It Didn’t Start October 7th

Dear Rabbi,
I note your remarks last week about the United Nations being a mockery and completely unreliable. I am generally completely in agreement with you. But the initial remarks of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres was surely right when he said “this didn’t start on October 7, it started 75 years ago.” Can you at least acknowledge that?

Dear Amira,
You are right. This started 75 years ago. 75 years ago the area now known as Israel and the Palestinian Territories was handed over to the UN by the British occupiers. The UN took a vote and the majority were in favor of a “two-state solution.” Israel accepted, the Arabs did not. Israel declared themselves a state and the Arabs waged a genocidal war. The Arabs lost that war. They have rejected any two-state solution since and have maintained the genocidal notion of ethnically cleansing the land of Jews “from the river to the sea.” The ball has always been in their court, but they don’t want to play with Jews. Israel has always been and will always be the Jewish homeland – the minute they accept that, this all ends.

Are We Creating New Jihadists?

Dear Rabbi,
Even as Israel has the right to defend itself, would you not agree with former President Barak Obama that in the process they are generating so much more hatred against Israel and creating many more Jihadists in the process?

Dear Gerald,
So true. And the United States and United Kingdom should never have gone after the Nazis because in the process they risked engendering a whole new generation of people who hate the UK and the US.
Let me remind you of the chilling words of the Hamas leadership: “We’re going to do it again and again and again.” Given have a chance the Nazis would have continued building gas chambers as well. There really is no difference between their mutual commitments to annihilating Jews.
It’s all fine and dandy for Obama to air his two cents worth – and I’m not sure his words are worth even that much these days, notwithstanding however much people pay him to speak. He lost all credibility when he handed over hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran.
Just imagine if the United States didn’t take the action as it did against Al Qaeda and Isis. What would the world look like now? It’s easy to be a mouthpiece when you’re not on the frontlines anymore.

Is The Hostage Exchange Justified?

Dear Rabbi,
What is the Jewish position on the hostage exchange at the moment? Do we do all we can to bring our own home?

Dear Barry,
First, let’s clarify one thing. Those taken hostage from Israel were innocent civilians, among them many women and little children. You cannot equate them with Palestinian prisoners. The names of some of the Palestinian prisoners freed include Nafooz Jad Arad Hammad of the Hammad family in Sheikh Jarrah. She freed just as she started her 12-year sentence for carrying out a stabbing operation against a Jewish neighbor in 2021.
Also released was Israa Riad Jabes who in 2015 was stopped wearing a suicide belt in Jerusalem. As she was apprehended, the explosive device detonated prematurely. She survived and prevented from becoming a martyr and gained notoriety in the Palestinian society when her request for plastic surgery was rejected. Her face was heavily disfigured remains so. Also, a number of minors were released. They had been detained for stone throwing.
So while on the one hand we have to remain committed to every extent we can to bring our hostages home, we have to be mindful of the fact that those Palestinian prisoners being released, perpetuated crimes against Israel and are inclined to do the same again. The primary animal responsible for the October 7th massacre was released as part of an exchange for Gilad Shalit and that was back in 2011. Can we square the justice in that?
On a human level, we all come to the same conclusion. On an intellectual and Halachic level, it is far more complex.
One more point: Many Palestinians are not so interested in the identities of the 300 prisoners being released by Israel, but view it mainly as efforts by Hamas to increase their popularity in the West Bank at the expense of the Ramallah Palestinian Authority.

Should We Celebrate This Year?

Dear Rabbi,
I live in Israel. Chanukah is approaching and there are the Chabad menorahs going up everywhere. But who’s in the mood to celebrate with everything going on at the moment? Shouldn’t we be more subdued this year?

Dear Avishai,
Here’s my story: I was convalescing at home for the better part of 3 weeks following some significant surgery. I took a phone call last Wednesday night from Israel: “We’ve just been given permission to host a big event on Sunday night at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. Until now this wasn’t allowed in the current situation. We have only 3 days to prepare and market this event. It’ll be for residents of Jerusalem as well as many of those evacuated from the South who are here. Can you come and speak to inspire the people? We’ll also have former Chief Rabbi Lau (senior) join us and some special music!”

My every physical instinct was saying, “No, I can’t at the moment.” My every mental and emotional instinct was saying, “Here’s an opportunity to be there in a very real way for the people of Israel who are going through this so personally.”

I explained my situation and was assured that I would be well looked after with plenty of rest both on and off the plane. So I flew for 24 hours to be in Israel with the people of Israel. I took in the scene of the menorahs going up. I walked the warm and sunny streets of Jerusalem. And I gave that lecture to an audience of over 500 who were thirsting for some encouragement and uplift. In the process, I was even more uplifted – to see firsthand the resolve and the determination that is Israel. Do you know what happened when I finished my lecture? The music kicked in and everyone was literally up and dancing in the aisles! That’s the spirit of Israel!

So, no! We shouldn’t be more subdued this year! Quite the contrary! Chanukah is all about victory over our enemies and the light of Judaism and religious freedom shining bright once more. As we say in the blessing over the Chanukah lights: “In those days and in our time.” We experienced miracles then and we will experience miracles now once more. And to that let us say, Amen!