Waking Up From Exile and Finding Unity


The exile is insidious. It penetrates us, disconnects us – twisting the world and everything within it. However there is hope. After all, exile is analogous to sleep and although when one wakes up they are groggy and disoriented, they still have awoken. We too yearn to be awake; to see the the world in a clarity unquestioned. Yet, we haven’t achieved this because we have not let go of the blockages within. It is to awaken and find the unity that has always existed within the Creation.


Returning to Ourselves

In the cosmic struggle between our authentic divine expressions and our limited physical wrappings we allow this inner confrontation to disconnect us from our purpose and path in this universe. The trauma that each one of us feels to a certain degree stems from this disconnection, which has become the best means to sidestepping the tremendous pain our divine element feels while being “trapped” in this world.

Despite the reasons for this disconnection, it has ultimately resulted in a lack of memory for who we really are and what we are meant to be doing here – both as individuals and as a national collective.

Most of us disregard the feeling of yearning our soul has for where it came from. We stare at those who have made the leap to live a life of expanded consciousness and connection, looking at them as special. In return, we view ourselves as simply “not on their level.”

Yet, we must know that as far as the Creator is concerned, there are no differences between the myriads of people within the Jewish national collective and those who have risen above known as the tzaddikim. All yidden descend from lofty levels – from the world of emunah, simple faith.

The difference between the tzaddikim and those who have yet to unlock their eternal memories and their internal God wisdom, is the toil and effort the tzaddikim undertook to achieve great heights.

The “common” yid must know and believe that the disconnection he feels within, can be overcome when a decision is made to embark on repairing his inner memory and working on following the path of the true tzaddikim.

The Land of Israel is about memory. It is gateway both nationally and individually to our inner Godly awareness and wisdom, yet this gateway cannot be fully traversed unless one follows the light of the tzaddik, whose mission it is to unlock God awareness within each yid – no matter how far away he is.

The first step is realizing that each one of us is a child of the Creator – a prince or princess to the king. Only then we can begin to return to who we truly are.

(Based on Likutey Halachot Birchat HaShachar, Halacha 3.6)

Igniting Our Souls Together

The Land of Israel holds within it, the divine potential waiting to be unlocked by the Jewish Nation. The key is not to allow our emunah, simple faith to be boxed in by our intellect, but rather harness it within our subconscious construct where our divine soul rests, waiting to be expressed into this world.

What is it that prevents us from actualizing our inner hislavus, enthusiasm? Why is it that both on an individual level and on a national level we feel lethargic so close to finishing process of redemption?

The soul of a Yid is so precious, so infinite it cannot be contained and yet in this world our soul, which is often compared to a flame – Ner HaShem Nishmat Adam – the candle of God is the Soul of Man – is nearly smothered. We yearn for more and we know we want more. We are home, but we feel estranged, lost within the hills and valleys of our own Land.

The “Princess is lost” within the fields and dry river beds, the mountains and ancient streets – waiting to be rescued and uplifted. The flame is kindled – never extinguished, but now it needs to be ignited.


The Tzaddik’s “breath” is blowing and our flames are growing, being pulled together. He calls us to awaken and it is time to leave behind the small mindedness of exile, the confusions and false constructs we dragged back to the Land of Israel. The soul is made of letters and the Lost Princess within the Land is yearning for our souls to expand and encompass one another – to ignite and strengthen the collective flame.

Yet, our yearnings are in conflict with those that sense a threat to their empty rule, their false kingship built on lies and darkness. We are tempted to retreat and to fall back, to wallow in the dust of our failings and short comings and yet the Tzaddik’s light keeps shining on us, his breath keeps expanding our flames giving us the drive to breakthrough, to release the letters held within our souls onto the Land and rescue the Princess once and for all.

(Based on Likutey Moharan Tinyana Lesson 9; Lost Princess; Maor Einayim Parshat Tetzaveh; Orot Eretz Yisrael 7)

Will Iran Attack Israel After the Saudi Move Against Qatar?

The Saudi led move against Qatar has caught everyone in the region by surprise, especially Iran.  The Mullahs in Tehran have always regarded the Saudis as a paper tiger.  The move against Qatar, seemingly backed by the Trump administration changes that assumption.  Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s call to freeze out Hamas is a serious about face for the Kingdom.  The Iranians know Trump means business.  The growing Sunni alliance along with faster than assumed growth in ties between this alliance and Israel spells trouble for Iran.

With Qatar being isolated (before the Iranian regime could make a move to co-opt it), a reaction is now needed to push back on the American backed Sunni alliance.  Given the US firepower in the Persian Gulf, the likely target for retaliation to create instability is Israel. Iran and their Shiite proxy Hezbollah have a far stronger foothold and vantage point on the Israeli border than the Iranians do in the Gulf.  This, along with Russian firepower and air superiority over Northern Israel, make a strike on Israel that much more probable.

Any military attack on Israel by the Iranians would see Israel fend for itself due to the proximity of Russian troops.  The Trump administration would not risk a direct conflict with Russia over Iran at least at this point.

Although the Saudis felt Qatar’s isolation was necessary to halt an advancing Iran, the next play is in Tehran’s court and the fallout could very well be Israel’s alone. With Turkey, Iran, and Russia solidifying their alliance against the West’s Sunni proxies, the summer of 2017 could very promise to be the breakout of the ultimate Middle Eastern war the world has been trying to avoid.

The UN Votes to Disconnect Jerusalem from the Jewish People…Again

Today the UN voted to disconnect the Jewish people from their ancient capital and hand it to a people that never existed.  This was not the whim of a thin majority of countries, but rather a vast overhwhelming number of UN member states voted for the resolution. Out of the UN’s 193 member states, 147 voted in favor, seven voted against and eight abstained. Those who voted against were Canada, USA, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Naura and Palu.  Those who abstained were Australia, Guatemala, Panama, Papa New Guiea, Paraguay and Vanuatu.

The resolution states the following: “Any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and calls upon Israel to immediately cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.”  It then continues and pushes Israel to “respect for the historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem” and “urges all sides to work immediately and cooperatively to defuse tensions and halt all provocations, incitement and violence at the holy sites in the City.”

Daniel Luria, the Executive Director of Ateret Cohanim, an organization dedicated to returning property in Jerusalem stolen by Arabs back to Jewish hands dismissed the resolutions as anti-semitic. “Whoever doesn’t recognize such a clear, obvious and eternal connection and unbreakable bond between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the ‘Kotels’  (Northern, Southern, Western and Eastern Walls of Temple Mount) is blinded by hate, a denier of both current day realities (a plethora of archeological finds) and Jewish history, and is an anti-semitic, arrogant fool. Such a person or body is destined the dung-heap of history and will be shunned or forgotten in due course.”

The UN General Assemply decision comes on the back the UNESCO vote, which disregarded the Jewish narritive to the Land of Israel.  While the UN vote is non-binding it still gives added energy to a potential UN Security Council collision course before Obama leaves office. If it gets to the security council all bets are off.  After all, if it was Jimmy Carter Palestine would have been a reality a long time ago.



Jewish Sovereignty Over the Land of Israel, Zionism and Our Indigeneity

This week’s Torah portion is the Parsha of Mas’ei.

“You shall possess the land and you shall dwell in it, for to you have I given the land to possess it.” (BAMIDBAR 33:53)

The Ramban offers a lengthy explanation of this verse, asserting that the mitzvah for the Jewish people to conquer and reside within the Land of Israel is a positive commandment of great consequence to the overall Hebrew mission.

“In my opinion this is a positive commandment, in which He (HaShem) is commanding them (Israel) to dwell in the land and inherit it, because He has given it to them and they should not reject the inheritance of HaShem. Thus if the thought occurs to them to go and conquer the land of Shinar or the land of Assyria or any other country to dwell therein, they would be transgressing the command of G-D. And that which our rabbis have emphasized (Ketubot 110b), the significance of the commandment of dwelling in the Land of Israel and the prohibition against leaving it, and that they even considered a woman who does not want to ascend with her husband to live in the Land of Israel [as a ‘rebellious wife’] and likewise the man – the source of all these statements here (in this verse) where we have been given this commandment, for this verse constitutes a positive commandment. And this commandment is repeated in many places, such as ‘Come and possess the land’ (DEVARIM 1:8).”

The Ramban demonstrates the above verse to be primarily teaching the eternal mitzvah for the Jewish people to assert political sovereignty over the Land of Israel and to reside within its borders.

In his supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, the Ramban teaches that it is a Torah commandment in every generation that the Nation of Israel take control of and inhabit the entire Land of Israel.

“This (a war to liberate Eretz Yisrael) is what our Sages call milḥemet mitzvah (obligatory war). In the Talmud (Sotah 44b) Rava said, ‘Yehoshua’s war of liberation was an obligatory duty according to all opinions.’ And do not err and say that this precept is the commandment to vanquish the seven nations… this is not so. We were commanded to destroy those nations when they fought against us and had they wished to make peace we could have done so under specific conditions. Yet we cannot leave the land in their control or in the control of any other nation in any generation… Behold, we are commanded with conquest in every generation… this is a positive commandment which applies for all time… And the proof that this is a commandment is this: ‘They were told to go up in the matter of the spies: ‘Go up and conquer as HaShem, G-D of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear and do not be discouraged.’ And it further says: ‘And when HaShem sent you from Kadesh Barnea saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you.’ And when they did not go up, the Torah says: ‘And you rebelled against the Word of G-D, and you did not listen to this command.’” (Positive Commandment 4 of the Ramban’s supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot)

The Ramban asserts that the conquest of Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah for Israel in every generation and that we are forbidden from allowing any part of our country to fall into – or remain under – gentile control. It is found in the Shulḥan Arukh that all of the arbitrators of Torah Law (Rishonim and Aḥronim) agree with the Ramban concerning this issue.

“All of the Poskim, both Rishonim and Aḥronim, decide the Law in this fashion on the basis of the Ramban.” (Shulḥan Arukh, Even HaEzer section 75, Pitḥei Tshuva 6)

Although the Ramban (in his commentary to BAMIDBAR 33:53) acknowledges Rashi’s warning that Israel’s ability to survive and prosper in our homeland depends on the nation’s willingness to disinherit the gentiles who rule the country prior to our return, he offers a more lenient approach regarding the actions we must take against non-Jews merely inhabiting our land.

While many authorities assert that upon our return home from exile, Israel must drive out the gentiles in possession of our land, the Ramban insists that peace could be achieved between Israel and these people under certain conditions so long as the Hebrew Nation possesses undisputed sovereignty over the territory. Rashi appears to dispute this position, noting the following verse:

“But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, those of them whom you leave shall be pins in your eyes and a surrounding barrier of thorns in your sides, and they will harass you upon the land in which you dwell.” (BAMIDBAR 33:55)

On this verse, Rashi explains that “pins in your eyes” means “liteidot ham’nakrot eineikhem” – that sticks will be driven into your eyes, meaning that the wisdom of Israel’s leadership will be neutralized, such that they will be unable to see or understand that which a child can clearly see and understand. There will be a situation in which Jews protect themselves behind fences and walls, which “enclose and imprison them such that none can come in or leave.”

The holy Ohr HaḤaim supports Rashi’s explanation of this verse, commenting that: “Not only will they hold onto the part of the land that you have not taken, but the part which you have taken and settled as well. They shall cause you trouble regarding the part that you live in, saying ‘Get up and leave it.’”

The Ramban’s more nuanced distinction between peoples wielding dominion over the Jewish homeland and those who merely dwell peacefully in the country under Hebrew sovereignty helps account for the presence of Israel’s Kenite allies in ancient times. It also takes into consideration the Torah’s many references to the compassion we must display towards the stranger in our land, clarifying the special obligations Israel has to a Ger Toshav. By attempting to assert political control over portions of Eretz Yisrael, however, a gentile could easily move himself from one category to the other.

While Israel was clearly obligated, upon our return home in modern times, to fight a war of liberation to drive British Empire from our soil, the more contentious question remains how we should relate to the Palestinian national movement that professes to speak on behalf of all Palestinians while seeking to appropriate the Land of Israel from the Jewish people.

The Gaon of Vilna sheds light on this question in his commentary to ḤABAKUK, where he illuminates the concept of Peleshet and the uniqueness of its historic national role. The Gaon points out that the verse in BEREISHIT 10:14, which introduces the Philistines to the stage of history, does not describe their birth as the Torah describes the birth of other peoples.

“And Mitzraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehavim, Naphtuḥim, Patrusim, and Casluḥim, whence the Pelishtim (Philistines) came forth, andCaphtorim.” (BEREISHIT 10:13-14)

The Gaon explains that the birth of the Philistines, which is described in different language than the birth of other nations, was an unnatural occurrence and that they are entirely absent from the stage of world history with the exception of specific generations in which they serve their unique function. When the Nation of Israel enters our homeland in order to establish the Hebrew Kingdom – the vehicle through which all of humanity will be elevated to unparalleled blessings – the Philistines appear on the scene to try and prevent this kingdom from being established. This was the case when our patriarch Avraham first entered the land (there was a “land-for-peace” deal aggressively solicited by Avimelekh of Grar), it occurred when his son Yitzḥak was faced with Philistine aggression and it was true throughout the period of the Judges up until the secure establishment of the Davidic dynasty when Israel finally implemented full dominion over the country.

Peleshet then inexplicably disappeared from history until modern times when it once again attempts to obstruct the establishment of G-D’s kingdom. The Gaon explains that without the necessary force of Peleshet, Israel would be unable to rise up to our essential mission and realize the true significance of Jewish sovereignty in our homeland. HaShem places this force into our world as a catalyst for Israel to reach our full national potential.

The truth in the Gaon’s words is evident today. As a result of our difficult struggle with Palestinian nationalism – a nationalism that materialized largely upon our return home and solidified in reaction to misguided Israeli policies – we have failed to simply exist as a normal country but have instead been confronted with grueling questions of identity. The brutal conflict has forced us to examine who and what we truly are, as well as the core reason for returning home and establishing a state. The ostensibly legitimate claims of another people to our land forces us to question not only our innate connection to our soil but also the ideal place of a non-Jew in our society and Israel’s unique national function on the world stage. The grievances and accusations of another people against our state – often equating Zionism with racism or Western colonialism – compel us to embrace our indigeneity and authentic Semitic identity. By forcing out the bigger answers to the difficult questions they create, the force of Peleshet causes Israel to understand what it is that we are actually fighting for. And by the time we come to terms with our unique historic role and discover a genuine Hebrew approach for relating to the Other in our society, we will have already grasped the true purpose of the kingdom that will lead humankind to a world of total blessing.

Europe is Not Israel

(Originally published on Israel Hayom)

“France must live with terrorism,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after the massive terrorist ‎attack in Nice last week. Understandably, his statement infuriated the French, who took to social ‎media to express their opprobrium.‎

And French President Francois Hollande, sounding almost as if he was being forced to speak, said, “We cannot deny that it was a terrorist ‎attack.”‎

After the massive Islamic State attacks in Paris in November 2015, political leaders proclaimed ‎themselves “shocked.” Whether this shock was feigned or genuine, at least they made a point, pitiful ‎as it was, of pretending that these massive terrorist attacks were something extraordinary that did not ‎have a habitual place in Europe.

Valls’ resigned declaration of tired surrender after the Nice attack, on the other hand, ‎amounts to the waving of a white flag in submission to the jihadis and is an indication that France ‎has little will to fight.‎

Valls and Hollande sounded like bewildered children at the helm of a ship that they are too ‎clueless to navigate. Imagine Winston Churchill declaring, “Britain must live with ‎Nazism.” ‎

Under its current government, France has busied itself with meddling in Israeli affairs ‎and organizing Middle East peace conferences, instead of spending every waking moment ensuring ‎the proper protection of its own population. It is not ready to fight against the jihad that has been ‎launched against it.

One major factor in this is that its elites blame France.‎ French Ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud, for example, wrote on Twitter: “Why is France ‎targeted? History (former colonial power), geography (proximity), first Muslim community of Arab ‎origin sensitive to M.E. issues.”‎

In other words: Colonialism and Middle Eastern “issues” — a diplomatic euphemism for the Israeli-Arab conflict — ‎are to blame, not the Muslims who commit the atrocities and certainly not Islam. A ‎Twitter user from India responded to Araud: “We Indians have been colonized by all European powers ‎including your country. Ever heard of Indian terrorists? Shame on you.” Indeed.‎

One of the best indicators of how massive terrorist attacks have become the “new normal” is the financial markets, famously and hysterically sensitive as they are. One ‎observer concluded after the Nice attack, “Gold is down and the euro is up. Financial markets ‎don’t care because it’s no longer an extraordinary event. Even European travel stocks and French hotel ‎stocks are only down a couple of percent. Because continued terror attacks for years are already ‘priced ‎in.’ According to the stock market, France has now become Israel.”‎

The sentiment that France and Europe have “now become Israel” has become something of a trend on ‎social media in the wake of Nice. But it is very far from the truth.‎

Europe is a dying continent, one that is walking toward its own cultural suicide with eyes wide shut. ‎In Europe, self-loathing began to gain ground over most traditional Judeo-Christian ‎values as long as a century ago. We see the results of that long process today: Official Europe does not ‎believe in anything. The main European project in recent history has as its goal only a vague ‎multiculturalism and the working toward “an ever closer union,” a self-referential and self-serving ‎empty shell of a vision. Ostensibly, the EU was meant to prevent future wars in Europe, but while ‎Europe has lost its taste for war, war — now in jihad style — has not lost interest in ‎Europe. The problem is that Europe cannot fight jihadis — people who believe so strongly in their ‎cause that they will die for it — if it believes in nothing, least of all the legitimacy of its own fight against ‎them. This will not change, regardless how many reservist forces France now calls up to help ‎protect the country. The fight becomes especially tricky, tragicomically so, when it is fought while ‎intensely fearing the causing of any offence.‎

In contrast, Israel is a vibrant place of almost endless faith. Not just in the traditional and religious ‎sense but a general and secular faith in the worth and the future of the country pervades Israeli ‎society. Israel believes in itself and is more than willing to fight for itself, and this belief manifests itself in ‎myriad ways, not only in its military prowess and in the countless innovations for which it has become ‎so famous, but in its celebrations of its Jewish past, present and future at every given ‎opportunity. It is also evident in the high birth rate in the country, while Europeans are not having enough children to maintain their own populations.

Israel may be located in a neighborhood that is full of enemies and terrorists, but Israel is also ‎committed to dealing with those security issues, whatever it takes. Israel is here to stay, ‎and Israelis are determined to keep it that way, never even contemplating resigning themselves to whatever ‎malignant plans others may have in store for them.‎

No, Europe is not Israel. Not even close.

Utterly Unconscionable

The real reason for the rupture of relations with Turkey is not because of anything Israel has (or has not) done. It is a result of what Turkey has become.

(Originally published on Arutz Sheva)

Israelis have no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism. – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (7/19/2014)

National honor is not just something people talk of on the street…It has strategic significance– Moshe (Bogey) Yaalon, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, (8/17/2011).

The recently announced reconciliation accord—or rather “deal” between Israel and Turkey—is utterly unconscionable—and incomprehensible. From an Israeli point of view, it is devoid of any logic on every imaginable level—national, ethical, security and even commercial—except perhaps in the immediate short-term.

Resounding rejection

For this “deal’ to produce any beneficial results for Israel, beyond those that would accrue to it anyway without it, would be extremely implausible, defying all probability, evidence and common sense – a stunning victory for unfounded optimism over sober assessment of prevailing realities.

Just how detrimental the “deal” would be for Israel is underscored by its overwhelming rejection by the Israeli public, reflected in opinion polls conducted just after news of its impending conclusion broke. According toChannel 10, a majority of almost 2 to 1 in the overall population opposed the “deal”. In the Jewish population, the ratio of opponents to proponents rose to almost 3 to 1. By contrast, in the Arab sector, the numbers supporting the “deal” was nearly five times higher than those opposing it!

This is an interesting statistic in assessing the merits (or lack thereof) of the “deal”. After all, unless one ascribes to the (largely non-Zionist) Arab population a more astute grasp of the national interest of the Jewish nation-state than one ascribes to the (largely pro-Zionist) Jewish population, the significance of this finding is crystal clear—for anyone with the moral courage and intellectual integrity to acknowledge it.

The Zoabi index

But perhaps the most reliable measure of the detriments of the “deal” was the undisguised display of joy and satisfaction with which it was received by Arab Knesset member of the anti-Zionist Balad faction, Hanin Zoabi, ade jure Israeli citizen, with full civil rights, who has spent years denigrating her country and consorting with its enemies. Much of Zoabi’s approving glee was due to what is perhaps the most infuriating and disturbing aspect of this ill-conceived deal: Israel’s agreement to pay compensation of $20 million to the families of the homicidal thugs (whom Zoabi accompanied), killed while attempting to disembowel IDF naval commandoes, after they rappelled onto a Turkish vessel in 2010, to prevent it breaching the legal quarantine of the Hamas-ruled terrorist enclave of Gaza.

Flushed with victory at the macabre precedent of compensation being paid for the consequences of the attempted lynch of IDF combatants, she crowed: “The agreement by Israel to transfer the compensation to Turkey constitutes an admission of guilt to the murder of nine human beings…This shows that they were not terrorists but victims of [unprovoked] violence”.

Regrettably, but inevitably, many will believe her.

All Israel’s denials and explanations that this ill-considered “gesture” does not constitute acknowledgement of wrongdoing on its part will be of no avail. Few will be convinced that, if truly blameless, Israel would consent to pay multi-million dollar compensation, merely to allow its Turkish detractors to establish relations with it, relations which Turkey desires no less (and probably more) than Israel does.

Perilous permit

Not less alarming and ominous is the fact that according to the terms of the “deal” Israel will allow Turkey to build infrastructure projects in Gaza, such as a hospital, power station and desalination plant; and to transfer unlimited (!!) humanitarian aid and equipment to Gaza, as long as it goes through the Israeli port of Ashdod.

It is difficult to conceive of a permit more perilous than this. After all, it is clear that with the initiation of these “projects”, huge (indeed, “unlimited”) amounts of dual purpose materials – such as cement, metals and chemicals—will flow into Gaza.  Inspections in Ashdod will be of little value—since after any materials enter Gaza, Israel will have little control over what their final destination—or who their end-users—will be.

Furthermore, if the construction of Turkish projects involves the presence of Turkish workers and/or experts in Gaza, another—no less worrying—scenario is likely to arise: If Israel is (again) compelled to use force against the terrorist organizations deployed throughout the area, there is a tangible risk of Turkish civilians—perhaps even Turkish security personnel—being hit, especially if these organizations operate from within (or from underneath) the projects’ perimeters. Clearly, it is not difficult to identify the potential for a dangerous deterioration in the relationship between the two countries.  Indeed, even the specter of possible armed clashes (something Erdogan himself has threatened) cannot be discounted.

At minimum, the presence of Turkish citizens and assets in Gaza is liable to constitute a serious constraint, inhibiting Israel’s freedom of action—both political and military—against the terrorist forces that operate in, and out of, Gaza.

Gas as an excuse?

The question of finding export markets has been cited as a major driving force for the “deal” with Turkey, which is robustly seeking to reduce its dependency on Russia, the source of   over half its gas requirements.

However, on closer consideration, the matter of gas seems more an excuse than a substantive reason justifying the “deal”.  Indeed, it is hard to identify the prudence in a policy, which creates massive dependency on a single customer (that costly construction of conveyance infrastructure would entails), thus mortgaging much of the future of the gas export trade to the vagaries of an inherently inimical, petulant and unpredictable leader.  Indeed, with Erdogan at the helm, every crisis or dispute over a range of topics, on which Israel and Turkey may disagree, is liable to bring about a threat to discontinue Turkish purchases.

Energy expert, Professor Brenda Shaffer, cautions against falling prey to the notion that supplying gas can act as an impetus for improved bilateral relations. She writes (The Marker, (12/ 28/2015): “To date there is not a single case where the lure of supplying gas or oil contributed significantly to resolving conflict…Energy trade does not cause peaceful relations; it reflects peaceful relations”.

She warns: “The trade of gas rarely, if ever, creates dependency [of the importer]…Indeed the trade can in fact produce dependency of the exporter [on the importer]”.

Israel would do well to heed this warning.

The impact on others

The crisis in Turco-Israeli relations led to a blossoming of ties with several other countries, all of whom have some degree of tension in their relationships with Ankara, such as Russia, Greece and Cyprus.

It is highly unlikely that any “deal” that benefits Erdogan will not have some negative impact on the budding bonds with these countries, and the amount of trust they feel can they place in Israel as an ally. Moreover, there can be little doubt that, as Erdogan is a fervent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, any bolstering of his standing in Gaza will cause rancor and resentment in Cairo, where the amenable Sisi government is under constant threat from the Turkish ruler’s Islamist protégés.

I differ with newly appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on a range of topics, but I find it difficult to disagree with his critical assessment of the impending entente, expressed several months ago, prior to his joining the coalition: “Erdogan leads a radical Islamic regime, the Turks… are at odds with Russia…We have made considerable efforts in recent years to establish ties with Greece and Cyprus and have reached important agreements with them… [The agreement with Turkey] will harm them…It will also harm our ties with Egypt…”

Impact (cont)

Indeed, in an analysis of the Turco-Israeli “deal”, entitled “After the Israel-Turkey Agreement, Turkey and Hamas Will Still Collaborate”, Yoni Ben Menachem former Director General of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, now a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, wrote: “Although so far Egypt is keeping mum, in the past it expressed great displeasure at the possibility of Israel giving Turkey any sort of foothold in Gaza.”

There is little reason to believe that Egyptian displeasure with the current deal will be in any way diminished.

Moreover, on Monday (6/28), the Israeli business daily, Globes, warned “Russia, from which Turkey imports 55%-60% of its natural gas, will do everything in its power to prevent this project [Israeli supplying gas to Turkey] from getting off the ground.”

The paper also noted: “The proposed pipeline between Israel and Turkey would pass through Cypriot economic waters–requiring the country’s approval. But relations between Cyprus and Turkey have been frosty [for decades]…A Cypriot energy executive was furious at the deal between Israel and Turkey [saying] ‘a gas export deal between Israel and Turkey is a point of no return for Israeli-Cypriot ties’”.  According to the deputy Ambassador of Cyprus to Israel “his country would not authorize the construction of a pipeline…”

Quoting a former senior Israeli diplomat, Globes reported that: “The deal with Turkey will hurt relations with Greece and likely Cyprus.” Referring to an agreement, signed in January between Cyprus, Israel and Greece, calling for strengthening trilateral ties, he remarked: “Israel gave Cyprus and Greece the illusion that it was onboard; signing a deal with Turkey is a sort of betrayal.”

Superfluous surrender

Even commercially, there seems little point in the “deal”. While political ties between governments may have soured, relations between the two business communities have strengthened considerably.

Thus, despite the breakdown of diplomatic ties, business between the two countries has increased almost five-fold since the pre-Erdogan 1990s, and roughly doubled since 2009 (the year before the Gaza flotilla incident)—reaching almost $5.5 billion in 2014.

But beyond this, if Erdogan has truly undertaken a fundamental reassessment of Turkish interests, and rapprochement with Israel is now perceived as an important national goal, would he really be prepared to sacrifice it for a paltry $20 million dollars compensation or the dubious privilege of providing humanitarian aid to Gaza? There are only two possibilities:

Either he would; or he wouldn’t.

If he would, this demonstrates how little store he places in renewed ties with Israel, and should be expected to disrupt them for a myriad of less-than-weighty pretexts in the future. Hence Israel should eschew any concessions to attain such ties.

If he wouldn’t, there is no need for Israel to make any concessions for renewed ties with Turkey, since Ankara would be compelled to establish them anyway—whether the $20 million dollars or the provision of aid to Gaza was forthcoming,  or not.
Simple logic, isn’t it?

Real reason for rupture

The loss of Turkey as a strategic ally is a huge blow.

But we should not lose sight of the fact that the real reason for the rupture of relations was not because of what Israel has – or has not – done. It is a result of what Turkey has become. Indeed, it would be foolish to believe otherwise, for virtually the only thing unchanged in Turkey since the ascent of Erdogan’s party to power is its geographic location.

Today, Turkey is a very different country from what it was in the 1990s, the heydays of the bond between the two countries, when it was a constitutionally decreed secular nation, pro-Western and largely detached from its geographical environment in terms of its aspirations, affiliations and desired future development.

Since then, Turkey has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis in its socio-cultural and political “DNA” –and until it undergoes a comparable “counter-revolution”, the chances of any genuine repair are slim indeed.

However, as long as the principle author of the country’s current Islamist revolution (Erdogan himself) remains in power, the odds on any counter-revolution taking place are negligible.

Accordingly, the most plausible way to promote conditions likely to induce an authentic, durable enhancement of Israeli-Turkish relations, is to undermine Erdogan, let him wallow in the morass of problems his own arrogance and bluster have created for him, so that his domestic adversaries can grow stronger and eventually replace him.

Regrettably, the current “deal” does precisely the opposite!

It allows him to boast of achievements and helps extricate himself—even if temporarily—from his current self-made difficulties. As such it serves to bolster his standing and this, necessarily, weakens his opponents, who strive to replace him.

Beyond official “spin”

Accordingly, beyond the official “spin” extolling the far-reaching benefits that will allegedly accrue to Israel as a result of this unfortunate and unnecessary “deal”, it is difficult to grasp how it will advance Israel’s interests in any meaningful way.  Sadly, it is far more likely that quite the reverse will prove true.


The IDF and Israel’s Commandment to Liberate the Land

“Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel according to their families, according to their fathers’ household, by number of the names, every male according to their headcount. From twenty years of age and up – everyone who goes to the army in Israel – you shall count them for their armies, you and Aharon. And with you shall be one man from each tribe; a man who is leader of his father’s household.” (BAMIDBAR 1:2-4)

BAMIDBAR begins with the decree that Israel take a national census. Many of history’s great Torah luminaries explain the entire purpose of this count to have been for the organization of a military force that would liberate the Land of Israel from foreign rule. The holy Ohr HaḤaim even adds that there was a hidden miracle involved in the census – that every man counted was in top physical condition and eligible for combat service.

In his supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, the Ramban teaches that it is a Torah commandment in every generation that the Nation of Israel take control of and inhabit the entire Land of Israel.

“This (a war to liberate Eretz Yisrael) is what our Sages call milḥemet mitzvah (obligatory war). In the Talmud (Sotah 44b) Rava said, ‘Yehoshua’s war of liberation was an obligatory duty according to all opinions.’ And do not err and say that this precept is the commandment to vanquish the seven nations… this is not so. We were commanded to destroy those nations when they fought against us and had they wished to make peace we could have done so under specific conditions. Yet we cannot leave the land in their control or in the control of any other nation in any generation… Behold, we are commanded with conquest in every generation… this is a positive commandment which applies for all time… And the proof that this is a commandment is this: ‘They were told to go up in the matter of the Spies: ‘Go up and conquer as HaShem, G-D of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear and do not be discouraged.’ And it further says: ‘And when HaShem sent you from Kadesh Barnea saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you.’ And when they did not go up, the Torah says: ‘And you rebelled against the Word of G-D, and you did not listen to this command.’” (Positive Commandment 4 of the Ramban’s supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot)

The Ramban asserts that the conquest of Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah for Israel in every generation and that we are forbidden from allowing any part of our country to fall into – or remain under – gentile control. It is found in the Shulḥan Arukh that all of the arbitrators of Torah Law (Rishonim and Aḥronim) agree with the Ramban concerning this issue.

“All of the Poskim, both Rishonim and Aḥronim, decide the Law in this fashion on the basis of the Ramban.” (Shulḥan Arukh, Even HaEzer section 75, Pitḥei Tshuva 6)

The mitzvah of implementing Hebrew sovereignty over our homeland can only be fulfilled through an Israeli army. Without such a national military force, Israel would not be capable of waging the war of liberation necessary for the fulfillment of this Divine commandment.

Israel’s military in modern times is known as the Israel Defense Forces. That the official name of our army is a conceptual error on the part of our political leadership has been sufficiently proven by history since its inception. Rather than simply warding off external threats, the primary function assumed by this “defense force” is actually that of a liberation army reconquering its land. Because Israel has not always taken the initiative, however, history has forced us to retake our country piece by piece. Through being attacked by hostile peoples unlawfully reigning over parts of our homeland, the IDF has launched strikes resulting in portions of our country becoming free. However poorly misnamed, the IDF constitutes the army of the Hebrew Nation fulfilling the mitzvah of liberating the Jewish homeland from foreign rule.

The Rambam (in Hilkhot Melakhim 5:1) provides an additional definition for a milḥemet mitzvah as any war fought to assist Israel from hostile gentiles. The Shulḥan Arukh (Oraḥ Ḥaim 329:6) rules that if Jews are attacked, even on the Sabbath, it is a commandment to organize a defense force and counter-attack. The Rama adds that even if the enemy has not yet attacked but Israel suspects that a strike may be imminent, war should be waged – even on the Sabbath – as a pre-emptive measure.

In its secondary function, Israel’s army serves as the defense force it dubs itself. The great strength and dedication of the IDF spring from the noble resolution that never again shall Jews be slaughtered without a fight. While the primary function of Israel’s army often exists only in our nation’s collective subconscious, the resolution of “never again” is the conscious driving force behind the IDF – a willingness to take responsibility for the welfare of the Jewish people and a yearning to free Israel from a world of brutality.

In the Song of Dvorah, the prophetess praises and rebukes Hebrew tribes based on their behavior during Barak’s war against Canaan.

“The leaders of Yissakhar were with Dvorah, and so was Yissakhar with Barak, into the valley he was sent on his feet. But in the indecision of Reuven there was great deceit. Why did you remain sitting at the borders to hear the bleating of the flocks? The indecision of Reuven demands great investigation. Gilad dwelled across the Jordan; and Dan – why did he gather onto ships? But Asher lived by the shores of the seas and remained to protect his open borders. Zevulun is a people that risked its life to the death, and so did Naphtali, on the heights of the battlefield.” (SHOFTIM 5:15-18)

While recording the responses of various tribes and cities during the battle, Dvorah reveals the spiritual importance of participation in Israel’s wars.

“‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of HaShem, ‘Curse! Cursed are its inhabitants, for they failed to come to help HaShem to help the nation of HaShem against the mighty.’” (SHOFTIM 5:23)

The Radak explains Meroz to have been a Hebrew city near the battlefield that refrained from joining Barak’s campaign. The prophetess attacks Meroz for not assisting the Kadosh Barukh Hu to assist Israel, revealing that Divine support comes to those who help themselves. If we expect miracles to be performed on our behalf, we are required to take the initiative and meet HaShem half way (so to speak).

The Sages (Brakhot 20a) ask why miracles rarely occurred in Talmudic times as oppose to the many open miracles in Biblical times. The Sages question if it might have been because Jews in Talmudic times were learning less Torah. But the Talmud dismisses this and answers that there were generations in Biblical times that studied less Torah yet still experienced great open miracles. The Talmud continues by revealing that it is not due to a difference in learning but rather in the level of self-sacrifice within the nation. The Hebrews of Biblical times were more prepared to risk their lives for the sake of Israel’s mission and HaShem’s Divine Ideal for this world. The Talmud therefore concludes that miracles are the result of courage and selfless devotion. When Am Yisrael displays great valor in battle, we are often rewarded with miraculous victories.

In addition to being an army of liberation and a defense force, the IDF is also the national organization for the creation of miracles. Through the great self-sacrifice and dedication of our soldiers – men ready to give their lives for the future of their people – miracles become an almost regular occurrence. Modern history has shown that acts of great courage do not only lead to protection from danger but also to astonishing victories on the battlefield. Because miracles are often the result of self-sacrifice, the IDF – which breeds this valor – should be viewed as playing a role in the production of these miracles. While Israel is forbidden from relying on miracles, we are certainly encouraged to help G-D create them.

The Torah is meant to be lived in this world according to the laws of nature that HaShem set in motion. By participating in every facet of life, the Nation of Israel is able to uplift all spheres of existence to their highest and most productive functions in Creation. By implying that all twenty-year-old males should be serving in Israel’s army, the Torah is revealing that even the military requires Torah guidance in order that it fully express its inherent kedusha as part of manifesting the Divine Ideal for this world. And by sanctifying all areas of life according to His Torah, Israel will revolutionize mankind’s perception of reality, bringing humanity to recognize the Oneness of HaShem and leading the world into an era of unparalleled blessing.

Israel Is to Be An Example of Justice and Perfection to Mankind

[This week’s Torah portion is the Parsha of Behar]

While the Torah instructs Israel to aspire towards a “kingdom of priests and holy nation” (SHEMOT 19:6) in the Land of Israel, a just social order and healthy economy are two crucial ingredients to fulfilling this charge. Since modern Zionism’s early years, there has existed a conflict between self-proclaimed adherents of socialism and their opponents who favor a free market economy. For decades following the reestablishment of Jewish independence, this battle has raged and formed deep divides. Although security threats, increased westernization and foreign pressure to shrink the country’s borders in recent decades have often caused class issues to fade into the political backdrop, Israel still lacks the socio-economic ideal necessary to serve as a paragon of justice and morality to other nations.

Israel is tasked with becoming a light unto nations. As the national expression of HaShem’s Ideal for this world, the Jewish people are meant to demonstrate to mankind how to live all facets of life in such a way that actualizes and fully expresses our inner kedusha (holiness). The State of Israel must set an example of excellence to the rest of the world in every sphere of nationhood, from commerce and agriculture to governance and social services. Israel must aspire to build a perfect society that functions according to G-D’s Truth in every detail of life. The formula is not man-made but rather a sacred reality that transcends the limited perception of human beings. Only through existing as such a holy nation in the whole of Eretz Yisrael can the Jewish people hope to bring humanity towards a future of genuine harmony and universal fulfillment.

In order for Israel to achieve this goal, it is necessary that we establish a just society reflecting the values of our Torah. The Children of Israel must determine and implement social policies that benefit the collective society as well as the individuals within. Because Israel is meant to serve as a national light to mankind, the Jewish state must become a model civilization in which people live lives of dignity and fulfillment while wholeheartedly sharing in the collective national burden.

If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him – proselyte or resident – so that he can live with you.” (VAYIKRA 25:35)

Various modes of production and social structures may possess positive features from which man can benefit. But in order to arrive at a complete and perfect system, Israel cannot be limited to working within the framework of the choices offered by the outside world. Rather than adhere to rigid foreign concepts, Israel must set our agenda in accordance with Hebrew values and promote a new outlook in compliance with Torah culture – an all-encompassing approach that will succeed in expressing the highest values in seemingly clashing ideologies. A central goal of Israel’s redemption process is freeing mankind from the limitations of dualistic thinking. Israel must bring man beyond the artificial contradictions of ostensibly conflicting ideals towards a higher awareness of opposites actually enjoying a deep inner unity.

A clear example of this concept is found in the Hebrew understanding ofkedusha. While Western thinking has traditionally viewed holiness as the triumph of the spiritual over the physical, Israel’s more holistic approach recognizes kedusha as being the healthy unification of spirituality and physicality.

Dualistic thinking is only one of the many negative features of Western civilization – a civilization principally based upon the values of Esav, whose Edomite descendants ultimately became the Roman Empire, morphed into the Christian Church and dominated Europe. Essentially utilized as a means of social control, the poisoned doctrine of Christianity spread far and wide while spiritually oppressing a significant share of humankind. As Europeans began to conquer and pillage the new world, the culture of Edom took on a secular form still rooted in the barbarism of its forerunners as Europe’s feudalist social structure gave way to the rise of capitalism. Capitalism as a mode of production is essentially based on the competition between rival capitalists to attain profits. To beat out their contenders and constantly feed this ever-expanding system, leading capitalists enlist the aid of their governments in finding markets in other countries, gaining access to natural resources and exploiting cheap labor, essentially spawning the same imperialism that characterized ancient Rome. Within the capitalist mode of production itself exists a drive compelling nations to dominate and oppress weaker peoples.

Capitalism gave rise to a powerful culture that indoctrinates the masses to constantly consume, subliminally promoting the goal of life as the acquisition of wealth. The motivational forces driving Western man to be productive became the pursuits to accumulate the most money, bed the most attractive women, drive the fastest cars and live in the largest homes. While the Torah certainly requires men to be physically attracted to their wives and successful in providing for their families, these do not serve as the actual foundations of a Hebrew society. Unlike Western civilization, which places the materiel success of the individual at the center, Hebrew civilization is primarily concerned with the moral and spiritual wellbeing of the collective.

The future to which Israel is bringing the world is one in which the motivational force driving man becomes an idealistic desire to perfect the entire world. To become partners in Creation that experience HaShem flowing through us as we actively bring history to its ultimate goal. For Israel to lead the world to this stage first requires a conscious rejection of Edomite values in favor of a society based on giving and caring for the other, in which production is determined by actual human need. We must realize that the capitalist system only seems natural to us when we perceive ourselves as separate from – and at odds with – one another. The more we recognize mankind’s true inner unity, the more we appreciate our intrinsic subconscious drive to succeed collectively as one.

The Torah forbids us from allowing the impoverishment of other people as we are commanded to provide assistance to our brothers in need. Helping the poor is not merely a recommendation but actually a directive from HaShem and Divine expression of justice, no different than safeguarding the Sabbath or liberating Eretz Yisrael from foreign rule. Israel’s historic mission necessitates bringing all of humanity to the conscious awareness that Creation, with all of its multiplicity and variety, is actually one single entity – an organic whole of which we are all unique and crucial parts.

The ultimate goal towards which history is advancing necessitates the establishment of a social order founded on the morality and justice of our Torah where no person goes hungry and all live in friendship and mutual respect, setting an example of justice and perfection to mankind.