Israel, after all these years, has no choice but to be resilient. It is not a matter of just being strong in the face of adversity and tragedy, as was the case here over the last few days.
No, unfortunately there is not a guaranteed or definitive response that can put an end to the terrorist scourge that pops its ugly head up every now and then like it did this week. There were three funerals over the last few days here in Israel. Two young soldiers were murdered by a terrorist who ran over them with his car at high speed, ending their young lives instantly while seriously injuring two others.
On Sunday evening, on the way home from work in the City Of David here in Jerusalem, Adiel Kolman was stabbed to death as he walked in the Old City toward the Damascus Gate. Kolman was 32 and leaves behind a wife and four young children.
OnTuesday, eight Palestinian Arabs were arrested in the Old City for standing by and just watching Kolman being murdered without trying to stop the attack in any way. That Arab merchants in the Old City can just stand there nonchalantly and with extreme passivity while a man is being murdered says everything about the depth of the moral corruption in Palestinian society.
Also on Monday, at a conference on global anti-Semitism here in Jerusalem, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman made some important remarks about the vortex where being critical in some ways of the State of Israel and Jew hatred meet. One would imagine that any one individual, or even an entity, that promotes or works toward the death of Jews can legitimately be considered anti-Semitic.
So once again at the conference, Ambassador Friedman and President Trump’s chief negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, said that it is time for Mahmoud Abbas to make a choice between intransigence and an improved quality of life for the Palestinian people.
That sentiment has been repeated time and again, not just presently in the Trump administration but for many years leading up to this point. The option Mr. Abbas has chosen has been clarified: he prefers the destruction of Israel —and if that means the murder of Jews, then so be it. Why American diplomats insist on this idea that Mr. Abbas must decide which path to follow when he has already done so is in and of itself quite puzzling.
From Arafat to Abbas, there has been waffling on these same issues time and again. The only time there was Palestinian cooperation was when the deal was that Israel would retreat and shrink and the Arabs would get their additional state, terror attacks and all.
The good news out of Israel this week is that the long-awaited Trump peace plan for the Middle East is being delayed indefinitely. And as reported this week, the reason is that the decision has been made to wait for new leadership in the Palestinian Authority.
That can be next month, next year, in ten years, or possibly never. Never is not practical, but it’s not a bad option.
A Few Minutes With R’ Chaim
A visit to Bnei Brak a bit more than a week prior to Pesach is not the same as it used to be. Not too many years ago, you could enter the Ledeman shul on Rechov Rashbam and daven with the great tzaddik and sage Rav Chaim Kanievsky sitting nearby. It was a daily ritual that Tachanun was almost never said in this shul because barely a day would pass when R’ Chaim was not a sandek at a bris somewhere in the city.
It was a balmy, cloudless early spring afternoon as I waited my turn for an audience with Rav Chaim. I’ve been there before more than a few times, and each time there is a similar preliminary interplay as R’ Chaim asks where my beard is. And interestingly, this time he asked about payos,too.
As you see on the front page, when I entered thestudy, Rav Chaim’s grandson reached over and adjusted the brim of my hat into the upright position, as I’ve seen him do with others.
For the masses of late, access to Rav Chaim has been limited as he approaches 90 years of age. The rabbi accompanying me to RavChaim’s study said that there have been marked changes. He says plainly that the people in the community as well as those worldwide were concerned about his health just a few weeks ago. He said that the concern is that Rav Chaim is weak, and when Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman passed away a couple of months ago, Rav Kanievsky lost his closest friend and a fellow leader and sage.
His daily minyan was moved from the main shul, located on the floor below, to the second floor so Rav Chaim can be transported in a wheelchair from his apartment to the location of the daily minyan. Additionally, an elevated passageway has been built and a cover for the short distance constructed so that Rav Chaim can be moved from his residence to the new shul area with greater ease.
It is a great z’chus to stand in the presence of such a sage, the son of the Steipler Gaon andson-in-lawof Rav Elyashiv, zt’l. There is not a moment in the day, I believe, that Rav Chaim is not steeped in some version of Torah study. As we entered the room, Rav Chaim was sitting at his shtender poring over this super-large Gemara. I approached at the side of my companion, Rav Matisyahu Lessman, and he introduced me to Rav Chaim, explaining where I am from, why I am there, and so on. I pulled a small collection of papers out of my pocket that has our names and all the names of our children and grandchildren written down in large letters.
I noticed that Rav Chaim peruses the papers that are held by his grandson who is standing behind him. His eyes quickly scan all the names and then he says: “Berachah l’kulam.” Then I lean over slightly to get closer to him and to look carefully into his eyes. Despite his weakness, it’s easy to see a clarity, a sharpness, and a keen sense of what we are there for in those eyes.
OK, so maybe he looks a little fatigued, but it was almost 5 p.m. already and it was probably a very long day. I asked Rav Lessman and Rav Chaim’s grandson if he read through all the names and they explained that he absorbs a great deal of information very quickly. And that is not a surprise because for many years there has been a steady stream of people here from all around the world looking for guidance, direction, and assistance on a variety of matters both professional and personal.
Rav Chaim is one of our few connections to a special and unique time in the history of the Jewish people. He is a bridge to a time that has long dissipated but that we so earnestly and desperately desire to hold onto. As for his insight and attachment to a higher form of wisdom, it is something that we can hope for and believe without wholly understanding it.
And then we walk out onto the streets of Bnei Brak. There are young men on the street automatically drawn to an American whom they identify as a visitor, and they quickly approach to say they have a home full of young children and need money for yomtov. The contrast between the two experiences is a contrast be-tween the Divine and the realities of the mundane. Here in this corner of Israel, the two live side by side.
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