Well, the Pesach holiday has now come to an end, and we are back to “normal,” whatever that is.
The weather certainly has not been normal. Over the last couple of days, we have had unseasonably winter weather with hail, torrential downpours and flooding.
Today, the sun is shining, and the sky is blue. How welcome it is.
I have no intention of pretending that the news is good. We are dealing with a great deal that is painful or infuriating or very, very worrisome.
I want to touch on some of the most problematic issues here. But with it all, there are hints that it may be possible to see better times. Let us pray.
On Monday, Lucy (Leah) Dee ꟷ mother of Maia and Rina, who were killed in a shooting terror attack just a week ago ꟷ succumbed to her severe brain injury, incurred during that same attack. Despite the doctors’ most valiant efforts, it was not possible to save her.
And so, on Tuesday, the remaining four members of the Dee family ꟷ Rabbi Leo Dee, his two young daughters and one son, Tali, Keren and Yehuda ꟷ had another funeral. Their ordeal in going through this is difficult to comprehend in any event, but we must make note here of the extraordinary grace with which they have been conducting themselves.
I have written several times over the years about the fact that the bereaved Israelis who have lost family members to terror are a special lot, exhibiting strength and faith. The Dee family exemplifies this. They inspire us to find the best within ourselves.
There is, first, the fact that a decision was made by the family to donate Lucy’s organs, heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. Shortly before her funeral, these were transplanted into five different people, saving five lives; her corneas have yet to be given to others.
And then there is the statement from Rabbi Dee, who called for making this a better world. He spoke about the fact that for the first time in 30 years, Pesach, Easter and Ramadan have coincided. All the holidays, he observed, are about making the world a better place.
“All world religions believe that we have the power to tell the difference between good and evil so that we can choose to do good. And if we choose good then we make the world into a better place. I am saddened that recently – maybe over the past 20 years of my life, this…ability to differentiate between good and evil has been gradually lost…“
And so, in his wife’s memory, he called for a day for differentiating between right and wrong. He proposed sharing an Israeli flag on social media to mark this…
“For too long we have let a small minority try to convince us there is no right and wrong. Everything is relative.”
Each of us, then, in our effort to make this world a better place, must call out evil when we see it, and not look the other way, as it is sometimes expedient to do.
One of the things that has been greatly disturbing of late is the way the left, with its street activism and bellicose statements from its leaders, has dominated media coverage. The relative silence from the right – including the failure of the prime minister to deliver clear and decisive statements – has lent an impression both nationally and internationally that the left predominates here and that there is no solid counter-position.
There are indications that this situation is now changing, I am pleased to note – although there is a good way to go yet.
Last Sunday, as is the norm, our prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, called in the head of the opposition, Yair Lapid (left below), and provided him with a security briefing – this was considered important because of the multiple security problems the country is dealing with.
Upon leaving the meeting, Lapid made a statement to the press. He began by saying, “I told Netanyahu that the opposition would back up any action that the security forces would recommend against the wave of terrorism and our enemies in all arenas.”
This – which was what first made the news – was appropriate and I cited it in my last posting.
However, there was a great deal more that Lapid had to say, which undid his words of support. Lapid’s full statement was outrageous and damaging to the country: he said he was more worried about Israel after attending the briefing than he had been before.
He blamed the government for the current instability and terrorism:
“What our enemies see in front of them, in all arenas, is an incompetent government. A cabinet no one trusts.”
Referring to Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir as a “tik-tok clown,” he called for him to be stripped of all authority with regard to the Temple Mount – blaming the rioting and unrest there on him. But Ben Gvir’s position is one of standing tough against terrorism.
Lapid referred to Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionist Party as “the messianic faction of the most extreme settlers.” In point of fact, there is nothing extreme or “messianic” about Smotrich’s position, which is that legally and historically Israel belongs to the Jewish people, who have a right to settle it. Most people don’t know that Smotrich was a founder of Regavim (from which he had to withdraw when running for the Knesset). Regavim functions to protect Israel’s legal rights.
Lapid’s despicable behavior was a mark of disloyalty to the country. Responding to him, the Likud put out a statement (emphasis added):
“It is unfortunate that…when Israel is fighting on three fronts and after…Netanyahu invited him for a comprehensive security update, Yair Lapid chooses to engage in petty politics instead of broadcasting a message of unreserved unity against our enemies.“
In its statement the party referred to Lapid’s controversial gas deal with Lebanon, which may have provided a pathway for millions of dollars in funding for the Hezbollah terror group. When reaching this agreement, Lapid claimed, “This agreement strengthens and reinforces Israel’s security and our freedom of action against Hezbollah and the threats from the north.” We can see how that played out. The message to Hezbollah was one of Israeli weakness.
“At a time when [Hezbollah head Hassan] Nasrallah and [Hamas chair Ismail] Haniyeh sit together under the portrait of their Iranian patron calling for our destruction, the leader of the opposition was expected to show national responsibility.”
Perhaps what is most disingenuous about Lapid’s accusation that the coalition is responsible for increased terrorism is that he ignores the role of the ongoing left-wing demonstrations, which according to most security experts has played a major role in projecting an image of Israel as severely divided against itself, and thus weak.
And who incites these demonstrators? Why, Yair Lapid, of course.
On Monday, Netanyahu, in his own statement to the country, directly addressed Lapid’s charges:
“Citizens of Israel, our country is under a terrorist assault. This terrorist assault did not start now. During the previous Passover, a similar provocation took place on the Temple Mount. Last year, under the previous government, the number of terrorist attacks doubled. The previous government signed an agreement with Hezbollah in which it handed over our sovereign territories and gas reservoirs to the enemy without receiving anything in return. It assured us that this surrender agreement would distance the confrontations with the terrorist organizations.
“But as we warned and warned, the exact opposite happened. The attacks only increased and our deterrence was damaged. Unfortunately, it was damaged even more, when in recent months our enemies interpreted the calls for resistance as a weakening of our national resilience.”
Netanyahu’s statement was on the mark with regard to the responsibility of the previous Bennett-Lapid government for setting a tone that invited greater terrorism.
The inclusion of Ra’am in the government was a factor that benefited and encouraged Hamas.
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center reported that in 2022 there was a substantial increase in terrorism. Bennett was prime minister for the first half of 2022, followed by Lapid.
Other points of significance made by Netanyahu:
He has decided to put aside all disagreements with Gallant, which were significant – apparently because a show of unity is more important. Gallant will be retained as Minister of Defense.
Refusal to serve by members of the armed forces because of political issues will not be tolerated. This is a significant factor in projecting strength.
The specter of multi-front attacks is real and very serious. Iran is behind almost all of them.
This is a beginning, then. But a great deal more is needed. The right wing is seeking, and our country desperately needs, a prime minister who is in regular communication with the nation, providing solid information and projecting a strong, determined stance.
Also heartening this past week was a right-wing march to Evyatar in which some 50,000 participated. This, too, is important so that the world can see the strength of the right-wing. Seven ministers and 15 MKs participated.
Evyatar, which is near Tapuach Junction in Samaria, is referred to often as illegal but that is not the case at present. In 2021, the residents struck an agreement with the government in which they would leave quietly with the understanding that structures would not be abolished and under certain conditions they would be able to return. A yeshiva was to be established on the site and the Bennett government was to do a survey to certify that the land was not Palestinian Arab.
The survey has been done and the march represented a demand that the promise to the residents be fulfilled.
Another right-wing demonstration of very considerable proportions is in planning stages for after Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), outside the Knesset. I pray for a major success there.
It is, unfortunately, necessary to return to Yair Lapid once again because the damage he is doing to the nation does not end (emphasis added):
“Senior American Orthodox Jewish leaders penned an open letter blasting Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, saying that the politician is attempting to undermine the Israeli government as he tours the U.S. and is hosted by American Jewish groups.
“In a letter published on Tuesday addressing Lapid’s recent comments to the Jewish Federations of America, Am Echad co-chairs Shlomo Werdiger and Dr. Irving Lebovics wrote that the lawmaker is worsening the rift [between] diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel, as well as fanning the flames of delegitimization of Israel and antisemitism.”
What Lapid is doing – bringing the quarrels within Israel to the outside and drawing on outside pressures to weaken Israel’s government – has never been done before. It was understood that political quarrels stayed in-house. I would call his stance not just bad but immoral.
After Shabbat I will return for a serious look at the judicial reform situation, which is probably no closer to resolution than it was before Pesach, and a host of other troublesome matters.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.