Connect with us

RSS

Is God Protecting Us?

Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law (1659), by Rembrandt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgIt’s been a tumultuous, emotional roller coaster of a week in Israel and around the Jewish world: Memorials, moments of silence and then celebrations, albeit muted and rather subdued under our current difficult circumstances.

In this week’s parsha, Emor, we read about the required standards of behavior of the Kohanim, the Priestly tribe. They are not permitted to come into contact with the dead and their marriage choices are more limited than the average Israelite.

We also find the commandment of Kiddush Hashem. Every Jew, not only a Kohen, is expected to sanctify the name of God. Sometimes, this means actually giving up one’s life for the faith, as millions of our brethren have done throughout the ages. For most of us, however, it means behaving in a way that will bring praise to the God of Israel. When we act morally, ethically and righteously, people generally respect us, and this brings credit to our God and our faith.

Way back at this very first revelation at the Burning Bush, Moses was told by God that we were expected to become a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” When we have lived up to that calling, we have indeed been a “light unto the nations.”

Today, Israel is confronted with a world in which hypocrisy has reached proportions unheard of in the annals of history. The whole planet seems to have lost its moral bearings, and frankly, its senses. Even our friends are pressuring us, and now threatening and extorting us, too.

Yet we must do what we must do. Will all the hundreds of precious, young lives snuffed out be in vain if we don’t finish the job in Gaza?

Things seem very confusing. On the one hand, we recently witnessed the incredibly miraculous hand of God protecting us from a 300-plus missile and drone attack by Iran. The 99.9% success rate of our defenses simply cannot be explained militarily or scientifically. On the other hand, we have lost hundreds of our best brave defenders. Where was God there? Is there a contradiction here?

This is shaping up to be nothing less than an existential war for our very survival. The question is: Are we safe or not? Is God protecting us or not?

My mind goes back to 1991 and the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein of unblessed memory was threatening Israel with his lethal Scud missiles and even chemical weapons. Israel was distributing gas masks to every citizen in case of a chemical attack by the vicious dictator.

Iraq had invaded Kuwait. The United States warned Iraq to get out and gave it a deadline. It was not our battle. Israel has no border with Iraq and the war had nothing to do with Israel. Yet Saddam was threatening us and America provided Israel with the Patriot missile-defense system and asked us to stay out of it. The United States would deal with Iraq.

So they did, but not before Iraq had fired dozens of Scud missiles at Israel. Miraculously, there was not a single fatality.

I remember clearly how the whole Jewish world was petrified at the time. There were prayer meetings and emergency fundraisers for Israel in Jewish communities around the world, including ours.

There was one lone voice in the wilderness, however, who declared that Israel was safe and would be safe from any such attacks. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, went further and advised the Israeli government that gas masks would not be needed. How right he was.

Here in South Africa, the Zionist Federation was organizing a solidarity mission to Israel. The Rebbe encouraged us to join and several of my Chabad colleagues went with me, along with the late Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris. I even took along my 12-year-old daughter, Zeesy. She was the youngest member of the mission.

It is my personal belief that Israel was miraculously protected by God from the Iraqi Scuds because Israel was simply minding its own business. It was attacked for no reason whatsoever. We had done nothing to compromise our security. The heavenly Guardian of Israel responded accordingly.

Similarly, in the recent Iranian attack, we were completely innocent targets. We have no border with Iran and they have zero justification for being involved. So, we suffered not one fatality. Again, God watched over us miraculously.

But when we make strategic mistakes in our approach to Hamas; when we allow international pressure and public opinion to endanger the lives of our valiant young soldiers; when we refrain from bombing and instead send them into booby-trapped buildings; then, tragically, we suffer fatalities.

It’s one thing to boast about being the most moral army in the world (and we are), but is it wise to tell our enemies in advance when and where we are coming for them? We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Our unprecedented noble gestures have been completely ignored by the world, and we are still being accused of genocide. So shouldn’t we be sparing our innocent, precious boys from harm instead?

I am fond of quoting Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who once said, “It doesn’t matter what the world says. It matters what the Jews do.” How true.

I believe that when we do what we must do, then God does what He must do. May we merit His Divine protection now and always and may our defenders be completely safe and successful.

Please God, we will practice Kiddush Hashem by behaving as noble examples of humanity rather than as martyrs in a war in which, sometimes, we seem to be fighting with our hands tied behind our backs. Six million was enough martyrs. Not one more, please God.

The post Is God Protecting Us? first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

RSS

One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.

REMEMBERING THE DEAD

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

The post One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

RSS

Putin Jails US Reporter Gershkovich in Sham Trial

A Russian secret court found U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich guilty of espionage on Friday and sentenced him to 16 years in a maximum security penal colony in what his employer, the Wall Street Journal, accurately called “a disgraceful sham conviction.”

Gershkovich, a 32-year-old Jewish American who denied any wrongdoing, went on trial in the city of Yekaterinburg last month after being accused of trying to gather sensitive information about a tank factory.

He was the first U.S. journalist accused of spying in Russia since the Cold War, and his arrest in March 2023 prompted many U.S. and other Western correspondents to leave Moscow.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Gershkovich did not commit any crime and has been wrongfully detained.

“We are pushing hard for Evan’s release and will continue to do so,” Biden said in a statement. “Journalism is not a crime.”

Video of Friday’s hearing released by the court showed Gershkovich, dressed in a T-shirt and black trousers, standing in a glass courtroom cage as he listened to the verdict being read in rapid-fire legalese for nearly four minutes.

Asked by the judge if he had any questions, he replied “Nyet.”

The judge, Andrei Mineyev, said the nearly 16 months Gershkovich had already served since his arrest would count towards the 16-year sentence.

Mineyev ordered the destruction of the reporter’s mobile phone and paper notebook. The defense has 15 days to appeal.

“This disgraceful, sham conviction comes after Evan has spent 478 days in prison, wrongfully detained, away from his family and friends, prevented from reporting, all for doing his job as a journalist,” the Journal said in a statement.

“We will continue to do everything possible to press for Evan’s release and to support his family. Journalism is not a crime, and we will not rest until he’s released. This must end now.”

Gershkovich’s friend, reporter Pjotr Sauer of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, posted on X: “Russia has just sentenced an innocent man to 16 years in a high security prison. I have no words to describe this farce. Let’s get Evan out of there.”

Friday’s hearing was only the third in the trial. The proceedings, apart from the sentencing, were closed to the media on the grounds of state secrecy.

Espionage cases often take months to handle and the unusual speed at which the trial was held behind closed doors has stoked speculation that a long-discussed U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange deal may be in the offing, involving Gershkovich and potentially other Americans detained in Russia.

The Kremlin, when asked by Reuters earlier on Friday about the possibility of such an exchange, declined to comment: “I’ll leave your question unanswered,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Among those Russia would like to free is Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany for murdering an exiled Chechen-Georgian dissident in a Berlin park in 2019.

Officers of the FSB security service arrested Gershkovich on March 29, 2023, at a steakhouse in Yekaterinburg, 900 miles (1,400 km) east of Moscow. He has since been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

Russian prosecutors had accused Gershkovich of gathering secret information on the orders of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency about a company that manufactures tanks for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

The Uralvagonzavod factory, which he is accused of spying on, has been sanctioned by the West. Based in the city of Nizhny Tagil near Yekaterinburg, it has publicly spoken of producing T-90M battle tanks and modernizing T-72B3M tanks.

Earlier on Friday, the court unexpectedly said it would pronounce its verdict within hours after state prosecutors demanded Gershkovich be jailed for 18 years for spying. The maximum sentence for the crime he was accused of is 20 years.

Russia usually concludes legal proceedings against foreigners before making any deals on exchanging them.

‘WRONGFULLY DETAINED’

Gershkovich, his newspaper and the U.S. government all rejected the allegations against him and said he was merely doing his job as a reporter accredited by the Foreign Ministry to work in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is open to a prisoner exchange involving Gershkovich, and that contacts with the United States have taken place but must remain secret.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that Washington was working every day to bring home Gershkovich, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and other Americans.

He declined to go into details when asked why Putin would reach a deal on Gershkovich’s release ahead of the U.S. election.

“Any effort to bring any American home is going to be part of a process of back and forth, of discussion, potentially of negotiation,” Blinken said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

“Depending on what the other side is looking for, they’ll reach their own conclusions about whether it meets whatever their needs are, and we can bring someone home – and I don’t think that’s dependent on an election in the United States or anywhere else,” he said.

Mark Warner, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, called Gershkovich’s sentence “outrageous,” and said he thinks “it’s clear that the Russians view Evan almost as a bargaining chip at this point.”

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Warner declined to discuss whether efforts are underway to arrange an exchange for Gershkovich’s release, but said “all options have to stay on the table” with regards to how the Biden administration responds.

Friends who have exchanged letters with Gershkovich say he has remained resilient and cheerful throughout his imprisonment, occupying himself by reading classics of Russian literature.

At court appearances over the past 16 months – most recently with his head shaven – he has frequently smiled and nodded at reporters he used to work with before he himself became the story.

Since Russian troops entered Ukraine in 2022, Moscow and Washington have conducted just one high profile prisoner swap: Russia released basketball star Brittney Griner, held for smuggling cannabis, in return for arms dealer Viktor Bout, jailed for terrorism-related offenses in the United States.

The post Putin Jails US Reporter Gershkovich in Sham Trial first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

RSS

VP Harris Hits Fundraising Trail Amid Ongoing Calls for Biden to Quit Race

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will headline a fundraiser in Massachusetts on Saturday as President Joe Biden faces continued pressure from fellow Democrats and big money donors to end his floundering campaign.

Biden and top aides on Friday vowed to continue with the campaign, even as major donors signaled they were unwilling to open their checkbooks unless the 81-year-old president stepped aside.

The crisis-in-confidence in Biden’s ability to win has placed a huge spotlight on Harris, widely believed to be the most likely replacement if he steps down.

Her fundraising events, including the one on Saturday in Provincetown, Massachusetts are getting added interest from donors who want to signal they are willing to coalesce around her potential bid for the White House, according to three Democratic fundraisers.

More than one in 10 congressional Democrats have now publicly called on Biden, who is isolating at his Delaware home with a case of COVID-19, to drop out following a disastrous debate last month against Republican former President Donald Trump that raised questions about the incumbent’s ability to win the Nov. 5 election or carry out his duties for another four years.

Biden’s campaign hoped to raise some $50 million in big-dollar donations in July for the Biden Victory Fund but was on track for less than half that figure as of Friday, according to two sources familiar with the fundraising efforts.

The campaign called reports of a July fundraising slump overstated, noting that it anticipated a drop-off in large donations due to vacations. It said the campaign still has 10 fundraisers on the schedule this month.

Harris assured major Democratic donors on Friday that the party would prevail in the presidential election as more lawmakers called for her running mate, Biden, to stand down.

“We are going to win this election,” she said on a call arranged on short notice to calm donors, according to a person on the call. “We know which candidate in this election puts the American people first: Our president, Joe Biden.”

Harris attended the call “at the direct request of senior advisers to the president,” one of the people said, an account confirmed by another person familiar with the matter.

The post VP Harris Hits Fundraising Trail Amid Ongoing Calls for Biden to Quit Race first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News