Here in the US we are not in the thick of the Middle East
action, but we feel close and we are closely following the
developments and share in the concerns of all Jews in
This Monday a massive rally in Washington D.C. was planned in
support of Israel. It is being organized by the President's
Conference, and other organizations are participating.
Agudath Israel of America said that they could not endorse
the rally since they are "unable to ensure [it] will be
conducted in accordance with the principles and underlying
hashkofo of Agudath Israel." However they noted that they "do
not discourage from attendance at solidarity rallies like
Monday's any Jew whose own rav's guidance and conscience lead
him or her to participate."
An Aguda spokesman noted that many individual Aguda rabbonim
have urged their congregants to attend and some even
organized transportation. The Aguda also noted that they
postponed their large Tehillim-assembly, originally scheduled
for Sunday, for a week so as not to interfere with the Monday
rally in Washington. The Tehillim-assembly is currently
planned for Sunday April the 21st, 9 Iyar.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel's director stressed, "All
we Jews must recognize the dedication of one another to our
brothers and sisters in Israel -- no matter how each of us
chooses to express that dedication."
A Cloud over Pesach
The Passover Massacre in Netanya took place on Pesach in
Eretz Yisroel; but here it was still erev yom tov. As
people heard the news, it cast a pall over the hectic but
exciting Pesach preparations. It was the subject of
conversation wherever one went that afternoon; most people
quickly realized that the sheer horror of the attack
indicated that it had dramatically changed the already
volatile situation. A three-day yom tov was beginning
here in chutz la'aretz and people wondered what would
transpire over the yom tov, as the chareidi community
undergoes a "news blackout" for three days.
At maariv the first night of yom tov, when
people are normally happy and relaxed in their finery, people
found it eerily reminiscent of earlier Pesach pogroms and
blood libels. "At the Seder of all places?" people
exclaimed. "Nothing is off-limits to them?"
Throughout chol hamoed and yom tov -- through
today, all eyes and ears are tuned to the Middle East.
The American Political Scene; Its Effect on the
Boruch Hashem the situation here is fine, but one
always gets reminders the we're in golus and nobody
has any guarantees of safety. This sentiment is especially
felt after the 9/11 attacks.
The general consensus is that the pro-Israel lobby in
Congress is extremely powerful and that Israel is assured of
continued support on Capitol Hill, regardless of
But that may be changing. The Moslem community has mobilized
itself tremendously over the last few years and is beginning
to flex its political muscles. Both presidential candidates
in the 2000 election, Al Gore and George W. Bush, actively
courted the Moslem vote as their advisors felt their vote
could make the difference in swing states, such as Michigan,
which has the largest concentration of Arabs outside the
Middle East. Moslem political action committees, such as
CAIR, constantly monitor the political statements of
candidates and call on them in press releases to understand
the Palestinian plight.
They are most effective at the grass roots level. A frum
woman who lives in Edison, NJ, attended a town hall
meeting in Edison featuring the two NJ Senators, Jon Corzine
and Robert Torricelli. She said half of those in attendance
were Arabs and they were organized; they even may have
outnumbered the Jews who attended. "They lined up, en
masse, to have their say complaining about the US's
support of Israel and again, I was shocked that they were so
"Torricelli was wonderful and Corzine was good too in their
clear and unequivocal support for Israel. But I felt
outnumbered and outgunned. The Palestinians were pleased to
let our senators know that there are 400,000 Palestinians
living in NJ alone."
Agudath Israel sent out a memo April 10, stating that since
this year (2002) is an election year for one-third of the
senators and all congressmen, the Moslems are hard at work
getting their people to register and vote in November so
their voice will be more powerful in Washington. The Aguda
requested that people call the White House, their senators
and congressmen to voice their support for Israel and they
printed the relevant phone numbers.
Indeed, the major chareidi newspapers printed ads this week
asking the chareidi community to call the White House, and
their senators and congressmen to voice their strong support
for Israel, and their concern over the administration's
These calls work. Senator James Inhofe, a senator from
Okalahoma, gave a speech in March on the floor of the Senate,
in response to the Saudi peace proposal. He listed seven
reasons why Israel is entitled to the land they have and that
it should not be a part of the peace process. He noted how
Israel has archeological evidence that Jews lived there over
3000 years ago; it's a developed country, something nobody
did in that region before the Jews arrived their 100 years
ago; Israel is the only democracy in the area; they are
helping us in our war against terror; they have a right to
the land as it says in the Bible and proceeded to quote the
pesukim in Lech Lecho that say that Hashem gave
the land to Avrohom and his children.
The speech was widely circulated in the Jewish community.
Senator Inhofe's deputy press secretary commented that they
were completely surprised by the outpouring of support for
the senator's pro-Israel speech. They printed the emails and
when the hard copies were stacked up, they were more than a
Mixed Signals From the White House
President Bush himself has sent mixed signals to the region
recently. In his public statements, especially his remarks on
March 31, he strongly supported Israel's right to self-
defense. He berated Arafat for condoning suicide attacks and
reminded the world that the suicide bombers "are not bombers,
but murderers." However, on April 4, he also said that Israel
must withdraw from the West Bank and deal with Arafat.
Many political observers feel that his confusing, straddle-
the-fence-like speeches about the current violence reflect a
policy disagreement within his administration how to
articulate the proper approach for the region. Vice-
President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Deputy
Defense Secratay Paul Wolfowitz, consist of the hard-line
point-of-view: let Sharon hit as hard as he wants. Colin
Powell and other State Department officials advocate a more
diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The hard-line advocates in the press are disappointed with
Bush because they feel that after the ultimatum he delivered
to the world with such moral clarity on September 20, "You're
either with us or against us with the war on terrorism," he
seems to have qualified that with regard to Arafat. He has
left the window open to him even though Bush knows Arafat's
true essence: terrorism.
The Media's Pro-Palestinian Tilt
The media, for the most part, has been sympathetic to the
Palestinian plight more than to the hardships the current
situation has imposed on the Israelis.The New York
Times, perhaps the most influential newspaper in America,
has been consistently calling for Israeli restraint whenever
there is a suicide bombing. They profile the lives of the
suicide bombers and comment how they were just fed up with
life under the Israeli occupation.
The Times and other media lump together the Israelis
and Palestinians killed over the last 20 months, creating a
moral equivalency between the two. They ignore the fact that
most Israeli casualties were innocent civilians who were
targeted in suicide attacks, while many of the Palestinian
deaths were suicide bombers or those attempting such attacks
or those responsible for them.
Other media outlets take their cue from the Times and
cover the stories accordingly. The only major newspaper
that's consistently sympathetic to Israel is the Wall
Street Journal. Their editorial page refers repeatedly to
Arafat as a terrorist and calls for the Bush Administration
to deal with him accordingly.
The media's emphasizes perceived rifts between Bush and
Sharon over whether Israel should pull out. "Defiant Sharon
Losing Support in White House", wrote the Washington Post
in its front page headline, April 11. They reported that
Sharon's refusal to pull out of the West Bank "could make the
president appear ineffective and erode his standing in the
Nevertheless, opinion polls show that the Americans support
Israel's current offensive.
The Call of the Time
Many rabbonim have called upon their mispallelim to
daven about the current situation and to say
The rosh yeshiva of Philadelphia, HaRav Elya Svei, shlita,
pointed out at the Yeshiva Dinner shortly before Purim,
that "we are currently living in the times of Ikvesa
Demeshicha. Chazal say that four-fifths of Klal
Yisroel were not worthy to leave Mitzrayim. Thus Chazal
tell us that one must be worthy to greet Moshiach."
The Rosh Yeshiva suggested that "we increase our limud
hatorah, positively influence others and be mekarev
other Jews to Torah and avodas Hashem."
"The main point," the Rosh Yeshiva stressed, "is that we
should strive to enhance Kovod Shomayim in whatever we
Horav Shmuel Kamenetzky, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of
Philadelphia, has said numerous times that when one should be
more careful in kedushas beis haknessess.
"The gemmorah in Megillah (29a) says that the bottei
kneisiyos in Bavel are going to go the Eretz Yisroel when
Moshiach comes. The Maharsha points out that even today shuls
have a din of Eretz Yisroel. They serve as embassies; they
have a kedusha of Eretz Yisroel even though they aren't there
now. Thus, when one is careful to treat a shul with proper
respect he's adding to the kedusha of Eretz Yisroel, which
serves as a zechus for the land today."
Let us hope that the teffilos and other meaningful actions by
Jews across the globe will alleviate the situtation for