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Miracle on the Mountain

The Prophets of Baal Are Slaughtered” by Gustave Doré, 1866. Photo: Wikimedia

JNS.orgThis week we had the unusual opportunity of marking the leap day of Feb. 29. But Jews, who are characteristically generous, don’t have just a leap day. We have a whole extra month.

With a full 13th month of Adar II, the Haftarah read in shul this week will be a well-known biblical story from the First Book of Kings, which is not usually read in an ordinary calendar year. It is the famous story of Elijah the prophet, and his fight against the idolatrous King Ahab and his heathen wife Queen Jezebel, who actively promoted paganism in the Holy Land and had many of the Hebrew prophets put to death.

The Israelites were wavering between the worship of Baal and the worship of the true God of Israel. Elijah decides that dramatic action is needed to bring his people back from idolatry and confusion to monotheism and faith in the one God. He challenges Ahab to a duel, not with Colt .45s, but with prayer.

The 450 prophets of the idol Baal and Elijah—the one prophet of the one God of Israel—ascended Mount Carmel. Each side was to prepare an animal offering on an altar and pray to their deity. The one whose offering would be consumed by a fire from heaven would have proven the authenticity of their God.

“Give us two bulls and let them [the prophets of Baal] choose one bull for themselves and cut it up and place it on the wood, but fire they shall not put; and I will prepare one bull, and I will put it on the wood, and fire will I not place. And you will call out in the name of your deity, and I will call out in the name of the Lord, and it shall be that the one who will answer with fire, he is the true God.” (First Kings 18:20-39)

The prophets of Baal agreed to the challenge and many thousands gathered on the mountain to watch the dramatic showdown. This would be the final faceoff to determine who was the one true God.

The prophets of Baal went first. Naturally, their prayers and entreaties went unanswered. Elijah even taunted them: “Perhaps your god is sleeping or on a journey. Pray more loudly, perhaps he doesn’t hear you.” Of course, despite all their prayers, incantations and shenanigans, there was no reply from above.

As evening approached, Elijah took center stage. He built an altar, placed the animal upon it, poured water all around the altar and offered a short but powerful prayer: “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and at Your word have I done all these things. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, and this people shall know that You are the Lord God.”

As Elijah finished his prayer, a fire descended from heaven and consumed his offering: “And all the people saw and fell on their faces, and they said, ‘The Lord is God, the Lord is God.’”

It is with these very words that, to this day, we conclude the sacred Neilah prayer at the end of every Yom Kippur.

This is a powerful, inspirational story. Just as it demonstrated to the Jews of that generation that the one God alone is worthy of our worship, so does its stirring message speak to us today.

But I am not here to marvel at God’s miracles. To God, miracles are nothing special, just an everyday routine matter. To me, the bigger and more moving miracle is how one mortal man of flesh and blood stood up to the most powerful ruler in the land. Ahab was the king and had an army at his beck and call. Elijah was one lone voice in the wilderness. He had been persecuted, was on the run and almost all his righteous compatriots had been murdered by the king and queen’s forces. Still, he spoke truth to power.

It would have been so much simpler and easier for Elijah to change his tune and go along with the popular thinking of the time. No doubt there were plenty of Jews who must have told him, “Don’t be such a fanatic. Why are you so rigid and inflexible? So what if they dabble a bit with Baal? Everyone is doing it these days. If you cooperate with the king, you may even become the chief prophet of the land!”

But Elijah remained faithful to his beliefs and stuck to his principles. In the end, his prayer was answered, the miracle happened, and he was able to inspire and turn his entire nation back to God.

So, to my mind, bigger than a fire coming down from heaven is the miracle of Elijah’s faith, fortitude, strength of character and courage of his convictions.

Today, the prophets of Baal are gone without a trace, but Elijah—Eliyahu Hanavi—has gone down in history as one of the greatest prophets of all time. He continues to be remembered at every bris and Pesach seder around the world, down through the generations. One dissenting opinion, one man of principle who took the long hard road, lives on forever.

Falsehood may be fashionable, but truth is timeless. Lies, like any fad, soon go out of fashion, but truth is eternal. Compromising principles for popularity works in the short term, but soon leaves us emptyhanded and chastened.

Elijah teaches us a lesson for every generation, including our own. No wonder we are told that Elijah will be the precursor to the ultimate Messenger of Peace who will herald the Messianic Age. He is the harbinger of Moshiach. Ultimately, principled living will bring peace much sooner than pandering to the whims of the moment, as popular as they may be.

We have seen the success of peace through strength. We also need peace through truth.

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Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader’ Welcomes Anti-Israel Campus Protesters to ‘Resistance Front’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

Iran’s so-called “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, applauded the anti-Israel protesters who have thrown university campuses across the US into chaos over the past several weeks, declaring them part of a new “branch of the Resistance Front” against the Jewish state.

“Dear university students in the United States of America, this message is an expression of our empathy and solidarity with you,” Khamenei wrote in an open letter published on Thursday. “As the page of history is turning, you are standing on the right side of it.”

Rehashing antisemitic conspiracies of Jewish control, he derided “the global Zionist elite” for speaking against the campus demonstrations.

“The global Zionist elite — who owns most US and European media corporations or influences them through funding and bribery — has labeled this courageous, humane resistance movement as ‘terrorism,’” Khamenei wrote. “You have now formed a branch of the Resistance Front and have begun an honorable struggle in the face of your government’s ruthless pressure — a government which openly supports the usurper and brutal Zionist regime.”

Khamenei also praised students in other countries who have launched anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, noting the leading role that faculty have played in fostering and supporting the unrest.

“Besides you students from dozens of American universities, there have also been uprisings in others countries among academics and the general public,” he wrote. “The support and solidarity of your professors is a significant and consequential development. This can offer some measure of comfort in the face of your government’s police brutality and the pressures it is exerting on you. I too am among those who empathize with you young people, and value your perseverance.”

Khamenei’s letter came amid an outpouring of praise for the anti-Zionist students by Islamist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

“While we support the assassination of the infidel Zionists and the beheading of them, we also appreciate and value the movement of Western demonstrators and sit-in students from Western universities, who through their sit-ins and protests expressed their rejection of the genocide taking place in Gaza,” al-Qaeda leadership wrote in a recent communique

Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran, have also cheered the protests.

“Today’s students are the leaders of the future, and their suppression today means an expensive electoral bill that the Biden administration will pay sooner or later,” Hamas official Izzat Al-Risheq said in a statement last month.

Naim Qassem, the deputy head of Hezbollah, also praised the protesters during an interview with Al-Manar TV earlier this month.

“We appreciate and value this very much. Perhaps in the future, there will be cooperation among the youth of the world — in America, France, Britain, Germany, and all the activists,” he said. “The [campus protests] are important, especially because they will have an impact on US elections. They will have an impact on the American position.”

Earlier this month, when some universities suspended students who had occupied sections of campus and refused to leave unless school officials agreed to condemn and boycott Israel, the Iran-backed Houthi militia, a terrorist organization that has repeatedly violated freedom of the seas by attacking international shipping vessels passing through the Red Sea, offered to admit the disciplined students as transfers to Sanaa University, an institution it administers.

Some anti-Zionist student groups have reciprocated the admiration.

Last week, Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) endorsed Hamas, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace Islamic extremism and antisemitism.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has re-formed under multiple names since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, was central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The anti-Zionist student movement’s support for terrorism and anti-American ideologies has been expressed before.

Footage of the protests which erupted on college campuses at the end of spring semester showed demonstrators chanting in support of Hamas and calling for the destruction of Israel. In many cases, they lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas at Columbia University, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats

US President Joe Biden addresses rising levels of antisemitism, during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, US, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A pro-Israel advocacy group is attempting to quell fears among US Democratic politicians that expressing support for the Jewish state amid the ongoing war in Gaza will lead to electoral defeat in November. 

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel policies within the Democratic Party, circulated a memo this week explaining that the war in Gaza is simply not a top priority for most of the electorate. The memo, first acquired by Axios news website, asserts that “it just isn’t true” that Democratic support for Israel will come at an electoral cost. 

The group argues that a series of misleading polls has caused Democratic elected officials to become more tepid in their support for the Jewish state. 

To bolster its claims, DMFI points to a poll conducted by the New York Times in May which revealed that only 2 percent of voters cite Israel, Palestinians, Hamas, or Gaza as their most important issue. Nonetheless, the Times tried to exaggerate the extent to which voters care about the Israel-Hamas war by highlighting the 5 percent of voters who cite foreign policy as their biggest issue, according to DMFI. However, these 5 percent of voters did not identify if the war in Gaza is their major foreign policy concern.

The group also points out a Harvard-Harris poll from April which showed that Americans overwhelmingly side with Israel in its ongoing war effort. Eighty percent of Americans support Israel and only 20 percent back Hamas, the poll revealed.

DMFI also suggests that Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas has not had a noticeable impact on President Joe Biden’s national standing. According to polling data aggregated by FiveThirtyEight, the president’s approval rating on Oct. 7of last year stood at 39.6 percent, and on April 23 last month, his approval stood at 40 percent. The same poll reveals that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden did not grow over the same time period. 

DMFI president Mark Mellman told Axios that anti-Israel activists represent a small fringe of the American electorate. 

“People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn’t make them the majority. … It doesn’t even make them a substantial minority,” Mellman said.

The group’s efforts to reach out to Democrats come on the heels of a high-pressure effort by left-wing groups to force the Democratic establishment to stop supporting Israel. Anti-Israel organizations have organized efforts to encourage voters in Democratic primaries to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of voting for Biden. Moreover, nearly every appearance by Biden in recent months has been marked by the presence of scores of angry anti-Israel protesters

The relationship between Democratic politicians and the Jewish state has significantly soured in the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people in southern Israel. High-profile Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) signed onto a letter urging Biden to pause weapons shipments to Israel. Biden vowed to stop arms deliveries to Israel if the Israeli army attempts to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions within the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, expressing concern about the prospect of civilian casualties during such an offensive.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

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