Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Six Day War: An Event of Biblical Proportions

Wow! It's been 50 years since the day when Israeli troops liberated Jerusalem. Among other things, that means that I am getting old!

Much has been written and said about the Six Day War. One aspect of that war, which I believe is not stressed enough, is that we are dealing with an event of Biblical proportions. Something "really huge", as President Donald Trump might say.

Although prophecy has temporarily disappeared from the Nation of Israel, Divine Providence's guiding hand has not. In fact, through the annals of the Jewish People, the Creator of the world is revealed. "Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father, and he will declare unto thee, thine elders, and they will tell thee" (Deuteronomy 32:7). It's a mitzvah to learn Jewish history. Doing so increases one's understanding of the Divine.

History is being made here in the Land of Israel. One can sit back in his armchair and watch it on the screen, or one can be part of it.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Shulamit Kishik-Cohen z"l

Today an Israeli hero was laid to rest. Shulamit Kishik-Cohen z"l, after a long and blessed life of almost 100 years, was buried in the soil of Jerusalem which she loved. Here's a little about this most remarkable woman:
Shulamit Cohen (b. 1920) was born in Argentina and raised in Jerusalem with her twelve brothers and sisters. Her father was from a wealthy Egyptian-Jewish merchant family, and her mother was the daughter of a prominent rabbi in Jerusalem. In 1936, the family experienced severe financial strain, and Shulamit’s father arranged her to marry Joseph Kishak-Cohen, a wealthy businessman from Beirut. Shula moved to Lebanon, and had five kids by the time she was 24. One day in 1947, she overheard people discussing military activities against Israel. Shula recorded the information in a letter to the Haganah, which was fighting for a Jewish state in Israel, addressing it to her brother in Jerusalem. Five weeks later, an agent of the Haganah’s secret service contacted her. For the next 14 years, Shula worked as an Israeli spy in Lebanon. Her work consisted of two major goals. The first was to gather intelligence about Arab military activities, which she was able to do by getting herself into Lebanon’s high society, including the home of the prime minister, who considered her like one of his own daughters. The second was to help smuggle Jewish families fleeing persecution in the Arab world, particularly from Syria. Over the years, she helped countless families find safe passage to Israel. Shula communicated with the secret service using invisible ink, under the code name “Pearl”. She was first caught for smuggling in 1952. Pregnant at the time, Shula was taken to jail just three weeks after giving birth, and spent 36 days in confinement. She continued her clandestine activities for another 9 years before things got too dangerous and she moved to Rome for three months. Upon her return in 1961, she was immediately arrested for espionage. The trial went on for several months during which she was brutally tortured. She was initially sentenced to death by hanging, but the verdict was softened because she was a mother of seven. Her sentence was reduced to 20 years of hard labour. During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel captured Lebanese citizens, and used them in a prisoner exchange for Shula and a captured Israeli pilot. Shula has lived in Israel ever since, and still volunteers at schools and IDF bases, despite her advanced age. Two of her sons have high-ranking roles in the Israeli government. A book about her story has been published, called “Shula: Code Name The Pearl”.
I had the privilege of attending the funeral. May her soul be bound in the bundle of life, and may her family be comforted with the builing of Zion.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Israeli Flag Waves While American Jewry Withers

It is a annual routine. A few days after the end of Passover, just around of the start of the Hebrew month of Iyar you will see them. Flying from apartment balconies and car windows, the flag with the two blue stripes and the "Star of David" in the middle is an ubiquitous sight. That flag, that symbol of the miraculous return of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, is flown for practically the entire month. The fourth of Iyar is Israel's Memorial Day for its soldiers that have fallen in battle. Immediately following Israeli Memorial Day is the fifth of Iyar, Israeli Independence Day. Towards the end of the month comes the 28th of Iyar, the day that the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were liberated from Jordanian occupation.

In the Passover Haggadah it is written that "everyone who discusses the exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy." I think that one who discusses at length the miraculous accomplishments of the State of Israel, which are numerous, this is also praiseworthy. For one will come to see the hand of Divine Providence that has accompanied the Jewish People from its outset.

I have been here for more than thirty years. In this time period I have witnessed so much progress here. This little country is advancing, not only in the physical realm but in the spiritual realm as well.

“And the gold of that land is good...” (Gen. 2:12) “This teaches that there is no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel.”

As I write these words the people of Israel mourn the soldiers that gave their life protecting the country and its people. Tomorrow night at this time the country will a sharp turn to rejoice and gives thanks to the Lord of Israel for giving us the opportunity to live here as free men and fulfill our potential. As Rashi explains, "...there I will make you into a great nation..."

I myself really want to celebrate Israeli Independence Day, but I cannot help but remember what I left behind. All of those poor American Jews, who may be well off financially, may have multiple degrees in higher learning, but never had the privilege of learning Torah or learning what Judaism, real authentic Judaism, is really about. If I have been blessed in seeing the State of Israel blossom, I have also been so unfortunate to watch American Jewry shrivel up and fade away.

Perhaps I should be indifferent to the demise of the American Jewish Community. Our sages tell us that only one fifth of the Israelites actually left Egypt, while the others died during the plague of darkness. Why did they die? Because they did not want to leave Egypt! I have a feeling that the Israelites that did take part in the Exodus did not mourn their brethren who were "stuck in the darkness". So why should I care about the Jews that are "stuck in America"?

Of course this is nonsense. We are one nation, one big family, responsible for one another. The holy Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria taught,

Every morning, before your prayers, commit yourself to love every other Jew as your own self. Then your prayers will be accepted and bear fruit.
I am not a kabbalist or even a Hasid, but this is part of my daily routine. I cannot possibly be completely happy while so many of my brothers and sisters are drowning in the sea of assimilation.

This Israeli Independence Day is an opportunity for every Jew to realize that he is part of a nation that in many ways was dormant but has now come back to life. It is time to free ourselves from the chains of the Diaspora, physically and spiritually. A voice is crying from Mount Horeb, and Rachel is crying for her children. Our mother, the land of Israel, is beckoning. "Whoso is wise, let him observe these things, and let them consider the mercies of the LORD."

Monday, February 27, 2017

An English Speaking High School in Jerusalem!

"Rabbi Samson said that his Jerusalem high school, YTA, was perfect for families making aliyah from English-speaking countries with high school age children." Read more here.

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