Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

My Take On The News

Continuity and the Draft Law
Many things have happened over the past two weeks. I can barely manage to cover all the stories worth reporting in a single week, so you can imagine that the passage of two weeks presents an even greater challenge. Perhaps I should begin with the draft law. Last Monday, just before Shavuos, the Knesset voted late at night to approve the application of continuity to the draft law. But let me explain that a little more clearly.
Every law that is passed by the Knesset must go through several stages. The legislative process begins with a preliminary reading, followed by a first reading, which takes place after the relevant committee has reviewed the bill. The first reading takes place at a discussion in which every member of the Knesset has the right to speak. The Knesset then votes on whether the bill should be returned to a committee to prepare for its second and third readings. Those two readings are conducted together, as the Knesset votes on the final text of the law prepared in the committee and any reservations (the official term for amendments) submitted by members of the Knesset in the committee. The coalition usually rejects all the reservations, which generally come from the opposition. In fact, reservations are usually used to give the opposition a chance to speak, since every reservation entitles the MK who submitted it to one minute at the podium.
If a law hasn’t gotten through its second and third readings by the time the Knesset dissolves, the bill is considered null and void. When the next Knesset is established, the entire process must begin anew. However, the lawmaker who submitted the bill is entitled to ask for it to be subject to continuity. If this request is approved, then the 25th Knesset, for instance, can pick up the legislative process of a given bill from the exact point where it was interrupted in the 24th Knesset. The Knesset voted to apply continuity to the draft bill formulated by Lapid, Bennett, and Gantz, which was approved in its first reading in the 24th Knesset.
A Win for the Coalition
The draft law is actually a package of two bills, one pertaining to bnei yeshivos while the other deals with national service. Both bills were written in response to a Supreme Court ruling that struck down the previous draft law. Bennett, Lapid, Gantz, and Lieberman, who were heading the government and the coalition at the time, spoke proudly about the bills, boasting that they would promote chareidi enlistment in the army. When the bills passed their first reading, the men congratulated themselves and each other on the victory. But before the process could continue, that government dissolved. And Bibi Netanyahu has now decided to resurrect the bills that his rivals championed with such excitement.
Does it sound absurd for Netanyahu to try to breathe new life into a dead bill formulated by his political adversaries? It does indeed, and the absurdity does not end there. When the bill was brought to a vote in the Knesset, its erstwhile supporters denounced it loudly and vociferously, while the coalition reminded them that it was their own law and that they had applauded its passage at the time. Meanwhile, the current opposition mocked the chareidim for having declared the bill a cause for mourning at the time it was first passed, yet they have now decided to support it. What changed? The truth is that it was considered a terrible bill at the time, but the Supreme Court has backed the chareidi parties into a corner today and there seemed to be little other choice.
Communications Minister Shlomo Karai was the one who announced on behalf of the government that the members of the coalition were asked to vote in favor of the bill. Netanyahu did not make the announcement, presumably because he didn’t want to evoke an outcry, and Defense Minister Gallant is opposed to the bill and voted against it. This meant that the task fell into the purview of a different member of the Likud party. Standing at the Knesset podium, Karai said, “Mr. Speaker, ministers of the government, Mr. Prime Minister, and honored Knesset, will anyone here have the audacity to speak against this bill, which has finally been brought to a vote? I would like to read to you some of the words that were spoken by members of the Yesh Atid party. Ram Ben-Barak, during his tenure as chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told us that the goal of this law is to integrate, connect, unite, and draw close all the different parts of Israeli society. Yair Lapid said, ‘This law will lead more chareidim to enlist in the army and more chareidim to join national service.’ So who will criticize us for it?” In the end, the draft bill was approved by a vote of 63 to 57, with the Arabs voting against it. When the national service bill was brought to a vote, the opposition didn’t even bother trying to vote it down; it was passed by a majority vote of 62 to 10. The Knesset sitting was then gaveled closed, with its next session due to take place this week.
Two Officials Blocking the Government at Every Turn
What will happen now? It is hoped that the passage of the law will serve as a statement of sorts to the Supreme Court. There is some hope that the justices will give the government more breathing room now that Netanyahu is making an effort to pass a draft law. Netanyahu is working hard to pass a law; the problem is that everyone else is working against him. The chareidim are not pleased with the bill, which contains sanctions and high draft quotas, and the opposition, of course, will always try to stymie the prime minister’s efforts, both as part of their function and because of the Israeli left’s irrational hatred for Netanyahu. Unfortunately, there are two other individuals who are also blocking the government at every turn. One of those people is Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who announced that he is opposed to the draft law and that the Defense Ministry will not cooperate with the government’s efforts to pass it. The other is Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who told the Supreme Court that she disapproves of the draft law and that she does not even endorse the process of applying continuity to the bill.
Baharav-Miara has also informed the government that its plan to raise the age of exemption from reserve service, even by three months as a temporary measure, cannot be implemented unless immediate steps are taken to conscript bnei yeshivos. In a legal opinion she submitted to the government, she insisted that there is a legal impediment to advancing legislation about the age of reserve service in the absence of tangible efforts to draft chareidim. She also denounced the lack of concrete, practical plans to increase “equality in sharing the burden” among the populations that do not serve in the army or that perform shortened service. For that reason, she asserted, the Knesset’s decision to apply continuity to the bill formulated under the Bennett-Lapid government should be considered unconstitutional and discriminatory, since the majority of chareidim will not be required to perform full military service under the law’s provisions, at least not in the coming decades. And these are only some of her objections.
In short, things are not easy for Netanyahu or for the chareidi community.
The draft law isn’t the only target of the judges; the Supreme Court has been meddling in every issue without cease. This week, the court accepted a petition from a Black Hebrew in Dimona concerning the Law of Return. In another ruling, the court ordered the state comptroller to stop investigating the events that led up to the terrible failure on Simchas Torah. The judges’ abuse of their authority is absolutely intolerable by any measure.
Media Bias Extends to Photos
Before we move on to other topics, let me add another thought about the draft law. It is very sad to see people, including those who wear yarmulkes, gleefully gloating over or exploiting the misfortunes of others. Take Naftoli Bennett, for instance. After eight soldiers were killed in Gaza, he published a message conveying his condolences, and then he added, “It is unthinkable that an entire sector of the population is not serving in the army.” His onetime political crony, Ayelet Shaked, made a similar statement not long ago. Even the chief of staff of the IDF decided to rub salt in an open wound by publishing a statement in which he asserted that the army needs more soldiers and the time has come for the chareidim to enlist. At the same time, the media reported that the IDF had released tens of thousands of soldiers from reserve duty; there is a good deal of falsehood and hypocrisy in the claims that the IDF is in need of chareidim to solve a manpower shortage. Even Benny Gantz, who finally made good on his threats to resign from the government and the cabinet, has invoked the draft law and the prospect of drafting chareidim for political gain. One could easily be led to think that the future of the State of Israel and its army hinges on the draft of bnei yeshivos.
In addition to the politicians and the anti-Netanyahu protestors who still gather on Rechov Kaplan every week—and, this week, outside the Knesset as well—the media is doing its own part to continue stoking hatred. There are people who sit and write news articles or participate in broadcasts that provide a constant stream of anti-Netanyahu rhetoric. They do not rest even for a moment. I am in the habit of reading the slanted articles, including those that are really opinion pieces in the guise of news, and I make sure to take a close look at the accompanying pictures as well. I have discovered that the media manages to use even the photos accompanying its articles to promote its anti-Bibi agenda.
Take this, for instance: This week—on Sunday—an article in Yediot Acharonot about IDF reservists was accompanied by a picture taken in the Knesset on the previous Monday. The photo shows a smiling Netanyahu surrounded by a group of men including Michoel Malchieli, Avrohom Betzalel, and Uriel Bosso of the Shas party, who appear similarly pleased. The caption reads, “Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Knesset during the vote on the draft law last week.” The words “The Height of Disconnect” appear alongside the picture in large, colorful block letters. The obvious goal is to create the impression that Netanyahu was gloating over the passage of a bill that is harmful and distressing to the broader community.
A close examination of the picture will reveal the mendacity of the use of this image. For one thing, why publish a picture that had been taken almost a full week earlier? The connection between this image and the story it accompanies is tenuous at best. There was no question that it was used to promote a biased, hostile agenda. Moreover, the caption is also duplicitous. How could this picture have been taken “during the vote” on the draft law? When the Knesset takes a vote, all of its members are glued to their seats, ready to press their buttons; they are certainly not standing together and sharing smiles. The truth is actually that the picture was not taken during the vote at all. Moreover, the picture shows Netanyahu conversing with MK Michoel Bitton of the National Unity Party, and it is clear that they were discussing a different subject altogether. But when it is possible to cast the prime minister in a negative light, the media will stop at nothing, even taking a picture completely out of context to create a false impression.
Another picture, which was published in Haaretz on the same day, also in the context of the draft law, was equally outdated and likewise clearly published to serve a biased agenda. In this case, the caption reads, “Netanyahu and the MKs in the Knesset during last week’s discussion of the draft exemption law for chareidim.” Haaretz always refers to the draft deferments for yeshiva bochurim as exemptions, even though this is completely inaccurate. Indeed, the picture shows Netanyahu standing with Tzvi Sukkot, while Eliyohu Bruchi, Moshe Roth, and Yitzchok Pindrus look on in the background and Aryeh Deri extends his hand to someone who is facing away from the camera. The editors at Haaretz might want their readers to believe that this represents some sort of political wheeling and dealing with regard to the draft law, but I can tell you the real story. The man with his back to the camera was Oded Forer, who came to the Knesset to vote in the middle of the shiva for his brother, Yoav Moshe. Let us set aside the halachic legitimacy of his actions; the bottom line is that Forer is a member of the Knesset who is not hostile to religion at all (in fact, he learned b’chavrusa for many years with Rav Tzvi Schwartz of Lev L’Achim in Rechovot) and who is a pleasant and popular individual. In any event, when someone is in the middle of shiva, everyone will convey their condolences to him. Netanyahu and Deri took advantage of his presence in the Knesset to wish him well and thus spare themselves the drive to his home. That is what was taking place when the picture was taken; the image has nothing to do with the draft law. But again, if the media can use a picture to tell a story, even a false one, they will not hesitate to do so.
A Visit to the Former Mayor of Rechovot
Speaking of Forer, I visited the moshav of Gealiya last Thursday to offer condolences to his father, Shuki Forer. When I arrived, I introduced myself as a proud citizen of the State of Israel—that is, a citizen who is proud for his own reasons, not one who has any pride in the state—who is ashamed of the country’s judicial system. Years ago, I read Shuki Forer’s book I Was the Mayor, and I have been waiting a very long time to tell him that the court system deserves the badge of shame for its mistreatment of him.
Shuki Forer, a highly accomplished public figure, ran for the office of mayor of Rechovot at Binyomin Netanyahu’s request many years ago. As the mayor of Rechovot, he left an indelible imprint on the city, cultivating its growth and development and earning a reputation as a popular leader, a man of pleasantness and integrity who knew how to get things done. Forer’s service for his city was cut short by the judiciary, which turned out to be not only a malicious and tyrannical body but an institution with no respect for justice or commitments. Forer’s book (published by Yediot Acharonot) is a fascinating piece of history, written with eloquence and candor, that tells the story of a very unique man. Perhaps I should quote just four lines: “Woe to the state whose prosecutors are guided not by justice and integrity, but by manipulation and unworthy ambition. If the fortress of law known as the prosecution does not behave with integrity and honesty, what is left for the citizens to believe in? I had faith, I trusted them, and I had hope, but I am paying for it with my blood.” Forer and his wife were idealists who dedicated themselves to helping others, and they have raised a family that deserves to be saluted. When I visited them, it was to comfort them after the passing of their son in Gaza. The bereaved father painted a vivid image of a young man whose greatest joy in life came from giving to others.
“Every person in this country should read your book,” I said to Shuki Forer. “I was very moved by it.”
“It has also been released as an audiobook; I read it aloud for the recordings,” he told me.
Large numbers of visitors descended on the Forer home and sat around the parents, the brothers of the deceased—Oded, a member of the Knesset, and Tzvika, a justice on the Magistrates’ Court—and the niftar’s widow, Adi. Dozens of youths sat in a circle around Yoav’s three children. The sorrow and grief were palpable, but Shuki, the father in mourning, tried to lift everyone’s spirits. Wearing a black yarmulke, he recited a brocha like a religious man and sipped from a glass of water.
“How do you know how to say a brocha?” I asked him.
He responded with a story about a different kind of brocha: “When I was running for mayor, Oded was 16 years old, and he rode his motorbike to all the campaign offices to assist me. I wrote him a note that said, ‘I will be the mayor, and you will be the prime minister.’” The father’s brocha was perhaps partially effective; Oded may not have become the prime minister, but he did become the Minister of Agriculture. “My son Yoav also received a brocha from a mekubal before he went to fight in Gaza,” he added. “He was also given the added name Moshe at the same time. But Hashem’s calculations are hidden from us.”
May Hashem console the bereaved family and give them the strength to endure their loss.
News of Hostage Rescue Greeted with Joy
Of course, I must touch on the rescue of the four hostages in Gaza as well. Every passing day has brought us more details about the suffering that they endured in captivity, but we will put that subject aside for the moment, although it should trigger a major outcry. We have also been learning more and more about the extremely complex rescue operation, which required the Israeli forces to remain in control of the situation at every moment. We all still remember the attempted rescue of Nachshon Wachsmann, the Israeli soldier with American citizenship who was held hostage by terrorists many years ago. (His status as a US citizen was the reason that then-President Clinton was heavily involved in the events.) When the Israeli soldiers burst into the building where Nachshon was held, his abductors killed him immediately. That experience gave rise to a major concern before this operation, as well: If the terrorists found out about the attempt to rescue the hostages, they would surely be killed on the spot. Therefore, it was necessary for the Israeli soldiers to distract the terrorists and guards and to gain access to the hostages within seconds, taking out their abductors while keeping the captives alive. Of course, in the interest of fairness, I should reveal that the Americans seemingly provided critical information regarding the hostages’ location.
The two-pronged military operation to rescue Noa Argamani, who was held in a separate location from the others, and Almog Meir Jan, Andrei Kozlov, and Shlomi Ziv took only a few seconds, but the preparations were long in the making. Israeli intelligence had been monitoring the area for many days to determine their precise locations. As soon as those locations were known, a group of Israeli intelligence agents masquerading as Arabs infiltrated the Nuseirat refugee camp and began operating in the local marketplace, which put them in close proximity to the Israeli hostages. In addition to actually becoming acquainted with the area, they collected information by questioning terrorists who were captured there. And in addition to their work on the ground, information was gathered by aerial surveillance and other technological means. After nineteen days of intensive efforts, the Israeli forces managed to acquire solid, precise information about the hostages’ locations.
Some of the Israeli operatives rented an apartment in the area for a period of time, disguising themselves as Palestinians. Eventually, they discovered that the four hostages were being held in two private homes belonging to Gazan citizens. The information was relayed to Israel, and the cabinet gave the green light for the operation. Twenty-eight Yamam combat soldiers began training in specially constructed replicas of the two buildings. After three days of training, the unit’s commander informed Chief of Staff Halevi that they were ready for the operation. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was notified, and then the information was relayed to Prime Minister Netanyahu as well. The political echelon gave its own permission for the operation to take place, and three days before the daring operation, on June 5, the undercover operatives were ordered to leave the refugee camp without arousing suspicions. A handful of soldiers remained in the area in the interim to ensure that the hostages would not be moved.
That was when the high-ranking commanders in the IDF and other members of the cabinet were notified about the operation. On Friday morning, 28 Yamam soldiers began making their way in two teams toward the buildings in the Nuseirat refugee camp where the hostages were being held. To preserve the element of surprise as much as possible, the soldiers traveled in two trucks. Shortly before 11:00 in the morning, mere minutes before they were given the order to launch the operation, the soldiers began moving simultaneously toward both destinations and then waited for the final order.
The Captives’ Homecoming
With the help of advanced technology and aerial surveillance, the IDF forces on the ground were notified that the area was clear and there was no suspicious movement near the buildings. Information on every movement in the alleyways of the refugee camp was transmitted via live broadcast to the command centers in Israel, where the operation was monitored by elite officers. At exactly 11:00, the soldiers were ordered to make their move, and they raided both buildings simultaneously, with the two teams working in perfect unison to prevent the terrorists from thwarting the operation and harming the hostages.
The terrorists guarding Noa Argamani were eliminated quickly, and she was removed from the apartment unharmed within six minutes. She was then taken to a waiting helicopter that immediately took off to bring her back to Israel. While Noa’s rescue went smoothly, the extraction of the other three hostages, who were on the third floor of a building 800 meters away, ran into some complications. The hostages were held in the home of Dr. Ahmed al-Jamal, a doctor who was also a Hamas operative. The apartment was also occupied by his son, Abdallah, an Al-Jazeera journalist. Some of the Israeli soldiers climbed a ladder and directly entered the room where the three hostages were being held; meanwhile, the other soldiers climbed the stairs from the building’s main entrance. Unfortunately, the soldiers commanded by Arnon Zmorah came under massive fire from about 30 Hamas terrorists as soon as they entered the apartment. The terrorists fired a hail of bullets and threw grenades at the IDF soldiers, and Zmorah was killed in the course of the operation, which was later renamed Operation Arnon in his honor.
According to the report, the soldiers were surprised to discover 30 terrorists in the apartment; this information hadn’t been given to them by the operatives who had reconnoitered the area. It is presumed that the terrorists arrived in the apartment that morning or the previous evening to beef up security around the hostages. Nevertheless, the experienced Yamam soldiers were not deterred by the surprise, and they continued fighting the terrorists at close range and with determination.
The soldiers were soon joined by reinforcements from outside the apartment. The three hostages were forced to hide in the apartment’s bathroom, shielded by a number of soldiers, during the gun battle. The massive and unexpected gunfire made it impossible for them to escape from the apartment. After a long battle, the Yamam soldiers managed to eliminate all the terrorists in the apartment and to extract the hostages. At the same time, the team tried to save Zmorah’s life, but they were ultimately unsuccessful. After the battle in the apartment was over, hundreds of terrorists converged on the area and began firing on the IDF soldiers. Hamas claims that 274 Palestinians were killed in the massive gun battle that erupted on the crowded street. The IDF, on the other hand, claims that only 104 Palestinians were injured or killed, and all of them were either terrorists or armed civilians who fought against the IDF forces.
Unfortunately, one of the rescued hostages, Almog Meir Jan, came home to a personal tragedy: His father, Yosef Jan, was found lifeless in his home when a family member arrived on motzoei Shabbos to inform him of his son’s rescue. Once again, we must admit that we are simply not privy to Hashem’s calculations.
Let me make a couple of final observations on this topic. First of all, the rescue operation took place on Shabbos. While it was clearly pikuach nefesh, and the timing even made sense because the enemy is usually less alert on Shabbos, there was also terrible chillul Shabbos in the press conferences, prime ministerial visits, and the rest of the fuss with which the hostages were greeted. This was not only lamentable but misguided as well. The secular world simply does not understand that the more we take care to preserve the kedushah of Shabbos, the more it will protect us. The entire country danced with joy when the news of their rescue arrived. For the most part, the Shabbos-observant community became aware of the news only after Shabbos was over (except those who were informed by irreligious neighbors or semi-religious acquaintances who davened in their shuls).
Eight Soldiers Tragically Killed
On motzoei Shabbos Parshas Nasso, we were greeted by much more saddening news: Eight soldiers had been killed in Rafah over the course of Shabbos. The country seemed to be plunged into despondence that night. The nature of the incident is still unclear, although we know that the soldiers were killed in an explosion of a Namer armored combat vehicle, a type of vehicle that serves the IDF and sometimes turns out to be a death trap. On Shabbos morning, while the combat team of the Engineering Corps’ 401st battalion was making its way to the Al Sultan camp in northern Rafah, it was hit by a massive blast. All of the vehicles’ occupants—the division commander and seven soldiers—were killed. The incident took place after an overnight operation in the neighborhood of Tel Sultan, in which 50 Hamas terrorists were eliminated by soldiers of the Givati brigade, which was accompanied by a platoon from the 601st battalion. Around 5:00 in the morning, a convoy of armored cars was making its way to a parking area in the vicinity of buildings that had already been taken over. The vehicle that was hit, which was the fifth in the convoy, was in motion when it was struck by the blast, which presumably resulted from an explosive device. Following the explosion, many incendiary materials that were in the vicinity of the vehicle exploded as well, causing a massive inferno and setting off the explosives carried by the vehicle. After the incident, the soldiers moved the vehicle to a safe location while preparing to use drones to rule out the presence of other hostile elements in the area.
This tragedy follows another incident in January, which brought about the heaviest loss suffered by the IDF since the beginning of the war. In that incident, 21 soldiers were killed when a terrorist fired an anti-tank missile, setting off the explosives in the booby-trapped buildings they were searching and causing the buildings to collapse on the soldiers.
The victims of the explosion this Shabbos include a relatively large number of religious soldiers, including three talmidim of the Shaalvim hesder yeshiva: Captain Eliyohu Moshe Zimbalist of Beit Shemesh, Sergeant Shalom Menachem of Beit El, and Sergeant Yakir Levi of Chofetz Chaim. The circumstances of the blast are still under investigation, but an initial assessment indicates that the vehicle was hit by a powerful explosive or an RPG. It is possible that the explosion set off other incendiary materials that were in the outer walls of the IDF vehicle. The armored vehicle burned for a period of two hours, and all of its occupants were killed. This news reached the Shabbos-observant community on motzoei Shabbos as well, and instead of the euphoria felt after the previous week’s dramatic rescue, this news brought everyone to tears.
Eli Hawk Pays Tribute to Eliyohu Zimbalist
I had a guest on Friday night named Eli Hawk, the great-grandson of Aunt Hedy, the tzaddeikes whom I have written about on several occasions in the past. Eli is the grandson of Hedy’s son George Mayer, who passed away not long ago. He was born in America, where his family still lives, but he has lived in Yerushalayim for several years, where he is studying computer engineering in Machon Lev. He is 23 years old and a charming young man who has made aliyah, is scheduled to join the army in another year, and plans to make his future home in Israel, presumably in a settlement somewhere in the country. On Shabbos, he shared information about our family tree and regaled us with divrei Torah as well, as we marveled at his refined character.
On motzoei Shabbos, I sent Eli a message telling him that we had enjoyed his company and were looking forward to his next visit. His reply was chilling: “One of the soldiers who was killed on Shabbos was my cousin. I am heartbroken.” He was referring to Eliyohu Moshe Zimbalist, the son of Shimmy and Sarah Zimbalist, who live in Beit Shemesh among many other immigrants from America.
The levayah on Sunday afternoon was attended by a huge crowd including hundreds of bnei yeshivos, as well as members of the Knesset. Rav Michoel Yammer, the rosh yeshiva of Shaalvim, told the crowd, “I visited Eliyohu’s parents tonight, and I spoke to them about the diamond that was taken from them al kiddush Hashem. He was an outstanding bochur who wanted nothing other than to be kind to others. He was quiet and humble in everything he did, and he was constantly focusing on whom he could help. Everyone knew that he was the place to turn for any assistance. He visited the yeshiva whenever he was on vacation from Gaza,” he added.
Eli was full of praise for his cousin. He was speechless with grief until the levayah, and he still found it difficult to speak at length after the funeral was over, but even his brief overview of his cousin’s life was deeply meaningful. Eliyohu Moshe, he told us, was born in America and moved to Israel with his family at the age of two. He was a popular young man who maintained close relationships with his family, his community in Beit Shemesh, and his yeshiva. His innate penchant for giving was probably inherited from his parents; his mother is a paramedic in Magen David Adom. Their home is known as a place of kindness and hospitality; they regularly host guests, and they maintain close friendships with their family members, their community members, and others as well. Eliyohu went to school in Ahavas Yisroel in Beit Shemesh and then moved on to Shaalvim, where he was in his third year of the hesder program. Despite the challenges of his duties in Gaza, Eliyohu committed himself to learning daf yomi and completed two masechtos with a friend. He loved carpentry and crafted many things for his shul, including shtenders, a mechitzah, a wooden platform, and an aron kodesh, often working together with other community members on these projects. As the gabbai of the shul, Eliyohu made sure to maintain its cleanliness and took it upon himself to make every necessary repair. He was also especially dedicated to his brother with special needs. Eliyohu was beloved by everyone and was considered the pillar of his family and his community. His rebbi in Shaalvim mentioned that his commitment to davening was unmistakable, and that he always arrived in shul ten minutes early to prepare to daven. He constantly strove to acquire new skills, which he used to help others while making sure not to compromise on his time for learning or davening. He was also perennially cheerful and reassuring to others. When his mother fretted over the fact that he was stationed in Gaza, he would reassure her that all was well. “Do not worry about me; worry about the hostages instead,” he often said. He was a dedicated soldier in the army, who was driven by a sense of mission and worked hard to protect his nation. His family is heartbroken by their tragic loss, which will be deeply felt by the family, his friends, his community, and all of Am Yisroel. Eliyohu Moshe’s legacy of boundless ahavas Yisroel and prodigious giving, learning, and davening will live on even in his absence.
“He was a tzaddik!” Eli declared as he concluded his account.
Israeli Officials to Visit Washington
I have probably run out of space already, but I haven’t even touched on some of this week’s most significant stories, such as the Arab who was shot to death when he tried to grab a weapon from a soldier in the Old City of Yerushalayim, or the Hezbollah missiles that have been causing dozens of fires in the north, damaging 60,000 dunams of land. I also haven’t written about the sheer volume of visitors to the Kosel on Shavuos (numbering about 100,000 people) or the appalling anti-chareidi cartoon that appeared in Makor Rishon, a publication run by religious people.
I must also mention the fact that Netanyahu is due to address the United States House of Representatives in the near future. Amazingly, the Secretary of Defense of the United States moved quickly to extend an invitation to Yoav Gallant to visit Washington even before Netanyahu’s arrival. This is Gallant’s second visit to Washington during the war, and some believe that the American politicians are brainwashing him during his visits there.
There is much more to write about, but I will conclude with two sections with some Torah content.
At the Kever of Rav Uri Zohar
As of the third day of Sivan, two years have gone by since Rav Uri Zohar’s passing. It is hard to come to terms with the absence of a man who was a source of encouragement and strength for everyone who encountered him. Rav Uri was a gem of a human being, who had a healing effect on everyone who saw him. He knew how to say the right words to the most deeply wounded souls and to cure them of their angst. And his Torah learning spanned every hour of the day. His chavrusos were astounded by his constant immersion in Torah. As Rav Shimshon Pincus once said, there are some things for which there can be no healing—such as the searing grief and pain that remain with us even two years after Rav Uri was taken from us.
This Sunday, on Rav Uri’s yahrtzeit, a large crowd gathered at his kever on Har Hamenuchos. Groups of baalei teshuvah, acquaintances, friends, and family members flocked to the kever to recite Tehillim and to daven. I arrived with a group from Lev L’Achim, accompanied by Reb Refoel Herzka as well. “We had the privilege of having a malach in our midst,” Rav Herzka said. “He was a man who set a powerful example for us for more than fifty years. Let us daven that we will have the privilege to carry on his legacy of kiruv work.”
Rav Eliezer Sorotzkin likened Rav Uri’s life story to Rabi Akiva’s transformation at the age of 40 and added, “Rav Uri created an enormous kiddush Hashem and was the impetus for tens of thousands of people to become religious and even develop into talmidei chachomim.”
Rav Uri’s tombstone bore the inscription, “He grew and sanctified Hashem’s Name in the world. He desired and cleaved to Hashem in humility and modesty, and pursued Torah learning lishmah for the sake of observing it.” This is followed by a posuk that concludes with the words, “He turned many away from sin.” There is no question that Rav Uri Zohar earned enormous reward in Shomayim through his many accomplishments on earth.
Rav Gershon’s Legendary Patience
This week marks the first yahrtzeit of Rav Gershon Edelstein (on the tenth of Sivan), even though tributes to the rosh yeshiva began pouring in as early as two months ago, when the first 11 months after his passing drew to a close. This newspaper has been no exception, and articles about Rav Gershon have appeared over the past month.
I recently read a couple of incredible things about the rosh yeshiva, which I would like to share with you. First, Rav Gershon was once asked why the roshei yeshiva of Ponovezh insisted that the bochurim must daven in the yeshiva. Rav Gershon replied, “Rav Dovid Povarsky held himself to the same standard without compromise. Rav Shach was also extremely particular about it.” This led him to a story that he had heard from the Ponovezher Rov. “When the Ponovezher Rov was a talmid in Radin, he once slept late during the period of Slichos and found himself hurrying to the yeshiva toward the end of Slichos, before Shacharis. Suddenly, he noticed that the Chofetz Chaim was also walking to the yeshiva, and he comforted himself with the thought that even the Chofetz Chaim was late. He stayed at a respectful distance from his rebbi, but the Chofetz Chaim noticed him and waited for him to catch up. When the Ponovezher Rov drew up alongside him, the Chofetz Chaim said, ‘I experienced an oness. I was sitting and learning last night, and I suddenly realized that it was almost time for dawn. I didn’t want to be in a situation of uncertainty as to whether I should recite birchos haTorah, so I went to sleep for a short time. Unfortunately, I slept longer than I intended.’
“When the Ponovezher Rov told this story,” Rav Gershon concluded, “he said, ‘Look at the difference between us. We both slept late, but my sleep and the Chofetz Chaim’s sleep were very different!’”
Another story was shared by Rav Yechiel Tzukarov: Rav Aharon Kotler once visited the Yeshiva of Ponovezh to deliver a shiur at the Ponovezher Rov’s request. Rav Gershon was a bochur at the time, and Rav Aharon’s shiur, in his typical brilliant style, was difficult for most of the bochurim to follow. “There was one bochur who understood the entire shiur,” Rav Tzukarov recalled. “I was sitting next to Rav Gershon, and I observed that he grasped Rav Aharon’s intent at every step of the shiur. He was able to anticipate every step before Rav Aharon spoke; I heard him murmuring, ‘Now he is going to say this…. Now he is going to bring this proof….’ Rav Aharon noticed this and declared, ‘This bochur understands it!’”
Finally, I came across a story about Rav Gershon’s seemingly infinite patience for the most difficult people, including individuals who were mentally disturbed. Rav Gershon did not allow his family to keep those individuals away from him, as troublesome as they may have been. Rav Benzion Garbuz, his grandson, related, “In the years before the rebbetzin passed away, there was a man who would call every day to ask how she was feeling. My grandfather always gave the same answer: ‘She is getting better.’ This was a daily ritual; the man was ill and did not remember what he was told on the day before, and he would call every day to ask the same question and receive the same answer. Even after my grandmother passed away, when my grandfather was heartbroken and struggling to cope with his sorrow, the man continued calling every day to ask about her, and my grandfather insisted on answering him every day and replying, ‘She is getting better.’ Such was the level of his concern for the feelings of another person.”

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