As the readers know, this year there is an anomaly, if you will, on our calendar, with the convergence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving. Sure, it has happened before, but the extremely unusual occurrence is that this year, Turkey Day is the first day of the Festival of Lights (as it is sometimes referred to).
We are leaving for Israel a few days before then, ostensibly to bring ourselves up to date and report on matters that are near and dear to us all. We are not leaving on Chanukah itself, so I doubt that the airport lounges will be decked out in paper menorahs or that they will be serving sufganiyot at check-in counters the way they have in the past.
I feel certain that, although it may have been discussed at corporate El Al levels, they will not be serving the passengers turkey dinners on the plane. That would be much too complicated.
So I am trying to develop a schedule for the nearly two weeks that we are planning to be there. My goal, as I have tried to do in the past, is to balance simple everyday things with some unusual and fascinating things–which is not so difficult in the magnificent miracle called Israel that we know and love.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I hope to be able to be present at one of the Chanukah menorah lightings in S’derot. It is a long ride from Jerusalem but, if the weather cooperates, it is something to experience and behold.
So beyond that, these are some of the plans that are still evolving and developing. There is a great deal that I would like to get done on this visit. On the first night of Chanukah, United With Israel–an organization that was created by former Lawrence resident and current Bet Shemesh resident Michael Gerbitz–is hosting a Chanukah party with 200 IDF soldiers on their base in Shechem.
The city of Shechem–or Nablus, as the Arabs and a good deal of the world refer to it–has long been a hotbed of Palestinian nationalism. The tentative plans, according to Michael, are to go on bulletproof buses to Kever Yosef, which is located in Shechem, where there will be a menorah lighting.
Following the lighting, the group–which Michael hopes will be a large one–will proceed to the army base to celebrate with the soldiers. Everyone visiting Israel is cordially invited to join. There is a small fee for the bus ride from Jerusalem, and you can contact Michael Gerbitz through his website at Unitedwithisrael.org. One of the many meetings that I have set up that I am looking forward to is with Rabbi Nachman Kahana, the rabbi of the Young Israel of the Old City of Jerusalem. I did not know until a couple of years ago that such a place existed or that Rabbi Kahana was the rabbi. I became better acquainted with the rabbi, his outlook, and his philosophies through his weekly eâ€‘mails, which I usually receive on Friday morning.
The e-mails are usually about that week’s Torah reading, but Rabbi Kahana has a tendency to wander off topic into interesting directions. Though, as a Jew who resides in the Diaspora, I am a target of the rabbi’s verbal frontal assaults for sitting in this galus at a time when Eretz Yisrael needs all of us Jews so desperately.
Rabbi Nachman Kahana (that’s the way he spells it) is the brother of the late great Rabbi Meir Kahane (that’s how his family spells the name), the founder of the notorious Jewish Defense League in the 1960s and a former member of Knesset in Israel. Meir Kahane was assassinated by an Arab terrorist here in New York 23 years ago this past week–on November 5, 1990.
I knew Rabbi Meir Kahane well and hosted radio programs where he was a guest many times during the 1970s and 1980s. His outspokenness and creative thought process were unparalleled in those times and, if he were still alive today, there is no doubt that he would be one of the erudite leaders of this generation.
His brother, Nachman, is outspoken in his own right but, unlike his older brother, he has never sought to express his ideas in the international arena. I understand that though he is bold in many of his intense essays that ridicule American Jews for our seeming complacency, he mostly confines himself to weekly eâ€‘mails and books that are read by the people who genuinely care.
Here is an excerpt of the piece he wrote last week on Parashas Vayeitzei: “At this time in our history, Hashem has placed before His children of Israel the huge historic challenge of restoring our national independence within the borders of Eretz Yisrael, in preparation for the next stage of world history. This stage will witness the execution of Divine justice upon those nations that dealt so cruelly with Am Yisrael, while the Jewish people will be under Hashem’s protective wing in Eretz Yisrael.
“But confusion is king. Not much different from the time of Chanukah, which we will be celebrating this month. Then as now, Am Yisrael was faced with an existential threat. A large percentage of our people were drawn to Hellenism and discarded the Torah. Each Jew was faced with the personal challenge to the depths of his faith–to join with the Maccabim at the risk of his life or be a bystander in the life-and-death struggle for the soul of Am Yisrael.”
Needless to say, there are many things I would like to discuss with him and I am looking forward to that opportunity.
And then, at some point, I am planning to spend an afternoon in Bnei Brak. I hope to be able to spend a few minutes with one of the venerated sages of this generation, Rav Chaim Kanievsky. How I am going to manage that is a story unto itself. About seven years ago, on a visit to Bnei Brak, I met Rav Matisyahu Lessman, who is a rosh yeshiva and quite a personality. Ever since then, on our many trips to Israel, he has asked me to give him a little advance notice to set up a meeting with Rav Chaim. Well, Rav Matisyahu was here in New York a few weeks ago, and we set up a time for that meeting. I will keep the readers posted.
And then there will be meetings with political leaders in the Knesset, to ascertain a sense of the events taking place that involve the state of Israel. In more than 30 years of traveling to Israel, I cannot recall a lack of eventful predicaments on the agenda and in the headlines; there is always a crisis. This time around, the list includes the sustained crisis with Iran, the negotiations with the international community over their nuclear capabilities, the pressure being applied by the U.S. on Israel to capitulate to unreasonable Palestinian demands, and so on. It is an endlessly turning carousel of critical choices.
So I am hoping to hook up with my new old friend MK Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid, and to survey a cross-section of views on what is in store going forward in meetings with Deputy Defense Minister MK Danny Danon and MK Nissim Zeev of Shas. I have always considered the Knesset to be the finest and most magnificent illustration of organized chaos. Like the country itself, it exists on miracles.
And I still haven’t gotten to the time we will spend with Marc Prowisor in Shiloh, surveying the area of the Mishkon, and a visit to Itamar overlooking Shechem with Mayor Moshe Goldsmith. For those reports, we will have to wait until I get there, with Gâ€‘d’s help. I don’t know about you, but I’m anxious to get going. v
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