone, then we must ask ourselves what the hidden cost of his visit will be.

How a Failed Foreign Minister Became the Country’s Premier

“Yair Lapid’s entry into the office of prime minister,” one media outlet wrote this week, “has breathed new hope into the Palestinian Authority, which has identified a new window of opportunity for diplomatic achievement.”

Let me first point out that “new hope” is the name of Gideon Saar’s party; it does not belong to the Palestinian Authority. Then again, perhaps there is no contradiction there…. In any event, if I were a Palestinian—to borrow a turn of phrase that was once foolishly used by Ehud Barak—I would have danced with joy when Lapid became prime minister. The Palestinians are perhaps the most ardent members of the “anyone but Bibi camp.” As far as they are concerned, Lapid is the ideal prime minister, while Bibi Netanyahu is anything but desirable. Lapid is spineless and expected to capitulate to all their demands; they must be overjoyed to see him in office.

Lapid’s submissive attitude was made very clear in a recent incident, when he virtually crawled on his knees before King Abdallah of Jordan and Abu Mazen of the Palestinian Authority in an effort to restore calm on Har Habayis. Unfortunately, he is so ignorant of the proper methods of dealing with the Palestinians that he only managed to ignite further riots.

Anyone who closely watches Lapid’s incessant zigzagging may find his head spinning as a result. Lapid once made the following convoluted and barely comprehensible statement: “Even when I am the prime minister, there will be no diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians. At the same time, as foreign minister, I would not rule out meeting with Abu Mazen; there is simply no diplomatic justification for it at the moment. The two-state solution is not dead.” Can you make any sense of that?

When Lapid visited Shaar Shecham and received scathing criticism from the Palestinians, he hurried to change tack. “The foreign minister met with Majed Faraj, who is close to Abu Mazen, two weeks ago,” the media reported. “According to Palestinian reports, the meeting did not include a discussion of diplomatic topics; it dealt only with security and economic matters. There are expected to be additional meetings between senior Israeli officials and Palestinians in the near future.” Thus, Lapid is a political chameleon; he changes his positions to suit whoever he happens to be trying to court.

Today, Yair Lapid is the prime minister of Israel—which sounds like a joke but is actually a sad reality. It should come as no surprise that the Palestinians have welcomed his presence. According to a member of the Palestinian press named Mohammed Mujadalah, a senior official who is close to Abu Mazen has announced that he expects Lapid to publicly echo the comments that, according to this official, he has already made behind closed doors. This source did not specify what Lapid has told the Palestinians, but it will be interesting to hear what additional mischief this man has been up to!

Taking Responsibility Becomes Meaningless

Years ago, a writer named Ephraim Kishon published a satirical article about a government minister who announced, after a serious incident took place on his watch, that he would accept full responsibility for it. In this fictional piece, that act of “taking responsibility” was the sum total of what was expected of the minister, unlike in any properly run country, where a government official who takes responsibility for a failure can expect it to have practical ramifications. At the very least, an official who is responsible for a major oversight or disaster should be expected to resign from his position. Of course, different types of incidents call for different reactions. A transportation minister might be expected to resign after a train crash, but a minister of energy is not expected to step down after a power outage. But in Israel, Kishon’s satire has come true: The government ministers announce that they are claiming responsibility, and the story ends there. Nothing practical ever results from these declarations.

I can think of various failed government ministers who never gave a thought to resigning from their posts. I recently read in a newspaper that Israel has one of the most abysmal track records in the world on eliminating traffic accidents. Nevertheless, Merav Michaeli, who holds the position of Minister of Transportation, acts as if nothing is amiss. There is also the Minister of Housing, who has presided over the collapse of the housing market, and the Minister of Finance, who has destroyed everything of value. And then there is Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, who certainly should be expected to step down, now that he has made it clear that he knows nothing, he hears nothing, and he remembers no details of any incidents. It was on his watch that a group of security prisoners escaped from Gilboa Prison, an incident that he admitted was a gross failure on the part of Israel’s security forces. Bar-Lev, who visited the prison several hours after the escape, attested that he realized on the spot that the escape was made possible by an operational lapse and a failure of Israeli intelligence. Yet he returned to his ministerial office and acted as if nothing was amiss. And I haven’t even mentioned our foreign minister, Yair Lapid, who has divided his time between igniting conflicts and handing out positions to his cronies.

Speaking of Bar-Lev, I should note that even though he is on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Netanyahu, that did not prevent him from joining the opposition leader this week at the grave of his brother Yoni Netanyahu, on the anniversary of the Entebbe operation. All of the former leaders of the elite Sayeret Matkal were there, including Binyomin Netanyahu and Omer Bar-Lev. And there was also a bearded man who was clearly a former officer in the unit who has since become a baal teshuvah. I would be very interested in learning who that person is.

Bibi in the Spotlight: From the Courtroom to the Meron Commission

I mentioned last week that Binyomin Netanyahu is scheduled to testify before the commission of inquiry into the Meron disaster. He has been summoned to appear before the committee this Wednesday. Meanwhile, the topic of Meron is still in the headlines, largely because Tzvika Tessler, the project coordinator who oversaw the hillula this year, has been repeatedly admitting to various mistakes that everyone else perceived well in advance.

Meanwhile, it is astounding to observe how Netanyahu’s criminal trial is still going on, even though any person with even a modicum of intelligence can see that the entire process has been completely unprofessional and utterly lacking of substance. When Netanyahu made his famous declaration that “there will be nothing because there was nothing,” everyone laughed. Yet now it has been revealed that he was right: There was no news coverage slanted in his favor, and there was no meeting in which Netanyahu instructed Shlomo Filber to benefit Shaul Elovich and Bezeq. The prosecution even asked for permission to alter the charges against Netanyahu, but the court denied their request. Everyone can detect the odor of prosecutorial corruption, but the trial is continuing. It began with the goal of unseating a prime minister, and it is continuing with the aim of preventing him from being reelected.

Even if Netanyahu is exonerated in court, the case alone may be harmful to him. Specifically now, during the election season, the headlines are focusing on Netanyahu’s love of gifts and material indulgence, which is repugnant but not illegal. All of his unsavory conduct in this respect is coming to light now, and even if these revelations do not harm him, they certainly will not boost his performance in the polls. Meanwhile, the prosecution and the media are doing everything in their power to create an atmosphere of suspicion surrounding Netanyahu. The latest witness in the case, a former employee of Arnon Milchan, has been given additional security; she arrives in court accompanied by police officers. This is an effective way to subtly change people’s perceptions; they hope to create the impression that Netanyahu and the Likud party are a band of gangsters who are to be feared as potential murderers.

At this time, Milchan’s employee is being questioned by the prosecution. However, the defense will soon have their chance to cross-examine her, and they are already claiming that they will be able to reverse the conclusions that arise from her testimony, just as they did with Shlomo Filber, the state witness. We may yet see the prosecution’s case fall apart even more.

Saar and Gantz Unite

In last week’s column, I remarked that we would likely soon be witnessing mergers between various political parties, and I predicted that the first merger would be the union of Gideon Saar’s New Hope party and Benny Gantz’s party, Blue and White. Saar was not expected to cross the electoral threshold on his own, but the polls show, quite incredibly, that if Gantz and Saar unite, they will be able to reap more mandates than the two parties would receive if they ran independently.

Sure enough, this week everyone has been talking about a merger between the two parties. Even though the deadline for submitting the party lists is still far away, Gantz and Saar seem to be moving ahead with alacrity toward that merger. All the political commentators seem to agree that the partnership between Saar and Gantz is already an established fact. The two men have even begun negotiations on the final composition of the party’s slate. Gantz will lead the united list while Saar may occupy the second position.

As I explained last week, this is actually a very bizarre situation. The polls show Gideon Saar’s party hovering around the electoral threshold, which means that it is worth about four mandates. Benny Gantz’s party, meanwhile, has been scoring much higher in the polls, which show it receiving anywhere between eight and ten mandates. Yet the same polls show that if the two parties merge, they can be expected to win almost 20 mandates. That explains why this partnership is worthwhile for both parties. For Gideon Saar and his colleagues, it guarantees that they will cross the electoral threshold, while Benny Gantz and his party stand to gain from it as well.

Gantz Hopes to Work with the Chareidim

Aside from boosting his share of the Knesset, this arrangement has another major benefit for Benny Gantz. Until his merger with Saar, there were only two realistic contenders for the position of prime minister: Yair Lapid and Binyomin Netanyahu, with the latter enjoying a significant personal and numerical advantage. However, as the head of a party with almost 20 seats in the Knesset, Gantz could easily find himself jockeying for the position as well.

Why do I say that Netanyahu has a distinct advantage? For one thing, in every poll that includes the question of which candidate is most qualified to serve as prime minister, Netanyahu has outperformed every other potential candidate and has always received at least twice the number of support given to Yair Lapid. That sweeping public support is his personal advantage, and he also enjoys numerical superiority: In every conceivable scenario, the so-called Netanyahu bloc, which includes the right-wing and chareidi parties, comes out much closer to 61 mandates than Lapid’s alliance with the left and center. The only difference is that the center-left does not have any qualms about securing a majority in the Knesset by including Arab parties in their coalition—although they should realize, based on the experience of the past year, that such an effort is not guaranteed to succeed, and that the resultant coalition would be utterly dysfunctional.

With the help of Gideon Saar, Gantz can turn Blue and White into a significant party that may even rival Lapid’s showing in the election. Gantz will also have an advantage to offer to the voters of the left and center: The chareidim will never collaborate with Yair Lapid, but they will not boycott Benny Gantz, and he therefore stands a much better chance of forming a government. Indeed, there is some logic to that argument. Gantz might be hoping to forge an alliance with the chareidim and come to Netanyahu together along with them, thus forcing him into a rotation agreement.

Today, Gantz is not saying a word about entering a rotation agreement with Netanyahu. However, that is because he does not want to alienate the “anyone but Bibi” camp. As of now, the people in Gantz’s and Saar’s respective circles are insisting that neither politician will agree to sit in a future government with Netanyahu. Nevertheless, everything might change after the election. Gideon Saar is the less likely of the two to agree to join a government led by Netanyahu; at the same time, as a member of Blue and White rather than the leader of his own party, Saar will have much less influence.

Hendel and Kahana—The Unwanted

But the story of New Hope and Blue and White does not end there. The merger between the parties will see Saar and his colleagues making up one third of the combined list, while Benny Gantz and his political allies will comprise the other two thirds. The newspapers are already publishing the names of all the members of the combined lists and analyzing the exact position on the slate of every member of the merged party. For one thing, it is clear that Benny Gantz will occupy the top position. One might expect Gideon Saar to be in the second slot, but that is not necessarily the case; that seat is reserved for Gadi Eizenkot, as Gantz is waiting for him to decide whether he will join Blue and White. Eizenkot is a former chief of staff of the IDF; today, he is a civilian who is in high demand in the political arena. The polls indicate that any party that he joins will automatically receive a boost of three or four mandates. As far as Gantz is concerned, that would make for an excellent deal: He can place a good friend in the second position on his slate and automatically increase his party’s showing by several mandates. If Eizenkot accepts the invitation to join Blue and White, then Gideon Saar will be bumped down to the third place on the list. Nevertheless, Saar will undoubtedly be pleased if the party wins a few more mandates, since that will give him the opportunity to include another colleague or two from the New Hope party in its delegation in the Knesset.

At the same time, it is already clear that two men are going to be left out—namely, the two members of the Derech Eretz party, who joined New Hope after resigning from Blue and White, which they had joined as part of the Telem party headed by Bogie Yaalon, another former chief of staff. Now that New Hope is merging with Blue and White, the two men who called themselves Derech Eretz are being left out in the cold. Did you follow that? Let me explain.

Tzvi Hauser is a member of the Knesset on behalf of the New Hope party. He began his stint in the Knesset as an ally of Moshe Yaalon, who founded the Telem party and brought it into the ranks of Blue and White under Benny Gantz. When Yaalon decided to leave politics, Hauser and his colleague Yoaz Hendel formed a party called Derech Eretz. Hendel, who holds the position of Minister of Communications in the current government, followed the same path as Hauser, and both of them have now been left “homeless” on the political scene. Rumor has it that this is because Benny Gantz, who is hoping to woo the chareidi parties into a partnership, sees Hendel as a liability and has decided to dump him. Yoaz Hendel is the man who fought an unyielding battle to destroy the kosher phone system used by the chareidi community, and the chareidim have no desire to partner with him. In a similar vein, Deputy Minister Matan Kahana has been trying to join any party that will take him, both on the assumption that Yamina will not make it across the political threshold and because he is no longer compatible with the Yamina party, which will likely reposition itself on the right. But Kahana has likewise found that there is no party that is willing to accept him, since his presence might be a sticking point that will prevent a potential alliance with the chareidim. This is actually an incredible turn of events that deserves much closer attention; perhaps I will write about it at greater length in the future.

Incidentally, Hendel has already launched a campaign accusing Gantz of “capitulating” to the chareidim. He has even recruited allies in the media to help him combat his own expulsion from political life. But for the time being, he is no longer welcome in the ranks of Blue and White.

Misplaced Mercy for a Terrorist’s Father

I am sure that you remember the terror attack in Bnei Brak that took the lives of Yaakov Shalom, Avishai Yechezkel, a police officer, and two foreign workers. This terrible incident has continued to haunt the country. When the terrorist’s family received word that their home was slated to be demolished as part of the standard procedure (which is hoped to be a means of deterring potential terrorists from committing similar acts), they appealed the decision to the Supreme Court immediately. The attorney representing the terrorist’s father in court tried to argue that he deserved compassion as a bereaved father, and Chief Justice Chayut was outraged. “He was proud of his son,” she pointed out.

Indeed, the father was very proud of his son and publicly praised him for the horrific murders he committed. He also encouraged others to commit additional murderous attacks. Time after time, he spoke highly of the “mighty shahids,” at the height of a wave of terror that was sowing dread throughout the country. Two and a half weeks ago, the father was indicted on charges of incitement and supporting an enemy organization. He was arrested in order to be brought to trial, and the military prosecution asked the court to keep him in custody until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, arguing that he posed a danger to the public and that he might flee before he was brought to trial. This week, a military court ruled that the father should be released until he is tried. “It is difficult to judge the behavior of a bereaved father,” the judge wrote, adding that “the actions of the accused’s son were heinous, but from an emotional perspective, it is difficult to judge a person who has lost his son…. The death of a son is a catalyst that may cause an immediate outpouring of emotions, words, and even actions.”

The judge’s ruling triggered an avalanche of condemnation, to the point that the army felt compelled to release a public statement clarifying the situation: “The defendant, Ahmed Hamarsa, the father of the terrorist who killed five people in a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, was indicted on charges of incitement and making a series of illegitimate statements in which he expressed support for his son’s actions and called for additional acts of terror to be carried out. When the indictment was filed, the military prosecution asked for the defendant to be held in custody until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings. The military court rejected this request and ordered the conditional release of the defendant. The implementation of this ruling was delayed at the prosecution’s request, so that an appeal could be filed.”

A forum of families of terror victims released its own statement condemning the judge’s decision: “Justice Eldan made two mistakes. The first was when he decided to release the father of the loathsome terrorist, and the second was when he referred to him as a ‘bereaved father.’ In this ruling, he showed contempt for all the bereaved families in Israel. We expect the defense establishment to renounce both his choice of words and his ruling.”

Of course, there is no way that this request can actually be fulfilled. One can appeal a judge’s ruling (which is what the prosecution is doing), but there is no way for the ruling to be simply renounced. But once again, this should give you an idea of the atmosphere in Israel today.

More Terror in Bnei Brak

Last Tuesday, an Arab terrorist attempted to murder a Jew on the bridge that connects Givat Shmuel to Bnei Brak. When the attack was first reported, the police were uncertain as to whether it was a criminal assault or an act of terror. Before long, however, it was determined that the perpetrator was an Arab who tried to murder a Jew. The victim, Rav Yitzchok Dahan, who walks to Givat Shmuel early in the morning for davening every day, was rushed to the hospital while bleeding profusely. The Arab escaped from the scene, and the police launched a manhunt that ultimately led to his capture.

The incident transpired at about 5:20 a.m. That was when the MDA hotline received a call about a man who had been assaulted on a pedestrian bridge over Highway 4. Paramedics rushed to the spot and provided first aid for the victim, a 47-year-old man who was found conscious and in moderate condition with stab wounds. He was taken to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, where the doctors pronounced him in serious condition. Large numbers of police officers were called to the scene and began an investigation; the victim told them that he had been stabbed by an Arab who walked past him and then escaped in the direction of Bnei Brak. A police helicopter was used to search the area for the terrorist, whose picture was quickly obtained.

From his hospital bed, Rav Dahan recounted his harrowing ordeal: “I was on my way to Shacharis at the yeshiva where I teach. I was walking toward Givat Shmuel, as I have done every morning for the past 15 years, when I noticed someone looking at me. He reached toward my bag, and I thought that he had something in his hand, so I moved way from him. He followed me, and I suddenly felt a couple of blows to my head. I grabbed my head to stop the flow of blood. After the attack, a passerby who called MDA told me that the attacker had told him to call for help.”

This is quite a bizarre story. The attacker could easily have murdered Dahan, but for some reason, he decided only to wound him and then to continue on his way. Moreover, when he reached the end of the bridge, the Arab met another chareidi Jew from Bnei Brak and said to him, “One of your people is lying injured on this bridge. Go help him!” The man hurried over to Rav Dahan and quickly called for help. This certainly makes for strange behavior for a murderer, and an unmistakable miracle that saved the life of his victim.

Chessed That Warms the Heart

I am always moved and amazed by the work of Darchei Miriam, a chessed organization that matches volunteer drivers with patients who are in need of transportation to hospitals for chemotherapy treatments and the like. I receive the messages sent out by the organization, which includes standard inquiries such as “A patient needs an urgent ride from Rechov Chofetz Chaim in Zichron Moshe to Ein Kerem; who is available?” or “Who can bring an injection from Yerushalayim to Beit Shemesh this evening?” But some of the less common messages astound me even more.

This Sunday, at 4:45 p.m., I read the following message: “A sick young man asked for pumpkin soup from our supper project tonight. We are having a hard time finding it. Does anyone know where it can be found in Yerushalayim? Let us pamper the bochur, who began chemotherapy just yesterday. Ahrele.” This is typical of Ahrele Weingarten and the rest of the Darchei Miriam team: They will move heaven and earth to cater to even the slightest whim of a patient. As far as they are concerned, when a patient asks for a slice of watermelon in the middle of the night or a video game on motzoei Shabbos, it deserves to be treated as a vital need. Every patient is a world unto himself.

Sure enough, about fifteen minutes later, Ahrele sent another message triumphantly informing the group that the soup had been procured.

Perhaps equally moving was the message that was circulated last Friday morning: “I’d be very happy to receive a passenger. The week is almost over, and I haven’t done a single drive yet.” This was a message from one of the organization’s volunteers, who wasn’t content to allow a week to pass without chessed. When an opportunity for chessed didn’t find him, he felt the need to search for one.




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