As Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” film heads toward $400 million in earnings after debuting in early June, and numerous big-name musical acts line up to perform in Israel this summer, the influence of the BDS movement’s cultural boycott of the Jewish state appears to be waning.
Gadot, who served in the IDF, has drawn ire from anti-Israel activists worldwide for her vocal support of Israel. Yet despite BDS campaigns to boycott “Wonder Woman” in Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria due to the “Zionist” actress’s leading role, Gadot’s Marvel comic superhero movie soared to success—earning $103.1 million in North America during its first weekend—and received overwhelmingly positive reviews.
On the musical front, while leading artists routinely receive BDS pressure to cancel their shows in Israel, the number of star-studded acts scheduled to perform in the Jewish state this summer is unprecedented.
“Most artists understand that boycott campaigns in this case are racist and destructive, and will not lead to peace,” Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel education organization StandWithUs, told JNS.org.
“Not only is the boycott movement against Israel a failure among performing artists, but 21 [U.S.] states have already passed anti-BDS legislation because it is viewed as discriminatory and harmful,” she added.
In May, the Aerosmith rock band and pop star Justin Bieber both performed at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, resisting BDS petitions signed by thousands to cancel their concerts in Israel. Adding to their defiance of the boycott movement, the Aerosmith rockers met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem. “You don’t want to miss a thing,” Netanyahu told the band when recommending places to visit in Israel, a reference to the group’s first number-one hit.
“Artists that come to Israel have understood that people are trying to take advantage of them because of hatred and for narrow political needs….[At their performances] they see a young, liberal, open audience…and feel that attempts to make them boycott Israel do not give credit to their intelligence,” Lior Weintraub, vice president of The Israel Project educational organization, told JNS.org.
Besides the Bieber and Aersomith performances, big-name shows hitting Israel this summer include Tom Jones, Armin van Buuren, Britney Spears, the Pixies, Guns N’ Roses, Rod Stewart, Lil Wayne, Radiohead and comedian Chris Rock.
Ahead of Radiohead’s July 19 performance in Tel Aviv, the band publicly clashed with the de facto frontman of the BDS movement, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, over the cultural boycott of Israel.
The public spat was instigated when Waters, along with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, published an open letter on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day demanding that Radiohead cancel its performance in Israel.
The letter, co-signed by dozens of artists, stated, “By playing in Israel you’ll be playing in a state where, U.N. rapporteurs say, ‘A system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people’…Please do what artists did in South Africa’s era of oppression: stay away, until apartheid is over.”
Radiohead’s lead singer, Thom Yorke—who rarely speaks with the media—responded furiously to the letter in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
Yorke lambasted critics of Radiohead who assumed he and his bandmates were ignorant about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and condemned Waters for “throw[ing] the word ‘apartheid’ around.”
“The kind of dialogue that [BDS activists] want to engage in is one that’s black or white. I have a problem with that,” said Yorke, who added it is “really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years….There’s an awful lot of people who don’t agree with the BDS movement, including us. I don’t agree with the cultural ban at all.”
Creative Community for Peace co-founder David Renzer told JNS.org, “We are pleased to see the continuation of major international artists performing in Israel, despite the ongoing efforts of the BDS movement and artists such as Roger Waters.”
Renzer, whose organization works “behind the scenes” to provide support to artists performing in Israel, added, “Thankfully, artists are recognizing that the arts are a powerful means to building bridges and aren’t allowing themselves to be manipulated.”
President Trump says Qatar has funded terror “at a very high level.”
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday called on Qatar to stop funding of groups that commit terrorism, saying the country had historically done so “at a very high level.”
“No civilized nation can tolerate this violence or allow this wicked ideology to spread on its shores,” Trump told reporters during a joint news conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Earlier on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Gulf states to ease their blockade of Qatar, explaining that it has “humanitarian consequences” and hinders the United States’ military efforts.
This week, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates all cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and shut down land, sea and air links. Jordan and several other countries in the region followed suit.
Those countries accuse Qatar of supporting terror groups in the region, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, a charge denied by Qatar.
The countries should “immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and make a good faith effort to resolve the grievances they have with each other,” Tillerson said Friday in a statement quoted by NBC News.
Meanwhile on Friday, reported Reuters, Trump spoke by phone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss Qatar and the need for Gulf unity.
It was the fourth call Trump has had with a regional leader since the crisis began on Monday.
During his phone calls, Trump has emphasized a desire for Gulf unity in the wake of the crisis but has made clear he sees a need for Qatar to improve its behavior, said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The spat between Qatar and the other Arab countries began late last month, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all blocked the website of the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera television network.
As with the car and stabbing attacks on the Westminster Bridge on March 22, 2017, media reports on Saturday night highlighted the terrorists’ “new tactic” of using cars to mow down a large number of pedestrians, and knives to stab as many as they can. There is nothing new about this tactic. As with other forms of terrorism, the Palestinians used them first on Israeli civilians. Despite decades of advancing Palestinian terrorist tactics in Israel (suicide belts and vests, and car bombs with nails and screws, car mowing pedestrians, and stabbing, to name but a few), the political leadership of most Western nations seemed oblivious to the emerging patterns of Islamic terrorism. They failed to recognize their jihad against Israel for the deadly contagious disease they spread. This has been going on for decades.
Instead of pressuring the Palestinians to stop, Arab and Western nations have been rewarding the Palestinians who employ terrorists and fund their activities with billions of dollars while pressuring Israel for concessions. Incredibly, since the rise of global Islamic radicalism, the Palestinians have successfully managed to falsely argue that the creation of the state of Palestine, an Islamic terrorist state, would somehow influence other radical Islamic groups to give up their jihad. The Saudis and the Gulf States that have been funding the Palestinian jihadists know better, but are finding it difficult to change their longtime habits, they apparently encouraged President Trump to renege on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel by relocating the American embassy to the city, while legitimizing the Palestinian leaderships that fund terrorism. (The Saudi agreement to purchase some $400 billion worth of U.S. weapons and technology has probably helped their appeal).
The Saturday night Islamic terrorist car and knives attack in East London should signal the end of multiculturalism in England. But don’t hold your breath.
For many decades, radical Islamist ideology was allowed to flourish in England, mostly under the guise of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli activities. Those, however, allowed the expansion of Islamic networks with Saudi and Gulf funding of mosques, madrassas, and Islamic centers and with Muslim Brotherhood political guiding laid down a global network. After the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks on America and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan supported by the United Kingdom and Canada, Islamic organizations in Britain, including the Palestinians, have increased their activities, raising money for future widows and orphans and expanded their base through the dawa.
Law enforcement officials privately voiced their concern but there was no political will to confront the problem. Not even after fifteen Islamic terrorist attacks beginning on July 7, 2005, on London’s transportation systems killing 52 and wounding many others.
The threat of Islamic takeover has been clear to many and mostly ignored by British politicians. A few, like Baroness Cox, protested the imposition of Sharia courts in England. In March 2014 she described the Islamic modus operandi: Sharia law, imported from theocracies like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, began to be used here in a strictly limited form, dealing mainly with narrow issues like Islamic financial contracts. But as the Muslim population has grown, and the pervasive creed of multiculturalism has become ever more powerful, so Sharia law has rapidly grown in influence within some communities. ‘There are now estimated to be no fewer than 85 Sharia courts across the country — from London and Manchester to Bradford and Nuneaton. They operate mainly from mosques, settling financial and family disputes according to [Islamic} religious principles.” The government of David Cameron, like that of Tony Blair before, paid little attention and refused to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been collecting funds for Hamas for decades.
Radical Islam spreads in large Muslim communities everywhere in the West. The Islamic ideology is preached and enforced in Mosques and schools, usually with no interference from the local secular authorities. For example, on May 18, 2015, sharia became the law officially in the Muslim-majority Barking & Dagenham Borough in East London, where the Metropolitan Police has been hunting for potential supporters of the latest car and knife attacks this past Saturday night that killed seven and injured at least 48 people, many critically.
At that time, the local council took this step to “welcome our Muslim immigrants and nourish a multicultural society.” Imposing sharia on all residents, Muslim and non-Muslim alike prohibited “the consumption of pork or alcohol. All businesses required to desist all their operation during Islamic prayer time, or else they will incur fines. All women, whether they are Muslim or not required to wear hijabs (the local government [was] in the process of sewing tens of thousands for non-Muslim women)” Representatives of the council saw the move to Sharia “as a natural next step.” Moreover, Linda Gayle, a local representative declared: “It was only a matter of time before Sharia Law became reality in London and we’re happy to be the forerunners of this very tolerant and multicultural governing process. Barking is home to tens of thousands of Muslims, and we could no longer ignore the richness that they have brought to our little part of town. Implementing Sharia Law is honoring all the people of Muslim faith who make this community thrive. Now they will finally feel home!” The Saturday night attacks on the infidels was another bloody reminder that radical Muslims do not honor others.
Prime Minister Theresa May described Saturday’s attackers as bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division and promotes sectarianism.” She went on to say: “It is an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy, and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam.” She was right. Islam, as taught and practiced today is incompatible with Western values. And unless is it forced to change it will continue to incite for jihad. It’s about time to declare war on all Jihadists.
“The boycotters, whose entire identities revolve around boycotting Israeli Jews, cannot let go of the issue and seek to insert it into unrelated organizations.”
Academics from the elite Modern Language Association (MLA) voted by a significant margin on Wednesday to reject a boycott of Israeli universities.
MLA members voted 1,954 to 885 to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” of Israeli academic institutions advocated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. MLA has a total of 18,279 eligible voters and 1,828 votes were required to ratify the resolution, wrote Anna Chang on the MLA website blog.
The resolution’s anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) language stated: “Whereas endorsing the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature; Whereas the boycott’s prohibition of the evaluation of work of individual Israeli scholars conflicts with Resolution 2002-1, which condemns boycotts against scholars; and Whereas endorsing the boycott could curtail debates with representatives of Israeli universities, such as faculty members, department chairs, and deans, thereby blocking possible dialogue and general scholarly exchange; Be it resolved that the MLA refrain from endorsing the boycott.”
Writing on the website of Legal Insurrection, the Cornell Law professor William A Jacobson, said, “This represents a staggering defeat for the boycotters. MLA has almost 5 times the membership of the American Studies Association, the largest academic group in the US to have adopted academic BDS.” He added, “Needless to say, supporters of the boycott are very unhappy with the vote result and again threatening to engineer mass resignations.”
Jacobson, an expert in BDS who has written extensively on academic BDS, wrote the key takeaways from the MLA row over BDS are: “One lesson is persistence. The key to BDS efforts is to wear good people down. At MLA and elsewhere, the boycott push is a multi-year, ongoing effort.
“Another lesson is to educate people. BDS, as all hate, prevails where propaganda is unchallenged. MMFSR [MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights] members produced fact sheets and other factual information to counter the false narratives and ahistorical arguments of BDS. A third lesson is not to be passive.”
He added, “The boycotters, whose entire identities revolve around boycotting Israeli Jews, cannot let go of the issue and seek to insert it into unrelated organizations.”
The pro-BDS group MLA Members for Justice in Palestine, which advocates within the Modern Language Association for “international solidarity with Palestinians” and the boycott of Israeli academic institutions – tweeted on Wednesday: “Principled resignations and principled continuance both good responses to ratification of anti-boycott res. MLA will support BDS eventually.”
Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told The Jerusalem Post, “MLA’s latest vote rejecting BDS is very encouraging and positive proving that there are those who see the intellectual dishonesty of the BDS movement and how it would have damaged the MLA. Above all it shows that there is an understanding that scholars boycotting other scholars goes against everything a university stands for.”
Many of the residents were low-income families or disabled people.
UK Jewish community organizations and synagogues called on its members to donate to London charities that will provide long-term support to the victims of Wednesday’s deadly fire in London, after the victims were inundated with material offerings.
Fire engulfed the social housing block, where as many as 600 people lived in more than 120 apartments, in the early hours of Wednesday.
The death toll from the blaze that ripped through Grenfell Tower in west London rose to 17 on Thursday, with many people still missing. A final toll may not be known for weeks.
Thirty-seven people remained in hospital, with 17 of them in critical care. Other survivors spent the night at emergency shelters.
Synagogues on Wednesday had swiftly mobilized to gather donations for survivors who lost all their belongings in the blaze, with synagogues such as Holland Park Synagogue — located a few streets away from the building — West London Synagogue and Borehamwood Synagogue working to coordinate donations.
But due to an overwhelming desire by Londoners to help, the local authority, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, thanked donors but said it could not take any further donations for the time being.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews put out a statement saying: “Our hearts go out to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. We have been speaking to Jewish and interfaith colleagues about how best to help. We understand that the surrounding churches, mosques and temples have received enough material goods and volunteers for the time being. Therefore the best way to support those affected is to donate to a charity like The Kensington & Chelsea Foundation.”
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis tweeted Wednesday: “Images of #GrenfellTower are truly harrowing. My prayers today are with all affected & with the heroes running towards danger to save lives.”
West London Synagogue said it has been “fielding calls all day from this remarkable community about how we can help those affected by the terrible fire.”
“What is needed is to build capacity in the organisations working directly with those affected, and who will be working with them for the long term,” it stated on its Facebook page. “The Kensington and Chelsea Foundation have a collection, and a significant amount of matched funding for any donations. They are local, well established, and well placed to meet the ongoing needs. This is a good place to direct our support.”
The foundation had raised over 500,000 pounds by Thursday afternoon.
An investigation into the cause of the blaze, the worst in the British capital in a generation, was underway.
Arrow-3 ICBM to be tested off Kodiak Island and will face targets simulating Iranian ballistic missiles.
Israel is set to carry out a joint test of its Arrow 3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) defense system in the United States next year, the first time such a test will occur outside of Israeli territory.
The exercise, which will be carried out in cooperation with the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), is set to take place on the Alaskan island of Kodiak where the system will be tested against targets simulating advanced ballistic missiles being developed by Iran.
Israel and the United States are concerned that Iran has continued to work on both its nuclear program as well as its ballistic missile program despite international criticism. In light of the perceived missile threat, the two allies have worked together to develop several missile defense systems, including the Arrow 3, which was co-managed by the US Missile Defense Agency and IMDO, a division of the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
Considered one of the world’s best interceptors due to its breakthrough technological capabilities, the Arrow 3 is a highly maneuverable system designed to provide ultimate air defense by intercepting ballistic missiles when they are still outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
MDA Director US Navy Vice Admiral James Syring was quoted by Alaskan media as telling a congressional meeting last week that the “[Arrow 3] has significant range constraints within the Mediterranean. One of the better places to test is in Alaska, from Kodiak, and we intend to do that next year.” But according to Craig Campbell, the CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp, the deal to carry out the test has not yet been finalized.
“The Missile Defense Agency, MDA, has approached us about doing the Israeli program out of Kodiak, and we are in the process of negotiating that contract today,” Campbell is quoted by Alaska’s KTOO news as saying.
According to KTOO news, the test would be part of the $80 million contract between MDA and the Alaska Aerospace Corp. The Israel Air Force officially received Arrow-3 interceptors from the Israel Missile Defense Organization in January and according to IMDO Director Moshe Patel, further trials of the system were expected as Israel will continue to work with the United States in developing additional capabilities for the system.
In addition to the Arrow system, Israel’s air defenses currently include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets, and the David’s Sling missile defense system designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300km. The advanced systems provide Israel with a comprehensive protective umbrella able to counter threats posed by both short and mid-range missiles used by terror groups in Gaza and Hezbollah as well as the threat posed by more sophisticated long-range Iranian ballistic missiles. The first use of the Arrow system occurred in April when the system was launched to intercept a Syrian regime air defense fired three surface-to-air missiles towards IAF jets.
Declassified documents reveal IDF rabbi’s excitement over liberating Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron.
In 1967, as Israel was preparing for the war that by all odds would likely see the nascent state almost annihilated or at the very least have it escape miraculously with only a narrow defeat, IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren was making his way back to Israel after a fundraising stint in Australia.
Flying back to the Holy Land via the Pacific, he landed in New York an hour before Shabbat had started, spending the holy day of rest at a Jewish community near the airport. During Friday’s service, someone recognized him, and immediately he was asked to speak during the services the following day.
“In the evening there was a big crowd in the synagogue. There was a lot of anxiety. People were crying and the general feeling was that we were about to have another holocaust,” Rabbi Goren recalled in the testimony he gave to the Defense Ministry after the Six Day War, in documents that were recently declassified and released to the public for the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and of the liberation of Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights. “When I saw their anxiety and that they were crying I opened up the ark and said, ‘I swear, on this Torah scroll, that in any constellation, against any enemy that we will have to fight against, on whichever front it will be, against one Arab army alone, or against all of them – we will win. I told them that I was also planning on blowing the shofar at the Western Wall, and this greatly eased their anxiety.”
Throughout his speeches, in New York, and previously in Australia, Rabbi Goren constantly mentioned that the build-up to the military conflict was indeed a tremendous opportunity to liberate the entire territory of the land of Israel. Although Rabbi Goren was a major-general, due to his mission overseas he had not been privy to all the information the IDF’s top brass had received regarding the situation. His belief in the upcoming victory no doubt stemmed from the extraordinary amount of spiritual work he had performed over his lifetime in order to see how God was setting up the pieces to bring redemption to His Chosen People.
But as he embarked on the flight to Israel from his stopover Saturday night in London, he learned that the feeling that he had about this amazing opportunity wasn’t exclusive to him. Rather, whoever opened up their Jewish soul to let in an extra dose of faith in God, could also feel that victory for the Nation of Israel was nigh.
“There were only 11 people on the plane. They were all Israeli military officials returning home, except for one Jew from the US, calling himself ‘Einzneir,’ who said that he’s flying to Israel because a Jew’s place in a time of war is in the land of Israel, and that he would stay there until the end of the war, until the victory,” Rabbi Goren remembered. “That’s what he told me, and afterwards, I met this Jew at the end of the war, and the two of us cried when we met.”
In 1961, Rabbi Goren had been chatting with commander Motta Gur saying that Central Command had promised him that whenever the IDF should liberate Jerusalem’s Old City, he would be the first Jew to reach the Western Wall. Gur, who had been at loggerheads with Rabbi Goren over a religious issue, told him that if he wants to be the first one to reach the Kotel, they have to be at peace.
“What do you mean?” Goren remembered asking. “And he answered me, in this exact language: ‘Because I am going to liberate the Old City.’ I told him: ‘If you promise to liberate the Old City, I’m making a peace deal with you.’”
In a special televised show bringing together the major players involved in the liberation of Jerusalem, Goren said to Gur, who by chance had his mission to the Sinai canceled and instead was told to liberate the Old City: “If you were a rabbi, I would have seriously believed that the spirit of the prophets was upon you.”
Into the Lions’ Gate
“I asked him: ‘Where are you?’ and he answered, ‘We’re going up to the Lions’ Gate.’”
Upon hearing that Israeli troops were heading into Jerusalem’s Old City, the IDF chief rabbi didn’t waste any time joining Paratrooper Brigade commander Gur on June 7, 1967, to enter the city of the perfection of beauty.
“I ‘flew’ straight to the Rockefeller Museum, left the car there and I took my Torah scroll and shofar with me,” Rabbi Goren said. “I got out of the car, and with the Torah scroll in one hand and the shofar in the other, I started running toward the Lions’ Gate. As I was running there, the brigade was getting ready to go inside.”
In the meantime, Rabbi Goren told the Defense Ministry transcribers that he saw the Central Command commanding officer and the deputy chief of staff driving quickly in our direction.
“I didn’t pay attention to them. I didn’t want to drive there, I wanted to go by foot. I said it’s not important if I’m killed or not, the most important thing is for us to reach the ancient city of Jerusalem,” he said.
When they got to the Lions’ Gate he started blowing the shofar as it says in the Torah to blow trumpets, or the shofar, in times of war: “When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast…” (Numbers 10:9).
The whole way, Goren relived, he was blowing the shofar and reading Psalms. “I remember that I read the verses of “Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Rise up, Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you’” (Numbers 10:35), and of “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid… (Deuteronomy 20:3).
And then they reached the destination. After being expelled from the Old City for 19 years after having returned to it after an almost 2,000-year period – they were finally back in the dwelling place of God.
“When I got to the Temple Mount I blew the shofar, but first I fell to the floor and bowed down, as you are supposed to bow down at the site of the temple.
“I left the soldiers on the Temple Mount, as the inertia and my memories [of the Old City] pushed me to go to the Western Wall, even though I was standing right next to the site of the Holy of Holies, a place that is much more sacred than the Western Wall.”
Rabbi Goren remembered the exact psalms he read, beginning with Psalm 126, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed,” and then reading Psalm 122, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.”
As he stood on the Temple Mount, he saw that they were hanging a flag on the Western Wall.
“I didn’t notice who was hanging it. It was like I was in a dream, all the time I was running from place to place. And then I continued to run to the Western Wall.”
Rabbi Goren recalled that he didn’t know how to get to the Western Wall from the Temple Mount. After all he said, he had a custom of praying at the Kotel every Shabbat, and during the mourning period after his mother had passed away he would lead the prayer services at the Western Wall on the eve of every new month. But he had never been allowed to ascend to the Temple Mount.
“At that precise moment, an Arab appeared, started walking around, and told me in Arabic, ‘this way.’ He understood that I was trying to get to the Western Wall.”
He went straight to the Mughrabi Gate, finding there two officers, who were also running to find the Kotel. The way was long with many steps and many inner gates. Finally they broke open the last gate and descended to the ancient limestone wall, where despite it only being a remnant of the age of the temples, as fourth-century scholar Rav Acha said: “The divine presence has never departed from the Western Wall, as it says in Song of Solomon (2:9) ‘Look! There he stands behind our wall’” (Shemot Rabbah 2:2).
“This is the Western Wall,” Rabbi Goren said. “I immediately fell on the floor, kissed the floor, got up and made the Shehecheyanu blessing for special occasions and the ‘Consoler of Zion and Builder of Jerusalem’ blessing. There wasn’t a living soul there. It was as if the Divine Spirit was there.”
“As I was in Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount, I said that we have additional tasks to complete.”
Rabbi Goren was referring to Bethlehem, with Rachel’s Tomb, and Hebron, the site of the Cave of the Patriarchs.
With the Jordanian Legion completing abandoning the city where David had lived, Rabbi Goren and three of his colleagues searched the pitch black of Bethlehem to find Rachel’s Tomb.
“When we entered, it was dark, we had a flashlight, and we also had some candles. We lit two of them, and I said the verses of Jeremiah the Prophet off by heart (31:15-17): ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. This is what the Lord says, ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the Lord. ‘They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your descendants, declares the Lord. Your children will return to their own land,’” Rabbi Goren recalled. “We fulfilled the vision of the prophecy of Jeremiah the Prophet.”
Fathers and mothers
One of Rabbi Goren’s major efforts before the war in the Sinai in 1956 was to create a special prayer for the soldiers going to battle. Before the Six Day War, the Chief Rabbinate distributed hundreds of copies to the troops, with Rabbi Goren later saying “this prayer played a significant contribution to raising the general morale. Every last soldier had received the prayer from the chief of staff in veneration, and when I had gone around to the various units, the officers and the soldier showed me that they were saying the prayer before going to battle.”
After the success of liberating Bethlehem and Rachel’s Tomb, Rabbi Goren and his team continued to Gush Etzion, about 15 minutes south. Before dawn, he was told, the troops would be heading even farther south, to Hebron.
“At 4 a.m., I stood on a tank in the middle, and all the soldiers gathered around me,” he recalled. “I spoke to them and I told them simply, ‘I want to tell you about the enormous merit that has fallen into your hands today. Today, you need to know what you are about to liberate, and for who you are going to war.
“Today we are going to liberate the second most holy city in the world – the City of Our Forefathers, Hebron, the site of the Cave of the Patriarchs, where for years, not only during our statehood, but long before was closed to us. And, today, it is in your hands to liberate the city.
“When I went inside the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Divine Spirit was there. The cleanliness and beauty was unbelievable – just like at the Western Wall. Also at the Western Wall I could really feel the clapping of the wings of the Divine Spirit.”
On June 10, the six days of battle ended. By the seventh day, Israel was just beginning the work it had been doing.
Four JNF-USA delegations came for a one-week tour of Israel, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification.
The delegations included key donors, a young leadership group and Christian lovers of Israel. Every group had a different program and different goals, but they are all united in their love for Israel. All in all, there were 200 people across all four groups, and came together on two special occasions: the national Jerusalem Day ceremony held on Ammunition Hill, and a moving memorial ceremony at the 9/11 Twin Towers Memorial in the Jerusalem Park.
The Young Leadership Track delegation included 35 young Americans, the next generation of community leaders. With the Positively Israel: Interfaith Mission group, the focus was on multiculturalism. The President’s Society Mission included about 70 important donors. The Spirit of Israel delegation included 65 participants, among them JNF USA donors and friends.
The delegations were accompanied by JNF-USA executives, such as CEO Russell Robinson, Outgoing President Jeffrey Levine, Incoming President Dr. Sol Lizerbram, and Vice President of Campaigns and Major Gifts Chairman Bruce Gould.
The Positively Israel mission toured Israel for a week. The group members, both from Jewish and general communities in the USA, visited Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea, Masada, Acre, Atlit, Ein Hod, Caesarea and many other sites. Along the way, they met Israelis of different religions and were impressed by the unique connection between the cultures and faiths.
The delegation was headed by Nora Gonzalez from Texas and Ann Zinman from Arizona. “Ever since I was a little girl in Mexico, I’ve always felt this deep love for Israel” said Gonzalez. “For me, the opportunity to lead a group of Jews and non-Jews in a visit to the Holy Land really means coming full circle. This is a reminder that it doesn’t matter where we came from, and what we believe in, we all have one God. It is very important for us that the Jewish People knows it has many supporters. We want to show the Christians who the Jewish People truly is. We feel connected here not just to the history and roots of our faith, but to Israel’s contemporary challenges as well. It is a privilege to support Israel and be a part of its vision.”
Members of the young leadership group did not come to Israel as tourists here to visit the main attractions of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Masada. They traveled all over the country, got to know the communities living in Israel’s geographic periphery, learned about JNF USA’s contribution to the development of Israel and also inaugurated new projects.
The delegation visited Ben Gurion’s hut in Sde Boker, the Ramon Crater, the pioneering Haluza communities, the Aleh Negev Rehabilitation Village and Gush Etzion. On their last day in Israel, before returning to their respective homes, the members of the young leadership group planted trees together at Neot Kedumim.
“Planting a tree in Israel is a very special experience, and to me, the trees signify Israel’s future growth,” said Andy Stein, 29 years old from Chicago. “During this past week we’ve learned so much about JNF and we’re in awe of all the wonderful work it does here.”
When the New York Times opinion page hired Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss, two outspoken Zionist veterans of the Wall Street Journal, a friend of mine warned me that the hires could be a mixed blessing from a pro-Israel perspective.
Now all the anti-Israel editors already at the Times will feel like they can let loose with impunity, because the hiring of Stephens and Weiss provides a ready response to accusations of “bias.” So said my friend.
Or, as I put it back on April 13, writing about Stephens: “Anyone who thinks the Times hiring of him was motivated primarily by a desire to respond to the paper’s pro-Israel critics might want to think again.”
My friend’s warning turned out to be prophetic.
In the weeks since the news of the Stephens and Weiss hires broke, the Times has — as if compensating — unleashed a barrage of op-eds savagely hostile to Israel and Jewish interests. Among them:
An op-ed by a Palestinian terrorist, Marwan Barghouti, complaining about conditions in Israeli prisons and likening Israel to South Africa under apartheid. Even the New York Times’ own public editor, Liz Spayd, publicly faulted the Times for initially identifying the author as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian” rather than as a convicted terrorist and murderer.
An op-ed piece by a Palestinian lawyer, Raja Shehadeh, complaining about the Israeli checkpoints he must pass through between Ramallah and Ben-Gurion International Airport. “We cannot afford to abandon the struggle and must do what we can to end this occupation,” declared the Times article. It was adapted from Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation, a book that already has also been the basis of both a New York Timesmagazine article and a long essay in the New York Times Book Review. (The book review essay itself was the subject of a Times correction after it falsely accused Israel’s consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, of publicly calling for Palestinians to be deported to Jordan.)
An op-ed by the president of the National Iranian American Council, Trita Parsi, claiming, falsely, that the Iranian nuclear deal has “restrained” Iranian policy on Israel. “Iran’s actions and rhetoric on the Jewish state have shifted remarkably ever since nuclear negotiations began,” the article claimed, inaccurately.
An op-ed by the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, claiming, falsely, that Iran “has been aiding the victims of extremism in Iraq and Syria,” and offering advice to America on how “to avoid the spread of terrorism and militant extremism.” It is breathtaking, coming from the representative of a country that is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Mr. Zarif has had at least seven New York Times op-ed pieces since 2003, four of them since April 2015, prompting at least some wry speculation that the Times editors will make him their next op-ed page columnist hire after Stephens.
An op-ed by another Palestinian lawyer, Diana Buttu, calling for the disbandment of the Palestinian Authority on the grounds that it “served as a subcontractor for the occupying Israeli military…. to keep Palestinians silent and quash dissent while Israel steals land, demolishes Palestinian homes, and builds and expands settlements.” The op-ed instead calls for a Palestinian leadership that includes Hamas, which she conveniently refers to as a political party rather than a terrorist group. The op-ed calls for Palestinians to “press for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, like those that helped to end apartheid in South Africa.”
Any single one of these op-eds, taken alone, would be totally outrageous and indefensible. The onslaught of all five of them, in six weeks, constitutes an outbreak of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hostility at the Times on a level with the Jewish cemetery desecrations and bomb threat calls against Jewish institutions that the Times blamed on President Donald Trump and treated as front-page news a few months back.
Writing in Vox, David Roberts denounced Stephens as a “cosmopolitan, well-educated, reflexively pro-Israel war hawk.” The Times Cairo bureau chief, Declan Walsh, publicly denounced Stephens on Twitter as “not cool,” falsely accusing him of “ascribing a pathological condition to an entire race of people.”
It’s one thing to see the Stephens hire triggering antisemitic or anti-Israel tropes in other publications. It’s another to see them erupting in the columns of the Times itself. That’s not to blame Stephens, or Weiss, for the reaction. It’s not their fault. Their presence at the Times probably almost certainly nets out positively for the pro-Israel side. But the backlash can’t be ignored. It must be taken into account. Precisely as my friend predicted, it sure has been brutal.
Sharia law, the president at the time of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils ludicrously argued, far from discriminating against women, “guarantees women’s rights that are not recognised in mainstream Australian courts”.
The Australian Federal Police investigated 69 incidents of forced or under-age marriage in the 2015-16 financial year, up from 33 the previous year. While there are no official numbers, it is estimated that there are 83,000 women and girls in Australia who may have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which has spent the past four years probing numerous religious organizations, has made no inquiries into Islam. The commission has held 6,500 one-on-one private interview sessions with survivors or witnesses making allegations of child sexual abuse within institutions, but only three sessions in relation to Islamic institutions.
What legacy did Australia’s former Grand Mufti, Sheikh Taj Din al-Hilali — named “Muslim Man of the Year” in 2005 and the country’s most senior, longest-serving (1988-2007) Muslim cleric — leave behind?
In 1988, when Hilali was imam of the largest mosque in Australia, he gave a speech at Sydney University in which he described Jews as the cause of all wars and the existential enemy of humanity.
In July 2006, he called the Holocaust a “Zionist lie” and referred to Israel as a “cancer”.
In October 2006 — insinuating that the long prison sentences handed to Sydney’s Lebanese gang-rapists for attacking young teenage girls in the year 2000, were unfair — he compared Australian women who do not wear the Islamic veil to meat left uncovered in the streets and then eaten by cats. During his long career, Hilali also praised suicide bombers as heroes and called the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States “God′s work against oppressors” and “the work of 100 percent American gangs”.
At the time, Hilali’s principal adviser and spokesperson, Keysar Trad, wrote, “The criminal dregs of white society colonised this country and… the descendants of these criminal dregs tell us that they are better than us.” Trad subsequently served as president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils — the national umbrella organization, which represents Australian Muslims at national and international level — from July 2016 until May 2017.
“In 2009, the New South Wales Supreme Court found that Mr. Trad ‘incites people to commit acts of violence’, ‘incites people to have racist attitudes’ and is a ‘dangerous and disgraceful individual’… When talking about the gang rape of young women in Sydney by a group of Lebanese men… Mr. Trad … described these types of perpetrators as ‘stupid young boys’… Mr. Trad did not condemn Sheikh Hilali’s disgraceful comments about women being ‘uncovered meat’ in a speech about rape. Instead Mr. Trad chose to defend that speech and the sheikh’s comments”.
In February, Trad told Sky News presenter Andrew Bolt that an angry husband can beat his wife as “a last resort” but should only use his fists against her once he sees that “counselling” — chocolate and flowers, according to Trad — does not work.
Trad also called for the introduction of polygamy in Australia. He said that taking a second wife was “an alternative to divorce”, as, “in our religion, god hates divorce”.
Recently, in May 2017, after an emergency election, Rateb Jneid replaced Trad as president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
Since 2011, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, who does not speak English and relies on translators, has been the Grand Mufti of Australia. In 1995, before moving to the West, Abu Mohamed wrote:
“The West does not bring to us any good, all they bring are their diseases, their designs and their shortcomings… They insist to impose on us their corrupt values, and their philosophy and mannerism, the very things which brought disease, fear, crime and stress to them, the very things which severed ties and broke relationships.”
The Grand Mufti’s views were also laid bare… with the release of details of a book he wrote saying non-Muslims wanted their women to walk around ‘exposed as a piece of sweet pastry … devoured by the eyes of men'”.
In December 2012, Abu Mohamed led an Australian delegation of Muslim scholars to the Gaza Strip, where they met senior Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh. Abu Mohamed told local news agencies:
“I am pleased to stand on the land of jihad to learn from its sons and I have the honor to be among the people of Gaza, where the weakness always becomes strength, the few becomes many and the humiliation turns into pride”.
In 2013, Grand Mufti Abu Mohamed visited sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Qatar. Qaradawi advocates suicide bombings; has urged the world’s Muslims to fight in Syria and has said that killing people who leave Islam is essential, as Islam would otherwise disappear.
After the Paris attacks in November 2015, Abu Mohamed implied that the ISIS atrocities were partly caused by “Islamophobia”, saying:
“It is… imperative that all causative factors such as racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through securitisation, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention must be comprehensively addressed.”
With Muslim leaders such as former Grand Mufti Hilali, former president of the Association of Muslim Councils, Kayser Trad, and current Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, it should hardly come as a surprise that sharia — and indeed jihad — have made significant inroads in Australia. In 2011, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils sent a submission to the Federal Parliament’s Committee on Multicultural Affairs, asking for Muslims to be able to marry, divorce and conduct financial transactions under the principles of sharia law. Sharia law, the president at the time of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils ludicrously argued, far from discriminating against women, “guarantees women’s rights that are not recognised in mainstream Australian courts”.
Although polygamy is illegal in Australia, a study in 2011 found that, “Valid Muslim polygynist marriages, lawfully entered into overseas, are recognized, with second and third wives and their children able to claim welfare and other benefits”. When former Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for action after learning about the issue, he was told that it would cost more to pay the wives the single parent benefit. Centrelink, the Australian authority responsible for welfare and other benefits, said that it did not hold data based on polygamous relationships or religion, and that Islamic marriages are not registered. The problem of unregistered Islamic marriages and social welfare fraud is a familiar issue in Europe.
Last year, a 14-year-old Melbourne girl was forced to marry Mohammad Shakir, 34, in a ceremony at a Victoria mosque. In March, Shakir pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of forced-marriage. Ibrahim Omerdic, the Melbourne imam who performed the Islamic wedding ceremony, is also due to appear in court on criminal charges.
Muslim Australian girls, some allegedly as young as nine, have also been taken overseas, or are being threatened with it, and forced to become child brides. A nine-year-old girl reported that she would be taken to Afghanistan to marry, while others were told they would be forced to marry cousins of their parents when they turned 13. In 2012, a 16-year old refugee girl from Afghanistan was flown to Pakistan for a “family holiday” and forced to marry a man she had never met.
The Australian Federal Police investigated 69 incidents of forced or under-age marriage in the 2015-16 financial year, up from 33 the previous year. In the 2013-14 financial year, only 11 cases were investigated. Government agencies are said to consider the figure of 69 potential recent cases the tip of the iceberg, with many girls “too fearful to contact police”. A government child-welfare hotline has received more than 70 calls for help in the past two years, mainly from concerned teachers, counsellors and school principals. Forced marriage was criminalized in March 2013 in Australia. However, the law is not retroactive and marriages entered into prior to the law are beyond the authorities’ jurisdiction, meaning those girls are almost certainly lost.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is another Islamic practice that has recently come to public notice in Australia. In March 2016, three people, among them the mother and a Muslim cleric, were sentenced in Sydney for their role in the female genital mutilation of two seven-year-old sisters. While there are no official numbers, it is estimated that there are 83,000 women and girls in Australia who may have been subjected to FGM. 1,100 girls are born every year to women who may have had FGM, which means that their daughters are also at risk of being subject to FGM.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which has spent the past four years probing numerous religious organizations, including Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses and obscure cults numbering a negligible amount of members, such as new age ashrams, has made no inquiries into Islam. The commission has held 6,500 one-on-one private interview sessions with survivors or witnesses making allegations of child sexual abuse within institutions, but only three sessions in relation to Islamic institutions.
Four Islamic terrorist attacks, including the Lindt Café siege in Sydney in December 2014, in which the manager and a mother of three were killed, have taken place in Australia. Eleven attacks have been foiled, including planned public beheadings. This statistic does not include the January 2017 car-ramming in Melbourne. The driver, Dimitrious Gargasoulas, murdered six people, including children, and wounded 20 others, when he plowed his car into pedestrians. Even though a witness claimed that Gargasoulas was shouting “Allahu Akbar”, police refused to treat the event as a terrorist attack and even allegedly told a reporter to remove her interview with the witness from the internet. Gargasoulas had apparently converted to Islam prior to the attack and told the judge in a subsequent court hearing, “Your Honour, did you know the Muslim faith is the correct faith according to the whole world?”
Recently, Australia adopted stricter vetting rules for immigrants to avoid admitting those who harbor hostile Islamic views. Evidently, this measure comes several decades too late: Those who harbor hostile Islamic views were let in a long time ago. Now, what will Australia do about those who are there?