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October 1, 2010: Read EHR KUMT

January 24, 2011

Several of my readers have sent me a most excellent Rosh Hashana sermon by Rabbi Shalom Lewis of Congregation Etz Chaim in Atlanta.  Entitled “EHR KUMT” (he is coming!), this stunning sermon is everything I was told it was, and more: 
“…as a rabbi I have a compelling obligation, a responsibility to articulate what is in my heart and what I passionately believe must be said and must be heard. And so, I am guided not by what is easy to say but by what is painful to express. I am guided not by the frivolous but by the serious. I am guided not by delicacy but by urgency.

“We are at war. We are at war with an enemy as savage, as voracious, as heartless as the Nazis but one wouldn’t know it from our behavior. During WWII we didn’t refer to storm troopers as freedom fighters. We didn’t call the Gestapo, militants. We didn’t see the attacks on our Merchant Marine as acts by rogue sailors.  We did not justify the Nazis rise to power as our fault. We did not grovel before the Nazis, thumping our hearts and confessing to abusing and mistreating and humiliating the German people. We did not apologize for Dresden, nor for The Battle of the Bulge, nor for El Alamein, nor for D-Day.

“Evil – ultimate, irreconcilable, evil threatened us and Roosevelt and Churchill had moral clarity and an exquisite understanding of what was at stake. It was not just the Sudetenland, not just Tubruk, not just Vienna, not just Casablanca. It was the entire planet. Read history and be shocked at how frighteningly close Hitler came to creating a Pax Germana on every continent.

“…In WWII we won because we got it. We understood who the enemy was and we knew that the end had to be unconditional and absolute. We did not stumble around worrying about offending the Nazis. We did not measure every word so as not to upset our foe. We built planes and tanks and battleships and went to war to win….. to rid the world of malevolence.
“We are at war… yet too many stubbornly and foolishly don’t put the pieces together and refuse to identify the evil doers. We are circumspect and disgracefully politically correct.

“Let me mince no words in saying that from Fort Hood to Bali, from Times Square to London, from Madrid to Mumbai, from 9/11 to Gaza, the murderers, the barbarians are radical Islamists.

“To camouflage their identity is sedition. To excuse their deeds is contemptible. To mask their intentions is unconscionable.

“…The sages teach – ‘Aizehu chacham – haroeh et hanolad – Who is a wise person – he who sees into the future.’ We dare not wallow in complacency, in a misguided tolerance and naïve sense of security.
“We must be diligent students of history and not sit in ash cloth at the waters of Babylon weeping. We cannot be hypnotized by eloquent-sounding rhetoric that soothes our heart but endangers our soul. We cannot be lulled into inaction for fear of offending the offenders. Radical Islam is the scourge and this must be cried out from every mountain top. From sea to shining sea, we must stand tall, prideful of our stunning decency and moral resilience. Immediately after 9/11 how many mosques were destroyed in America? None. After 9/11, how many Muslims were killed in America? None. After 9/11, how many anti-Muslim rallies were held in America? None. And yet, we apologize. We grovel. We beg forgiveness.

“Israel is the laboratory – the test market. Every death, every explosion, every grisly encounter is not a random, bloody orgy. It is a calculated, strategic probe into the heart, guts and soul of the West.

“In the Six Day War, Israel was the proxy of Western values and strategy while the Arab alliance was the proxy of Eastern, Soviet values and strategy. Today too, it is a confrontation of proxies, but the stakes are greater than East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel in her struggle represents the civilized world, while Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Iran, Islamic Jihad, represent the world of psychopathic, loathsome evil.

“As Israel, imperfect as she is, resists the onslaught, many in the Western World have lost their way displaying not admiration, not sympathy, not understanding, for Israel’s galling plight, but downright hostility and contempt. Without moral clarity, we are doomed because Israel’s galling plight ultimately will be ours. Hanna Arendt in her classic Origins of Totalitarianism accurately portrays the first target of tyranny as the Jew. We are the trial balloon. The canary in the coal mine. If the Jew/Israel is permitted to bleed with nary a protest from “good guys” then tyranny snickers and pushes forward with its agenda.

“Moral confusion is a deadly weakness and it has reached epic proportions in the West; from the Oval Office to the UN, from the BBC to Reuters to MSNBC, from the New York Times to Le Monde, from university campuses to British teachers unions, from the International Red Cross to Amnesty International, from Goldstone to Elvis Costello, from the Presbyterian Church to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“…Democracies don’t always win. Tyrannies don’t always lose.

“My friends – the world is on fire and we must awake from our slumber. ‘EHR KUMT.’”


Indeed! We must awake from our slumber.  Time grows short.

You can — and, I will suggest, should — read the entire sermon.  You can find it by clicking here.  You can also access it by going on to the synagogue website at http://www.etzchaim.net/ and clicking on EHR KUMT.  Read it, read it a second time and a third time if necessary.  Absorb its message. 

I then urge you to share this with as many others as possible  Give them the URL. Copy and past my summary, above, along with it, if you wish. Or simply forward this posting.


A thanks to all who sent this to me.  And a special thanks to Rabbi Lewis, first, of course, for writing and delivering this powerful material, and then for graciously arranging for it to be placed on his synagogue’s website so that I might share it (and the URL) with all of you.

(For the record:  In some versions of the sermon circulating on the Internet the rabbi’s name is given as Shlomo.  It is properly Shalom. The term “ehr kumt” is explained in the full sermon.)


The holiday season is now ended, and here in Israel it’s back to normal, whatever that means.  I begin with a look at the last few days:

On Wednesday, journalist Eli Brodenstein, writing in Maariv, reported that Obama had sent a letter to Netanyahu offering several US gestures in return for a 60 day renewed freeze on construction.  Brodstein wrote that this proposal was expected to be rejected by Netanyahu.

A major part of the proposal, as described, was an offer to block all Arab initiatives to raise the matter of a Palestinian state before the UN Security Council in the coming year [the time during which, presumably, a “peace” would be negotiated].

In analyzing this proposal, Dr. Aaron Lerner, of IMRA, noted that most media reports missed the crucial fact that this offer was only for one year:

“Until now, official American policy, as expressed both by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, is that a Palestinian state could only be achieved via direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Rather than bolster this commitment, the Obama letter, if put into effect, would constitute a very significant deterioration in the American position.

“Simply put, under the Obama proposal, Israel would be ‘rewarded’ for extending the freeze by 60 days by having an American gun put to the Jewish State’s forehead with the warning: ‘make a deal with the Palestinians within a year or the Palestinians will unilaterally be rewarded with a sovereign Palestinians state.’

“The introduction of this American threat would irreparably doom the prospects of Israel actually reaching an agreement with the Palestinians during the course of the negotiations since the Palestinians would know that
they could bring to the UNSC whatever Israeli concessions were put on the table during the course of the year when they go to the USNC for an imposed solution.”

This is not a new concern — I have written about it before.  If Israel, at the table, were to even tentatively agree (Heaven forbid): OK, if all other pieces fall into place, we will concede these and these borders, or that you can have Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, or whatever, the PA could then decline to make any concessions of its own in order to achieve an agreement and instead march to the Security Council and request a state predicated on the concessions Israel has already “offered.”  

Negotiations are, it seems, not only an exercise in futility, they present a real danger to Israel.  Until now, there has been evidence that this is a plan the PA is seriously considering.  But now Obama — an enemy of Israel — has shown himself ready to facilitate it.

As if this were not enough, Lerner additionally noted that:

“…Brodenstein adds that Mr. Obama also threatens that if his offer is not accepted that the U.S. will make what he terms a major gesture to the Palestinians damaging Israel: formally taking the stand that the final borders should be based on the ’67 lines with adjustments.”



Well, the good news is that Netanyahu has apparently refused the US offer. 

By Thursday, Obama had come out with a denial, saying there was no offer.  He never sent a letter with a proposal, he insisted; it was just a draft, being worked on by both sides.

It is exceedingly difficult for me to swallow this.  David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has close ties with the administration, has said that a letter was sent.  Of course, Makovsky couched it in positive terms, but no matter: Obama’s denial rings false.

Wrote Makovsky: “the letter explicitly mentions the need to ensure a complete ban on the smuggling of rockets, mortars, arms, and related items, as well as the infiltration of terrorists into Israel.” 

Are we expected to take this seriously?  Does Makovsky?  Just how would it be possible to “ensure a complete ban on the smuggling of rockets and infiltration of terrorists” after the founding of a Palestinian state?  Even the IDF, operating with an impressively high degree of effectiveness in Judea and Samaria, does not achieve 100%.  Although, of course, we might come close if the PA “security forces” were gone and we operated everywhere from a position of strength and impunity — which fact is at the core of the security issue.


Two names are being mentioned on the Israeli side with regard to discussions on this letter.  These are people who apparently signed off on sending such a letter to Netanyahu.  One is Ehud Barak, our defense minister.  No surprise there.  This is the guy who offered Arafat the store in 2000.

The other is Yitzhak Molcho, a key Netanyahu advisor and negotiator.  His involvement is problematic, because it becomes a question of what advice he is giving his boss. Warns Yaakov Katz, chair of the National Union party:

“The offer of advisor Molcho is like the advice of Achitofel, which will bring about the downfall of Netanyahu for the same reason he fell a decade ago.” Achitofel was considered a wise man, but gave King David disastrous advice. Apparently sensible suggestions that are fraught with disaster are alluded to as “advice of Achitofel.”


We can be certain that the issue of continuation of the freeze has not yet seen its end. Mitchell will be meeting, once again, with Netanyahu and Abbas today.  And the EU is getting into the act, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton having arrived here as well.


PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, the darling of the West and the PA official touted as most moderate, was in New York about ten days ago,  While there, he met with Israeli deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon.  The meeting was held under the auspices of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, and a Norwegian representative had responsibility for drafting a summary of the meeting.

The summary referred to “two states,” and Ayalon, inquiring as to what that meant –“One Palestinian state and one bi-national state, or another Palestinian state?” — insisted that the summary say”two states for two peoples.”

The mere suggestion of this so outraged Fayyad that he stormed out of the room, and a press conference that had been scheduled had to be cancelled.


Our “peace partner.”


I have read criticism of Netanyahu for demanding that the PA recognize us as a Jewish state.  We do not need their recognition or sanction, goes the criticism — all that matters is that we know we are a Jewish state.

Well…yes, and no.

Of course what is primary, and deeply essential, is that we know who we are.  That is another issue: something to be worked on if we are to retain pride in our heritage.

But I don’t think Netanyahu is suggesting in any way that we need the Arabs to tell us who we are.  And from the perspective of diplomacy and negotiations his demand is very much on the mark.  The Arabs have to acknowledge what we are.

It should have been simple for Fayyad to say, certainly, let’s call it two states for two people. But this most “moderate” of PA officials did not dare to do this because there would have been hell to pay back home. 

Ayalon — and more power to him for raising the issue so pointedly — was on the mark, when he asked, “One Palestinian state and one bi-national state, or another Palestinian state?”  Something like this is precisely what they are after.  And we cannot afford to lose sight of this, ever.


Khaled Abu Toameh has a major analytic piece in today’s JPost on “Abbas’s credibility problem”:

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s credibility has been damaged to a point where it’s hard to envision a situation where he would be able to convince even a handful of Palestinians to accept any agreement he strikes with Israel.

“It’s Abbas’s repeated zigzagging, double-talk and empty threats that have been most devastating for him.

“This week, with the expiration of the moratorium on settlement construction, Abbas’s credibility suffered another severe, if not fatal, blow.

“…Not surprisingly, at the same time that he was threatening, in Arabic, to pull out of the talks, the messages he and his aides were sending, in English, to Washington and Western governments was that they had no intention of suspending the negotiations.”



Once more, the High Court has found in favor of petitioning Jews, ruling that property in the eastern part of Jerusalem belongs to them.

Until now, in the neighborhood known as Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah), on the eastern side of Nablus Road, three Arab families have been evicted because the court found that the property was Jewish-owned.

Now, with regard to a 10 dunam parcel of land on the other side of the Road, the High Court, upholding a lower court,  has ruled that it belongs to Jews, with Jewish ownership going back to 1892.  As their leases expire, it is anticipated that several Arab occupants of the buildings on this land will be required to leave.

Much is made of this by Arab activists and sympathizers.  One community leader says this proves Israel is not a partner for peace.  (Note: We’re supposed to give carte blanche to Arab residents usurping the rights of Jewish property owners, but “peace” as defined by such people as this Arab leader would require all Jews in Judea and Samaria to leave their homes.)  We can expect a good deal of noise about this in months ahead.

As I mentioned just the other day, in 1948, when Jordan took eastern Jerusalem, it was rendered Judenrein: All Jews were banished and their properties usurped.  Thus did eastern Jerusalem become “Arab.”  In recent years, Jews have been reclaiming their right to properties taken from them or their families.


You might find this article by Steve Emerson, terrorism expert and director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, on “Washington’s Schizophrenic Approach Towards the Muslim Brotherhood”:

“…Washington has no policy for dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, despite evidence that the group’s agenda is hostile to the United States. In some cases around the world, there may be little choice but to do so. But a number of people who study the issue contend that the U.S. government is needlessly legitimizing the Muslim Brotherhood.

“…’They’re bullet-proof. It’s horrible,’ veteran journalist Douglas Farah said regarding the political strength of Brotherhood-affiliated groups like CAIR and ISNA. U.S. policy ’empower[s] groups whose ultimate goal is the creation of an Islamic nation in the United States.'”



“The Good News Corner”

The Israel National Roads Company announced a new initiative this past week that will enable bus riders at certain key locations to know when the next bus is coming.  Solar-powered digital signs at selected bus stops would be linked to GPS transmitters aboard the buses.


Little Israel, with all her problems and challenges, is doing something very right with regard to health care. The life expectancy for Jews in Israel is longer than the average for the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — in fact, it’s longer than for all countries in the world except four. 

Non-Jews in Israel (primarily Arabs) have a lower life expectancy, but theirs as well is longer than for Americans (fascinating, no?), and the gap between non-Jewish life expectancy and Jewish life expectancy is being addressed, and closed.

Additionally, while 40 years ago infant mortality rates for Israeli Jews, Americans and residents of other OECD countries was almost identical– with Arab rates higher, in the years since, the decline in infant mortality rates in Israel has been the greatest, exceeding the decline in either the US or the other OECD nations.  The decline in infant mortality rates for the Arab Israeli population was the greatest of all and their levels are now equitable with American levels.

This information is from the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Jerusalem.

I hasten to point out that Arabs who are Israeli citizens have access to the same health care as Jewish citizens do.  We are not looking at any official bias.  One only need visit an Israeli hospital to see Arabs in large numbers availing themselves of medical services.  There are probably several reasons for the disparity in life expectancy levels, many or most cultural.  (There is, for example, a tendency in Arab communities for cousins to marry, which considerably increases the prevalence of genetic diseases.)  That we are addressing and reducing the disparity is also to our credit.  (Taking the same example, I know of research done within the Bedouin community in particular to identify and address genetic problems.)





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