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Reeh: Israel Oh Israel

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Behold, I place before you today a blessing… These are the laws you must carefully keep in the land that G-d, Lord of your fathers, is giving you to settle in it all the days that you live on Earth – Opening of this week’s Torah portion (Deuteronomy 11:26; 12:1)

All your children will be taught about G-d; great will be the peace of your children… They may gather to attack you, but it will not be from Me; whoever comes to fight you shall fall because of you. Behold, it is I who created the smith who blows beneath the forge, and makes a weapon for his work. I have also created the ravager to destroy. No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper – This week’s Haftorah (Isaiah 54:13-17)

If I was a supporter of Hezbollah and Iran I would be elated. The so-called “cease-fire” allows Hezbollah many new opportunities: To declare victory; to announce that it will be rebuilding Lebanon and thus be heralded as hero and savior; to replenish its supply of depleted missiles, arms and resources; a source of newfound respect pride for the Muslim world; to forge an ever-deeper relationship with its sponsors, Iran and Syria; most chilling of all – to get one step closer to its stated goal: the destruction of Israel.

Emboldened with all these victories, Hezbollah – an extension of Iran (and Syria) – is a stronger force than ever. With Iran’s bottomless coffers, fueled by the Western World’s addiction to oil, its equally endless hatred of the Jewish Land and unlimited brazenness – what does the future hold?

Iran – via Hezbollah – has now only tested the mettle of Israel and the world. And Israel and the international community have blinked, badly. Now Iran and its cohorts can plan accordingly and prepare themselves for an all-out attack, at the time and place of their choosing.

Israel, on the other hand, has suffered a great loss. Not only have they not achieved any of their stated goals – Hezbollah remains an armed force, fully capable of attacking with impunity and even the two kidnapped soldiers haven’t been returned. They have also lost credibility, billions of dollars, not to mention hundreds of lives and shattered homes, families and communities. All for what?

Above all, how does the cease-fire address the continuing declaration of war against Israel? What is Israel’s response to this deceleration of war? Either you eliminate the enemy or you have them surrender and rescind their call for your annihilation.

Since Israel did neither, the question on everyone’s lips is: Why? Either Israel does not take their threats seriously (hard to believe), or arrogantly feels that they would never dare in fear of Israel’s military might (stupid), or is just buying time (even stupider), or is choosing to ignore the threat for some other reason. Most ominous of all – perhaps Israel does not have the capability or the will to fight this war (G-d forbid).

Bluntly put, the “cease fire” was a victory for Hezbollah and a capitulation for Israel. Hezbollah now has a time-out to regroup, rebuild and rearm (does anyone believe that they aren’t doing that already?). Israel suffered an ambush no less than the ones they faced in confronting the guerillas in Southern Lebanon, and now enters a future even more uncertain than before this last ill-fated battle.

From Israel’s end the cease-fire was supposed to secure its boundaries, protect Israeli cities from being attacked and disarm Hezbollah. None of these goals were achieved. The Lebanese Army, UN and multi-national force are now supposed to assure this – whom are we kidding?! Neither Lebanon or the UN have even attempted to disarm Hezbollah in the past – and are now announcing that they will not do so in the future – so what did Israel gain from this arrangement?!

And if Israel whose very survival is at stake was unable or unwilling to disarm them, how and why in the world will a multi-national force do so??!!

The entire cease-fire, under the farcical cover of “multi-national forces” replacing the Israeli ones, seems more like a “face-saver” for Israel – if even that – covering up the humiliation of outright defeat. As one top Israeli official stated (I believe it was Shimon Peres) that Israel cannot win this war militarily, and cannot withstand international pressure. How then does Israel exactly propose to win the war against its very existence?!

I’m sorry if all this sounds depressing. But the cure to any disease or problem is not to minimize its impact and significance but to face it head on, acknowledge the mistakes, make sure not to repeat them, and devise a powerful strategy with newfound wisdom and fortitude.

But before we get to the good news, some more sobering confessions are necessary.

Everyone can make a mistake once, twice, three times. But for heaven’s – and earth’s – sake: Why How can Israel keep repeating the same mistake again and again. The mistake is: Concession after concession, with nothing to show in return.

Since the miraculous Israeli victory of the Six-Day War in 1967, the policy of every Israeli government has been one of appeasement. Instead of negotiating from a position of strength, the Israeli leadership time and again showed weakness. This may have been due to overconfidence or arrogance, or a misplaced fear of “what the world will say.” But the tragic results are undeniable. Every Israeli conciliatory gesture was met with more aggression and demands.

Every piece of land returned has been used to build a launch pad and tunnels for future attacks. Though the return of Sinai – and the billions of US aid pledged to Egypt – has brought peaceful relations between Egypt and Israel, no one can guarantee what the future holds for that region. Regimes rise and fall, and the climate of radicalism can easily overtake Egypt as well.

When you return land for an agreement on paper, when your actions are in return for verbal promises, there is a fundamental disproportion that reflects weakness. Your land is gone, and all you are left with is a hollow promise. Action must always be met with equal action, or else any agreement is bound to fail. Take the current cease-fire: Israel has stopped its defensive for a verbal and written UN agreement that is now unraveling at the seams. What does Israel do now once it has agreed to a cease-fire and Hezbollah rearms itself and rebuilds its fortifications in Southern Lebanon?!

No one wants war or bloodshed, but how can you negotiate with a party whose “no-starter” axiom is your destruction?

What do all these concessions show? They reflect fundamental core errors or delusions, or perhaps even worse – unwillingness to acknowledge and face the true enemy.

Concessions make sense when both sides are committed to the same goals. Not when one side calls for the destruction of the other, and makes no effort in hiding the fact.

They are calling for your destruction. What is your response?

They say they will not disarm. What is your response?!

It’s simply not enough to reply that all we want is that you do not kill our civilians. Why are they killing your civilians? Because they firmly believe that Israeli civilians are illegitimately occupying Palestinian territory, which they absolutely feel belongs to them.

What is Israel’s response to that statement?

In time of war the best insights can often be found by the enemy (“my enemies make me wise”).

Much can be learned from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Iran, after all, is the powerful force behind the latest battles. As abhorrent as some of his statements may be, Ahmadinejad comes across as chillingly calm, confident and absolutely convinced in the justness of his cause. When you read his writings – he subscribes to the philosophy of the late Ayatollah Khomeini – he talks about the Divine vision of Islam and its need to bring justice and peace to the world, to bring about a “Second Islamic Revolution.” Britain and America, with their godless Western liberalism, attempted to corrupt and hijack Iran – which has been at the center of civilization for over two millennia – as well as the rest of the world, and they remain the Great Satan that needs to be vanquished.

Essentially Ahmadinejad’s vision is a religious one, and he is certain that Iran and all its satellites will prevail, because G-d is on their side. In a speech last Tuesday in Teheran, Ahmadinejad declared that Hizbollah had emerged the winner in Lebanon. “God’s promises have come true,” Ahmadinejad told a huge crowd waving Hezbollah banners and Iranian flags.

“On one side, it’s corrupt powers of the criminal US and Britain and the Zionist…with modern bombs and planes. And on the other side is a group of pious youth relying on God.”

To further understand this thinking, listen to the speech Ahmadinejad delivered last September before the General Assembly of the UN (click here for the full text):

“With the passing of the era of agnostic philosophies, today humanity is once again joined in celebrating monotheism and belief in the Creator as the originator of existence. This is the common thread which binds us all. Faith will prove to be the solution to many of today’s problems. The Truth will shine the light of faith and ethics on the life of human beings and prevent them from aggression, coercion and injustice and will guide them towards care and compassion for fellow beings.

“Another hope is the common global appreciation of the sources of knowledge. Although reason, experience and science are among valuable sources of knowledge, the darkness of the Middle Ages deprived major portions of the Western world of appreciating [true knowledge]. This reactionary tendency deprived many of access to various scientific findings and knowledge and led to the exclusion of other sources of knowledge namely God and knowledge based on revelation from the life of human beings in the West; Divine knowledge that was carried and disseminated by such prophets as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad (peace be upon them).

“Today, agnostic thinking is on the decline and presently humanity is equally enamored with religion knowledge and spirituality. This is an auspicious beginning. Divine prophets teach us about proper regard for the exalted state of human beings on earth. The human being is blessed with dignity, most importantly manifested in being the viceroy of the Almighty on earth. The Almighty placed humans on earth to develop it, institutionalize justice, overcome their egoistic tendencies and praise no lord but the Almighty.

“Faith and good deeds can bring deliverance and the good life even in this world. Attaining this depends on human will, that is the will of each and every one of us. We must heed the call of our common primordial nature and achieve the realization of this good life…

“How can we influence the future of the world? When and how will peace, tranquility and well-being for all come about?… We believe that a sustainable order, nurturing and flourishing peace and tranquility, can only be realized on the two pillars of justice and spirituality. The more human society departs from justice and spirituality, the greater insecurity it will face, so much so that a relatively small crisis, such as a natural disaster, leads to various abnormalities and inhuman behavior.”

And in conclusion Ahmadinejad stunned the audience with his Messianic vision: “From the beginning of time, humanity has longed for the day when justice, peace, equality and compassion envelop the world. All of us can contribute to the establishment of such a world. When that day comes, the ultimate promise of all Divine religions will be fulfilled with the emergence of a perfect human being who is heir to all prophets and pious men. He will lead the world to justice and absolute peace.

“O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace.”

Later Ahmadinejad reflected on his speech: “On the last day when I was speaking before the assembly, one of our group told me that when I started to say ‘In the name of God the almighty and merciful,’ he saw a light around me, and I was placed inside this aura. I felt it myself. I felt the atmosphere suddenly change, and for those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink. When I say they didn’t bat an eyelid, I’m not exaggerating because I was looking at them. And they were rapt. It seemed as if a hand was holding them there and had opened their eyes to receive the message from the Islamic republic.”

This is the enemy speaking.

Now, what is our response?

The secular, Western world – which has deeply affected many Israelis, including those in power – is loath to accept the religious nature of this war, as so clearly stated in Ahmadinejad’s own words.

Many reasons can be posited to explain this resistance, but two are most noteworthy: The effects of the war of Enlightenment against religion, or more broadly, the centuries of persecution in the name of religion, continue to haunt the West, and they remain convinced that religion is backward and unworthy of legitimate recognition. This profound condescension does not allow the West – and Israel – to acknowledge the true magnitude of the Muslim animosity to secular values and its impetus to Jihad.

The second factor is simpler but equally crucial: Western prosperity has created a deep complacency and wishful hope that these problems are just passing clouds, which will soon drift away and then we can return to our movies and sports. A sense of entitlement has spoiled the Western world to the point that it refuses to accept that there is a new world war being waged, and a spiritual one at that.

Thus, negotiations and concessions, diplomacy and UN resolutions are the options of choice. And when that fails – military options are employed. But no matter how well intended Western diplomacy may be, we cannot forget that a large majority of Muslims see their cause in absolute terms, as a Divine battle for the “two pillars of justice and spirituality.”

True, the Muslim world is angry, humiliated and full of hatred to Israel and the West. Many are plain Jew haters. But it would be a grave mistake to dismiss the Muslims with these negative, primitive representations (even if they may be true), and forget that they are also educated with deep religious conviction. And even if some (or much) of their religious indoctrination is radical in its worship of martyrdom and turns young children into murderers, we must remember that the spiritual vision behind it all (no matter how reprehensible) is compelling and seductive, especially in comparison to the lame alternatives of the West.

Military might, diplomatic channels, dillying and dallying political rhetoric – all the newfound tools and toys of the West – are simply no match for a powerful spiritual message (no matter how distorted).

Our only true response – and our most powerful, unwavering weapon – will be a majestic spiritual vision that will speak to all peoples of the world.

Historically this has always been the role of Israel and the Jewish people – the people of the book, who brought us the great prophets beginning with Abraham and Moses – and who delivered the Divine message of universal justice, spirituality and peace at Sinai.

This same book also declares the Divine covenant of the Promised Land, in which G-d promises the Land of Israel to the Jewish people.

This is the question I would have liked Mike Wallace to have asked President Ahmadinejad in his 60 Minutes interview: What do you think about G-d’s promise in the Bible to give the Land of Israel to the Jewish people? In light of that, how can you call for the destruction of Israel?

Ahmadinejad may have his Islamic viewpoint as he articulated before the UN, but the original Divine vision for mankind was delivered to Abraham and Moses. Sinai brought civilization to this world and offered us a blueprint how to transform the material world into a spiritual environment.

The time has come that a leader in Israel should rise and passionately declare Israel’s spiritual vision for the world; A global view that charts a course for the future; A powerful appeal that will resonate from one end of the world to the next.

Sadly, until that day comes, military force will be the only remaining power we have to keep the Islamic radicals at bay, and buy us some more time…

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