Sunday 31 March 2019

United with Israel: The Challenge of Communication and Presenting the Case for Israel

We forget that often there are two aspects to communication. One concerns the simple facts, the objective information, which one wishes to transmit. The other concerns the reactions one wishes to generate in those receiving this transmission. What we often do not consider, though, is the depth of distinction that exists between these two objectives. In various ways, the lack of recognition of this distinction is a problem for Israel.In this regard, please see my latest post in the United with Israel blog at

I am sure this will also be up on the UWI Facebook page in the near future. Please feel free to comment here or on one of the UWI sites.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Thursday 28 March 2019

The Battle for Peace by Ezer Weizman

From RRW
Guest Blogger: Mitchell First

                                 The Battle for Peace by Ezer Weizman

   This is a fascinating book that was written in 1981, shortly after Weizman served as Defense Minister.   Why the strange title? Battles are usually about wars. But this book is the story of how Egypt and Israel had to suddenly psychologically switch gears in the face of Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in Nov. 1977. Egypt and Israel had been mortal enemies for 30 years. Now all of a sudden, they had to see if they could view the hated other as a peace partner!
    Weizman was a pilot during the 1948 war. He was commander of the Israeli air force from 1958-66. In the 1967 war, he directed the critical early morning surprise attack against the Egyptian air bases. In 1969, he retired from the military and the entered politics. In 1977, he became Defense Minister under Menachem Begin. In 1993, he was elected President of Israel. He was the nephew of Chaim Weizmann who was the first President of Israel.
     It was in November 1977 that Sadat came to Jerusalem and spoke in the Knesset.  The next step, in order for the peace process to maintain momentum, was for Israel’s Defense Minister to visit his Egyptian counterpart in Egypt. But Weizman had recently badly injured his leg and ribs in a car accident. The last thing he wanted was for himself, the Defense Minister, to hobble painfully on crutches on his first encounter with Egyptian officials.
      This meeting of the Defense Ministers was to be a secret.  Weizman made life miserable for his doctors at Tel Hashomer Hospital. They told him that a plaster cast on a broken leg has to stay on for six weeks. That’s what it says in the books.  He yelled back, “in that case, get a new book!” He writes that “he urged them to work miracles, telling them to defy medical history and speed up the rebonding of the fractures” in his leg and ribs. They had not the faintest idea of why he was in such a hurry!  After endless pleading, the doctors gave in and took the cast off after four weeks, and Weizman was willing to do the visit with a walking stick. (There was a time when a walking stick was a sign of importance!)
        But how should he get to Egypt? There was no airline with a route at this time between the two countries! Eventually, it was decided to utilize the help of the United States. A U.S. Air Force plane was summoned from Frankfurt. The crew had no idea why they had been summoned in such haste to come to Israel and why they were to fly on to Egypt!
       Now comes the critical question: What present should Weizman bring to Sadat? After much consultation with his wife and friends, he decides on a large, handsome clock. Why? Because he thought of the following inscription:  “To President Sadat, the leader who moved the clock forward.” He also remembered that Sadat was pipe smoker, so Weizman had a top quality pipe brought in from Paris. He had it inscribed “may you always smoke this pipe peacefully.”  His present to the Egyptian Minister of War was a Galil assault rifle, manufactured by the Israeli military industry. The inscription on it said: “May you never have to use it.”
          On his flight to Egypt, all he could think about was the first time he was there. It was May 29, 1948 and he was a young pilot. The state had been proclaimed two weeks before and Israel was fighting for survival. An Egyptian army column was heading toward Tel Aviv. The situation was desperate, as there was almost no effective Israeli force separating the Egyptian column from Tel Aviv. The air force had four planes supplied by Czechoslovakia. Weizman and three other pilots were ordered to bomb the Egyptian column. This was Israel’s first air force mission. The attack was successful and significantly delayed the march of the Egyptian column. Now, here he was flying to Egypt again –under such different circumstances!
         He had spent his military career studying Egypt from afar. Now, was getting shockingly close views of everything. But he had to constantly remind himself not to act like a spy, but like a potential peace partner.
        After greeting the Egyptian minister, he was taken to meet Sadat at Ismalia. The city he recalled was full of smoke and rubble from Israel’s incessant bombardment. Now Ismalia was totally changed, looking vibrant and full of life.
          When Weizman was brought to Sadat, Weizman was walking with his walking stick and was in intense pain. “Ya Ezra!” Sadat shouted. (Sadat mistook his first name for “Ezra,” a common name among Egyptian Jews.) “Are you still walking on that stick of yours?” Weizman could not take the subtle insult.  The idea of the Defense Minister of Israel limping to meet the Egyptian President was not to his liking. Weizman continues:  “I twirled the walking stick around my head. With an agonizing heave, I flung it across the lawn, speeding it on its way with a resounding Arabic curse: “Yahrab beto!” (=damn the stick!) After a tense pause of a few seconds, Sadat burst out laughing!
      What exactly happened at Camp David during those 11 days in Sept. 1978 with President Carter?
       As to clothing, the guests were requested to dispense with ties. But this was too informal for Begin. When you go see the President, he proclaimed, you should always be properly dressed. He would never let himself be seen in less than formal clothing. On the other hand, Carter walked around in jeans or running shorts, and Sadat normally wore his track suit.    
        Weizman was once lying down in his cabin, almost nude, when Carter entered. What is the protocol in such a situation, Weizman wondered.
       Weizman was perturbed by the large number of lawyers in the various delegations. He observed that there are lawyers who find a solution to every problem, and there are those who find a problem for every solution. Camp David, he observed, teemed with the second kind!
        The camp’s medical unit was on constant alert. Two of the conferences’ leading figures, Begin and Sadat, suffered from heart ailments.
         After the first three meetings of Carter, Begin and Sadat together proved fruitless, it was decided not to have any more direct meetings with Begin and Sadat together. Begin and Sadat each remembered with anger the harsh demands and statements made by the other.  It was felt better to have the further negotiations conducted by ministers and aides.
          Today we know that the summit worked out. But the Israeli delegation did not know that at the time. Reading this book you see the tremendous pressure that they were under! Until the end, they felt that not only would the summit fail, but Israel would be blamed.
         Weizman’s son Sha’ul was severely wounded in 1970 by an Egyptian sniper. Years after it happened American television reporter Mike Wallace asked him if he hated the man who had shot him. (Wallace was surely attempting to goad him into a politically incorrect answer.) His son replied “Definitely not! How can I hate someone I don’t even know!” Ezer observes that his son’s answer pleased him very much. He writes that “it may sound strange, but I have never harbored any resentment towards those Arabs who have inflicted injury upon the State of Israel or on my own family. [But] I have long felt scorn and contempt for certain Arab leaders who embroil their citizens in costly and hopeless wars.”
         My favorite observation in the book is one that Weizman made about circling in an airplane before one is given permission to land.  In a tense period in the Egyptian-Israeli relationship, he observed that the Egyptian airport controllers kept his plane in the air a long time before giving it permission to land. He suggested that this was a good way to measure the relations between two countries: how long you are kept in the air before you are given permission to land!
Mitchell First can be reached at He recalls going to a large pro-Israel rally in Washington D.C. about 20 years ago where one of the speakers from the U.S. government confused Ezer Weizman with Chaim Weizmann!

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Important Supreme Court Case re: Shemirat Shabbat

From RRW
The RCA and other organizations joined together to sign a Supreme Court amicus curiae brief (click here) in the case of Patterson v. Walgreen Co., No 18-349. The case concerned a Seventh-Day Adventist who was fired by Walgreen's in Orlando because he would not work on Saturdays.
One issue in the case was whether the Supreme Court should overrule its 1977 decision in a case called TWA v. Hardison, in which the Court's majority had held that the provision of the Civil Rights Act enacted in 1972 that required employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious observance (observing Sabbaths and religious holidays is a prime example) required only "de minimis" accommodation. This 42-year-old Supreme Court ruling has harmed many Shomrei Shabbat. Employers have been upheld by the courts when they have claimed that accommodation was too difficult and would cost them money. If we can get this 1977 decision overruled, it will be a major victory for Shomrei Shabbat. Four of the Supreme Court's Justices indicated in an opinion issued on February 22 that they are ready to "revisit" the TWA v. Hardison ruling.  
Nat Lewin wrote an article for Tablet Magazine on his experiences in getting the 1972 law enacted and in arguing the Hardison case as an amicus curiae. Click here.
After "relisting" the case twice, the Court issued an order yesterday (March 18) asking the Solicitor General to "express the views of the United States" on the case. This is a major step forward. If the Solicitor General's brief suggests that the Court accept the case, it will probably be added to the Court's calendar for the Term that begins this coming October, and the bad ruling in TWA v. Hardison will probably be overruled. The SG usually has 30 days in which to comply with the Court's request for a brief, and his office routinely requests a 30-day extension. Although it is a good sign that the Justices have asked the SG to submit a brief, there is still an uphill battle.
During this time it is both permissible and appropriate for interested parties and groups to communicate with the Attorney General and the Solicitor General by letter to urge that the SG's brief take a particular position.  In the interest of Shemirat Shabbat, we should all write to the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, citing Patterson v. Walgreen Co., No. 18-349, urging that the Solicitor General tell the Supreme Court that the United States supports the petitioner and asks the Court to grant certiorari and overrule TWA v. Hardison.
Walgreen hired Jenner & Block to represent it when the Court asked for a response to the petition. Jenner & Block has written a persuasive Brief in Opposition that presents reasons why Walgreen was unable to accommodate Patterson and reasons why this is not an appropriate case to consider the continued vitality of TWA v. Hardison's "de minimis" language. The Jenner & Block lawyers will present these grounds to the SG's Office in writing and will probably even get a face-to-face meeting with the SG's Office. It is essential, therefore, that those interested in protecting the rights of Sabbath-observers be strong in their written presentations.

To contact the Attorney General:


The Honorable William Barr
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

To contact the Solicitor General:


The Honorable Noel Francisco
Solicitor General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Monday 25 March 2019

"The Democrats missed their moment - what now?"

From RRW

The Democrats missed their moment - what now?

Democratic leaders have been cynical and slow in addressing Jew-hatred within their party, perhaps because they believe most Jews will remain Democrats regardless of how the party treats them or regards Israel.  

Matthew M. Hausman, י"ד באדר ב תשע"ט, 3/21/2019

Despite indignant denials, the Democratic Party has enabled anti-Semitism as progressives have embraced ancient stereotypes and asserted them against Israel.  Haters who push claims of undue Jewish influence, divided loyalties, and even blood libel are accepted under the mantle of inclusiveness, and partisan apologists sanitize bigotry by calling it political speech, mendaciously distinguishing contempt for Israel from hatred of Jews, and tolerating slanders against the Jewish State.  When challenged for permitting such conduct, they invoke free speech to defend those who make ridiculous accusations – e.g., that Israel engages in ethnic cleansing, controls international finance, or practices apartheid. But after the election of a few high-profile extremists last November, some Democrats finally began to admit they had a problem, although they failed to seize the moment, acknowledge responsibility, and pledge genuine change.  
Not all Democrats can agree on whether a problem even exists; and those who do are divided over whether to punish the offenders or issue denunciations that specifically mention anti-Semitism.  The glaring hypocrisy is that Democrats would not tolerate such moral ambiguity from across the aisle. If Congressional Republicans were to repeatedly malign African Americans, gay people, or women, Democrats would demand that the offenders be publicly chastised as racists, homophobes, and sexists; and they would be outraged at any attempt to dilute the message to appease party extremists.  
When it comes to anti-Semitism, however, too many Democrats seem to be ethically challenged and morally blind.
Their inability to condemn anti-Semitism without qualification should not be surprising, given their failure to confront the tide of Jew-hatred that surged during the Obama administration.  Or their tendency to deflect by blaming Republicans for intolerance that today comes predominantly from the left. The inconvenient truth is that the skyrocketing rate of bias incidents against Jews is not primarily the fault of conservatives or the political right, but increasingly of progressives and their constituencies.   
The glaring hypocrisy is that Democrats would not tolerate such moral ambiguity from across the aisle...


Sunday 24 March 2019

Trump: U.S. to Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over Golan Heights

From RRW
Trump: U.S. to Recognize Israeli Sovereignty Over Golan Heights
Lori Lowenthal Marcus
March 21, 2019
On Thursday, U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced that it was time for the U.S. to officially grant full recognition to Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel acquired control over that area in a war which Syria waged against the Jewish State in 1967.
Trump made his announcement using his preferred method of retaining full control over his message, that is, in a tweet from his @RealDonaldTrump Twitter account.
He tweeted: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”
Article II of the U.S. Constitution grants to the President the power to recognize foreign governments. The Supreme Court, in a long series of decisions beginning in the 1930’s, has construed this grant of power to give the president exclusive control over which governments to recognize in a given country.
As a very current example, it is the U.S. President who decides whether this nation will recognize as Venezuela’s president either Nicolas Maduro or Juan Guaido. This presidential power extends to which countries to recognize at all, for example, Taiwan or Mainland China. And so also does it belong to the president alone to decide what are the borders of other countries for purposes of U.S. recognition and U.S. law.
Israel acquired control over the Golan Heights, a dramatically elevated plateau in the area abutting Syria and Israel’s Golan valley, in the 1967 war. It was the third of three fronts waged against Israel by its neighboring Arab countries: first by Egypt from Israel’s south, then by Jordan, along Israel’s southwestern border, and then Syria, to the northwest of Israel. Lebanon also attacked Israel during this six-day long war. But Lebanon played a limited role and, like the other Arab armies, was swiftly and soundly defeated.
In 1981, Israel declared its sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The United Nations refuses to recognize this change in status. One of the largest voting blocs at the U.N. is the virulently anti-Israel Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Trump’s announcement regarding Israeli sovereignty was foreshadowed by two other U.S. government initiatives, one legislative, the other from the State Department.
On Feb. 26, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced into the Senate, and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08) introduced into the House, bills which, for purposes of legislation by the U.S. Congress, would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
The congressional initiatives made clear that the objective was not only to strengthen Israel’s defensive capabilities, but also to bolster U.S. national security .
On March 13, the State Department released its annual Human Rights Reports which discusses the status of human rights throughout the world. In years past, the document referred to the Golan Heights as “occupied” by Israel. That reference was dropped from this year’s report.
The head of the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was a U.S. Army Officer, a congressman, and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Pompeo is an ardent U.S. national security advocate and is widely considered positively disposed towards Israel.
In addition to the official changes in position signaled by the bills introduced into Congress and the Human Rights Report from the State Department, still another message was recently sent from a U.S. official regarding the Golan Heights.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was in Israel earlier this month. While there, he took a trip to the Golan Heights with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israelis know that without witnessing firsthand the strategic advantage presented by the Golan Heights, it is impossible to understand why it is critical to keep it out of the control of hostile nations, such as Syria and her puppeteers, Iran and Russia.
During his visit, Graham vowed to push for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. “The Golan is not disputed. It is in the hands of Israel and will always remain in the hands of Israel,” Graham said. “My goal is to try to explain this to the administration.”
Now that the President has spoken on this point over which he has exclusive control, the matter should be put to rest. But no doubt, as with every other major foreign policy initiative undertaken by Trump, especially those seen as supportive of Israel, the hysteria will be swift and vicious. Just as it was with the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and as it was with the decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Iran Deal, this latest act will likely be met with intense criticism.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Mussar: Points of View

originally posted  13 July 2013

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin's Gateway to Happiness p. 141

"Essential to getting with other people is being able to see things from their Point of View EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THEM." [Emphasis Mine]


"Essential to getting with other people is being able to see things from their Point of View ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DISAGREE WITH THEM."

Best Regards,

Thursday 21 March 2019

Part 3: Interesting Words in the Megillah

From RRW
Guest Blogger: Mitchell First 

                              Interesting Words in the Megillah-Part III
            Haglah (2:6): exiled, caused to go away, from the root G-L-H. This root has two different meanings: “uncover/reveal” and “go away/emigrate.” An interesting issue is whether these two G-L-H  meanings have a common origin.
                Most scholars believe that the two roots have a common origin.  See, e.g, the entry for this root in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. 2. But exactly what the relation is and which meaning came first is still subject to debate.  Phoenician has a root G-L-H which means “uncover.” This suggests that the “uncover” meaning came first. But Ugaritic has a root G-L-Y  which is a verb of motion. This suggests that the “go away/emigrate” meaning came first. (There is still a dispute as to the precise meaning of the root G-L-Y in Ugaritic. It may mean “leave” or it may mean “arrive/enter.” But it does not mean “uncover/reveal.”)
                   If the “uncover/reveal” meaning came first, then “emigration” can be understood as an uncovering of the land. If the “go away/emigrate” meaning came first, then the connection is that when people “go away/emigrate,” the land becomes “uncovered/ revealed.”
                  But there is another way to look at the relationship between the two G-L-H meanings, focusing on the people and not the land. Did you ever pick up a rock and discover ants underneath? The instant they are revealed, they are on the move! By analogy, when enemies come and are G-L-H another people, they are first “uncovering them” by forcing them out of their homes and hiding places. This causes the victims to be on the move. This approach is mentioned by Solomon Mandelkern in his concordance.  
                Pitgam (1:20): decree. Aside from appearing here, this word appears several times in Daniel and Ezra, and one time Kohelet. It is a word of Persian origin.
                Patshegen (3:14):  This word appears three times in the book of Esther, and nowhere else in Tanach. But the book of Ezra has a word “parshegen” that appears three times. Most scholars think that these words are equivalent. The words are of Persian origin and mean “copy.”
               Iyyei Ha-yam (10:1) (islands of the sea): The root of “iyyei” is aleph-yod. This word for island appears once in Esther, once in Genesis (10:5), and many times in the rest of the Nach. Many scholars believe it has an Egyptian origin. This helps to explain its unusual structure.
               Ve-ha-akhashdarpinim (9:3): This word has eleven Hebrew letters. This makes it one of the three longest words in Tanach. (There are two other words with eleven letters. See Yechezkel 16:47 and 20:44.  By the way, the word with the largest gematria in Tanach is “tishtarer” at Numb 16:13. Its gematria is 1500.)
              The original Old Persian word here is “khshatrapanan.” The meaning is “satrap” which comes from the Greek shortening of the Old Persian.   The Megillah adds an initial “aleph” to the Old Persian.
         Something similar happened in the case of the name of the king. His name in Old Persian cuneiform was written as “Khshayarsha,” and the Megillah adds an initial “aleph.” Interestingly, in Elamite cuneiform, the name was written with an initial “i” sound, and in Akkadian cuneiform, the name was usually written with an initial “a” sound. So the Megillah is not doing anything so unusual here by having that initial “aleph.”
           Now let us change topics and address a different root Caf-Bet-Dalet.  We know it means both “weighty” and “honor/respect.” These are similar meanings. When you “honor/respect” something, you are giving it “weight.”
             What about the root Kof-Lamed-Lamed? We usually think this root means “curse.” But in fact “curse” is a later meaning of this root. The original meaning was “something that is light” and (in the piel) “to make light of.” (Hebrew has a different word for “curse”:  aleph-resh-resh.) We all know the Hebrew word “kal” with the meaning “light.” This word comes from the root Kof-Lamed-Lamed. And when you treat something “lightly,” you are giving it “disrespect”!
               A separate issue is why the liver is called Caf-Bet-Dalet . Many scholars have suggested that it was considered “the heavy organ,” either heavy in size or in importance.  Apparently, divination with the liver of animals was widely practiced in the ancient Near East. (Do not expect me to explain this further! I have no idea! But I did learn some fancy words for this practice: “extispicy” and “hepatoscopy.”)
               But other scholars do not relate “heavy” and “liver.” For example, in his An Akkadian Lexical Companion For Biblical Hebrew (2009), p. 154, Hayim Tawil has an entry for “kaved”=heavy, honored, and a separate entry for “kaved=” liver. Nothing in either entry suggests that the two entries are related.             
             On a more mundane level, in Rabbinic and Modern Hebrew the root Caf-Bet-Dalet  sometimes has the meaning “to sweep” the floor. Most likely, it developed this meaning because you treat a place honorably by sweeping it.
              Going back to last week’s article about N-Sh-K:
         1. Psalms 85:11 is another verse that shows that N-Sh-K did not originally mean “kiss” and that it meant something like “touch, attach.”  Here the relevant phrase is: “tzedek ve-shalom nashaku” and “nashaku” is parallel to “nifgashu” (=met). I would like to thank Daniel Klein for this reference.
          2. A new interpretation of Gen. 41:10 was suggested to me: Joseph arranged all the dates in ancient Egypt! The verse states: “ve-al pikha (=according to your command) yishak kol ami”!  (I thank Josh Waxman for this bit of ancient humor.)
Mitchell First is a personal injury attorney and Jewish history scholar. He can be reached at Do not tell his wife that he understands the importance of sweeping the floor!