Beyond the Cusp

April 15, 2019

Not Bibi Again!

 

This has been the whine heard from almost everyone from the center and leftwards as well as from a fair number on the right. What is interesting is the further you get from the center, right or left, the louder the complaints become. The one nice thing about these people and their complaining is that at least we know they did not vote for Likud guaranteeing more Bibi. Of course, from the media we are about to be fed a steady stream of whining over Bibi returning as Prime Minister mixed with a dash of hope that the Attorney General will find something which sticks to Bibi long enough to charge him and then it might be bye, bye Bibi. For those in the United States, things are not much different than in Israel as the left hangs on the hope that they can use the legal system to get something on Bibi, in your case, Trump, and then be rid of them forever. Those of us with at least one foot firmly on the grounds of reality, we realize that these attempts to incriminate Trump or Bibi with some legal misdeeds is nothing more than a witch hunt which will come up empty, but that will not stop those determined to be rid of them from continuing to try again and again. But the reality of Bibi goes so much deeper.

 

We are regularly bombarded with praises heaped upon Bibi lauding him as the consummate political maneuverer and a master of the game. We are not quite so kind. If you want to get a line on why Bibi has been so successful and will soon become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israeli history, ask those whom he has all but destroyed. Currently at the top of that is Naftali Bennett whose New Right Party just missed clearing threshold. Naftali Bennett left the Likud Party taking Ayelet Shaked with him and went to Jewish Home where Bennett believed he had found his horse to ride straight to the Prime Minister’s House. Both Bennett and Shaked had worked directly for Bibi in his offices. Needless to say, Bibi took their leaving a bit personally. Two elections after Bennett and Shaked had moved to Jewish Home, a sort of miracle was in the making and Bennett actually was polling as almost even with Bibi and Likud with Jewish Home Party, formerly just a minor Religious-Zionist Party not terribly right of center. It was looking really close, until Bibi promised to treat Bennett and Shaked really nicely. What was the problem was that a center-left party was polling ahead of Likud and Jewish Home but well behind their combined totals. Bibi demanded that Bennett fall on his sword such that Bibi would defeat this upstart from the left threatening that if Bennett refused that there may very well be a left-wing government. Bennett made the fateful speech claiming not to be ready to be Prime Minister quite yet. The next morning, presto-chango, Likud was polling comfortably in the lead and Jewish Home was polling in single digits well below the day before. Bennett and Shaked got their Ministerial position, and Shaked as Justice Minister performed near miracles and will be missed from that position as her work was far from completed.

 

This was the first revenge Bibi took out on Bennett, and possibly Shaked as well, as when the next election cycle came around, Jewish Home was struggling to reach double digits, and this would not serve Bennett reaching Prime Minister. In private with only a select group of faithful who were to follow Bennett, Neftali planned to leave Jewish Home and form a new party. He would have been wished well had he done this differently, but his plan was also to rid himself from any competition from his former party. For reasons untold, every attempt to have the Central Committee meet, something important as a new Central Committee had been elected (I was somehow amongst the chosen for my town) and new leadership needed to be selected. This was not to be as it would have left some semblance of organization when Bennett and Shaked split as soon as elections were announced. The New Right, as Bennett’s party was named, shot up into double digits in the polls while Jewish Home, after losing its top two candidates, having no new leader, having a central committee now decimated as people streamed off with Bennett, all power structures pretty much destroyed with some key positions which remained held by people left behind to make sure the chaos destroyed Jewish Home (though this will be denied to the end of time), Jewish Home polled at best around ‘one.’ I personally begged two of those leaving to remain and warned they would regret leaving, but off went even friends.

 

 

Slowly, with the election growing closer, a committee of self-appointed leaders claimed they would reconstitute the party by fiat. The remains of the Central Committee protested and threatened to use their powers under the Party Constitution and this caused a surprised group who expected only slavish thanks to step back and listen. A system was worked out that nobody would be assigned any leadership without Central Committee approval, and slowly the Party was rebuilt only getting finalized with but a few days left to place a Knesset list for the elections. Jewish Home submitted their list with Rafi Peretz as their new leader, and what an improvement he will be if we can keep him long enough. Polls came and polls went and for quite a while Bennett appeared to have made a wise choice but inevitably the New Right started slipping, Jewish Home gained and with the election done Jewish Home, a party destroyed just mere months ago came in with five mandates and Bennet with his New Right failed to reach threshold and will not be in the government.

 

Moshe Feiglin, founder of the Zehut Party, is another person whose history crossed paths with Bibi Netanyahu. Feiglin made a critical mistake, as have others before him, as he began to become popular both in the Liked and in the public eye. His popularity grew for quite a while until it began to appear as should this continue; he would be able to challenge Bibi. That was his breaking of the cardinal rule, Bibi is king and it is good to be the king. Suddenly, through things and rules which are still very hazy, the next election found Feiglin buried to a position in the mid-to-high thirties, well beyond any hope of being in the Knesset. Well, that began the slide of Feiglin in Likud and he soon realized that Bibi had buried him just as he has anyone who showed even a glimmer of being a threat to the Bibi. People need to understand something about Bibi, he does not compete with people for the top spot, he eviscerates those who approach his level of popularity at the crucial point where they would become a threat soon but before the point where they become difficult to stop. Feiglin probably came the closest but Bibi learned from his predecessor and mentor, Ariel Sharon.

 

Ariel Sharon once ruled the roost in Likud. There was this younger, more energetic upstart who was climbing towards being able to challenge Sharon for the top spot. Sharon decided to give this upstart a challenge, a challenge which had proven the death of all who previously had this position foist upon them. Bibi was made finance secretary, once upon a time a dead end Ministership which ate up Ministers and spat them out finished politically. Well, perhaps Sharon should have checked Bibi’s resume where he would have noted that MBA along with degrees in economics. Bibi took on that challenge and all but rebuilt the economic picture in Israel and Israel is still running along with all those changes paying off with dividends. The old Socialist clogging of the economic spigot have been cleared and a Capitalist system put in its place which rewards entrepreneurs, investors and those who take the risks and does not overly penalize corporations for becoming bigger and controlling certain sectors as in Israel that is simply a challenge put down for others to unseat the giant. That is part of why we are the start-up nation. Ariel Sharon eventually fell to the demands of an American President, George W. Bush, and committed the Gaza disengagement. This Gaza Disengagement is what General Gantz (please do not confuse him with General Peretz who leads Jewish Home) of the Blue White coalition with Yair Lapid, claimed he had learned valuable lessons and believed it could be wisely used elsewhere to lead to peace, namely in the Shomron. He had a plan to simply give Mahmoud Abbas most of the Shomron and tell him this would make peace between us. This would have worked just as well as it did in Gaza and that is the peace, we would have received with one difference, instead of Sderot being the target in easy range, it would have been Tel Aviv within range. Anyway, Bibi rose after Sharon was felled by a stroke and has ruled Likud ever since felling one challenger after another almost as if it were nothing.

 

The picture for the future is simple and may result in costing Israel dearly. For as long as the Likud Party remains entrenched as the preeminent party on the right, Bibi will remain Prime Minister. General Gantz probably posed as hard a challenge as anybody has since Lapid threatened and Bibi had Bennett self-destruct so he could beat Lapid. This sacrifice of Bennett was not sufficient. A couple of days before the vote this past election, Bibi announced in a very public setting, that he intends to extend civil law to all, every last one regardless of size, the Jewish settlements in the Shomron. He made the announcement repeatedly in interviews, in a photo op with the leaders of most of the Shomron communities and pretty much everywhere else including probably at breakfast to prepare for the words of the day. This was the entire pitch which Bennett was running upon and Bibi’s announcement simply cut his legs from beneath him. Bennett had siphoned off a fair amount of support extensively from the Likud, he had already taken the top two slots and another of the Jewish Home top ten along with half of the financing received by parties for the campaign while leaving the entire debt he had run up behind hampering Jewish Home, and with this one announcement Bibi had retrieved those votes right back to Likud as now there was no difference between Bibi position on the Shomron and Bennett and Bibi was more likely to be Prime Minister and Bennett was cooked. This was Bibi’s burying of Bennett and getting his revenge for Bennett taking Shaked and deserting Likud for Jewish Home. Bibi also recognized that Bennett wants to be Prime Minister and will stop at nothing to get there. Well, Bibi is Prime Minister and will stop at next to nothing to remain there, and in politics the person on top has all the advantages.

 

Bibi remains Prime Minister because he recognizes any and everyone who has that desire, that gleam in their eye, that spring in their step that says I’m on my way up, and Bibi knows how to bury them politically so deep that they no longer know which way is up. There have been those rare few who such tactics would have proven ineffective as they were already too established for premature political burial. Reuven Rivlin is one perfect example. He had ridden high in the Likud list for a fair while. Burying him would be difficult and would cost Bibi too much to even try. So, how to put him aside where he can cool down until he is no longer a threat. There is a position in the Israeli government where one basically makes speeches and represents Israel at funerals and other state functions which the Prime Minister may not choose to attend though both can be at the same event from time to time. This position is called President. Currently, Reuven Rivlin is serving as President of Israel. He is about to perform the one very political role the President is assigned, deciding which party leader to choose to attempt to form a coalition and become Prime Minister. We hear you, here comes his opportunity to get even. Absolutely not. Reuven Rivlin had two competing dreams, Prime Minister and President. This was the perfect opportunity for Bibi to cut down on the competition and also give a person he calls friend (not a position we would envy) the chance to live his dream. But not every challenger would go away as easily.

 

There are a couple of such individuals off in the wings who, should they decide to give it their all, could step into a position leading one of the existing Religious-Zionist Parties and challenge Bibi. They are probably aware that such a move would be a one-off and if their challenge falls short, then that is it for them politically. Another was Danny Danon. The main claim against him was that his English was not perfect. Not perfect is being generous, but in Israel he only needs to speak Hebrew and if he were ever Prime Minister, he could have Bibi be his translator, that would be sweet to see. As Danny Danon rose slowly through the Likud ranks and in the settlement communities as a potential champion, they need as many as can be found, his political star appeared about ready to burst to light as a star does upon reaching that critical point. This was the point where Bibi suggested he become the United Nations Ambassador from Israel. Well, that prize was just too shiny to turn down, and Danny Danon was not seen as one whose desire in life was to be Prime Minister or to become the Bibi slayer; his dream was, is and will remain to serve Israel in whatever capacity to which he is called and to fight for Israel and her people, all of her people, in whatever way is needed. So, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations is Danny Danon. Who will be the next victim from taking the Bibi challenge? Well, none of us for a simple reason, our Hebrew is not anywhere near good enough and will never likely pass such a challenge. On the other hand, one of us has experience as a candidate with no real chance making the ballot as a third-party candidate for the United States House of Representatives. No, we will simply continue with making commentary and if called upon to serve, then we would probably serve with a proviso that we were given a trusted translator. As far as the next to step forward to take on the Bibi, there probably will not be such as Bibi has intimated that this will be his final time around, his victory lap, so to speak.

 

Still, he may be facing a new challenge from President Reuven Rivlin if the rumors are true that his first tender will be to Bibi Netanyahu as well as Gantz and Lapid of the Blue White Party, which was a very close second place vote getter being edged out thirty-six to thirty-five, and proposing that they bury their differences and join together to make a National Unity coalition in order to find a path to peace. The words “path to peace” have become a loaded phrase which Israelis equate with losing land and gaining terrorism. The last great “path to peace” was the Gaza disengagement, and we all have come to realize how well that turned out, Gaza became terror central. Should President Rivlin call to meet with both Likud and the Blue White leaders, then many Israelis will become very nervous. Such a meeting implies that the soon to be announced President Trump Deal of the Century is a known plan by Bibi, Rivlin and who knows who else, and this plan will result with another Palestinian Arab entity potentially with borders which could pose an even greater threat than Gaza has proven to pose. Such a government would only be brought into existence in order to form a government which could survive any resulting caving to allow for the Deal of the Century to come into fruition. This would not necessarily be the case with any other coalition as the potential for the Likud Party to split threatening any weaker coalition would be a definitive possibility.

 

This is what happened when Ariel Sharon committed to the Gaza Disengagement when he then formed a new party (Kadima) with the remnants from Likud and a number of representatives pealed off from Labor and other smaller parties allowing Sharon to remain as Prime Minister and the rest, as they say, is history. Another such disengagement, exactly what Gantz originally stated was his intention should he become Prime Minister early on, is something the majority of Israelis are dead set against, including us. Israel’s saving grace might just be the absolute refusal by Gantz and Lapid before the election to forming such a government as they really desired to replace Bibi outright. With things now settled and being the lesser party, this may no longer be such a terrible idea for them to adopt. It is remarkable how malleable formerly stated absolutes come when the alternative is sitting in the opposition, the same opposition they claimed they were ready to ride to the next election when they just know they will win outright. The other part which makes this all the more possible is the once stated admiration Bibi held for Ariel Sharon whom Bibi claimed at that time was his mentor. This looms larger now that such things are presenting themselves, even if they are but rumors as rumors sometimes have a bad habit of becoming part of reality. The most likely path forward will be for President Rivlin to collect from each party leader the person they would choose to support as Prime Minister, Bibi or Gantz. As things sit currently, Gantz would receive at most fifty-five while Bibi is expected to receive sixty with Avigdor Lieberman waiting to have Bibi agree to his demands before making him Prime Minister. So, how do things sit now? The government will be even more shaky than the former government. Last time, when Lieberman pulled from the coalition, that left Bibi with a ruling coalition of sixty-one, the minimum for a sitting government. This time Lieberman sits between Bibi and a mere sixty which would probably result in the calling for new elections soon thereafter. Somewhere, Bibi lost one critical ministerial mandate and has an even weaker position. The editorials which claimed that we may have a new election within the year are looking to have a decent chance of being correct. Things are back to being as shaky as, as.. as.. as a Fiddler on the Roof.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 14, 2019

Israeli Elections Delivered Some Surprises

 

Yes, we know, Bibi again. This probably should not have surprised anybody, but still in the days leading up to the voting we heard the same mantra we hear from Bibi every time starting three to four days before the actual voting, “Vote for Likud or else we will end-up with a leftist government and they will make a Palestinian State. This gets many Israelis into a panic and they get this glazed look in their eyes and all they can seem to say is, we must elect Bibi or else the world will end. We have tried to explain that they do not have to elect Bibi, they need to elect as many right of center parties above threshold such that there are over seventy mandates between all the right-wing parties. But this is not how many, including Bibi, think. They do not remember that not that long ago the leader chosen to form a government was Ariel Sharon of Likud despite their being the second highest number of Mandates simply because the left-leaning party would not have been able to put together a coalition. Further, the Israelis forget that the step which comes after the elections is for each party list leader to provide a name of who they support for Prime Minister and the person most able to cobble together a coalition will receive the most recommendations and get to form a coalition. Were, in this past election, Likud and Bibi to have only received thirty-three mandates but the New Right received five mandates and Zahut received four mandates with the Combined right receiving six mandates (or just five), these extra seats for the other forms of Zionists would have provided, presuming the specialist and other parties remained the same, then the coalition would have reached the dizzying numbers of seventy-three, give or take a couple of mandates.

 

But this was not what Bibi actually desired. He wanted everything for himself without any strong party to his right forcing his hand. Bibi also wanted to push the New Right out of contention as there is bad blood between Bennett, Shaked with Bibi and he was out for some form of revenge. Bibi also knows that his last-minute hyperventilation that the sky was falling took at least one if not two seats from the combined right and pushed Zehut and its founder, Moshe Feiglin, out of contention as there is some history here as well. The other thing is Bibi desires keeping any number of Ministerial positions in addition to Prime Minister in his own pocket. As the last government was coming to a close, Bibi Netanyahu was the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister and three or four other lesser ministries all to himself. We honestly believe that if Bibi were able to get away with such, he would take every position, department, assignment and everything else in the Israeli government to himself fully believing that he was best suited and able for every last position. The only thing preventing his also becoming the Ambassador to the United Nations and ten to twelve of the most important nations having relations with Israel is simply because of the technical problems with being in more than one place at the same time. Were he able to clone himself, he would become the entire Likud and hold the top twenty to thirty slots with his various clones. We can picture the Likud list having Bibi-Aleph, Bibi-Bet, Bibi-Gimmel and so on.

 

The one question we received when trying to explain the reasoning is that it only matters that Likud have a respectable showing somewhere around or over thirty with stronger showings for the rest of the right-wing blocks. The question was to name somebody who would be as capable as Bibi Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Previous to these elections the main answer was Naftali Bennett, an answer which many people found lacking. Thanks to Mr. Bennett deciding that the Jewish Home was not going to take him all the way to the Prime Ministership, he split leaving the party in the lurch. Despite the horrific results of losing both the number one and two people from the party list, Jewish Home came up with something which may prove vital in the future, a new leader untainted by political scandals and clean as a whistle, and that is as the man he has become in his life and simply being judged by that and without a care to his politics, which is very strongly Religious-Zionist. This was the man who stepped into the void filling it with what we believe will be a shining light for Israel in the near future. We are referring to the new leader of the Jewish Home, Rafi Peretz. Rafi Peretz has excelled in every position he has challenged, shined as a man of honor and principle and performed every position with competence and dignity. In his early years in the IDF, Peretz was a combat helicopter pilot, a challenge for almost any man. From there he eventually became the Chief Rabbi of the IDF and retired as a Brigadier General. After his IDF service, he founded a Yeshiva in Gaza. When the Gaza disengagement meant that he and his teachers and students would be required to relocate, he took a position of honor over politics and instructed his staff and students that they would leave without causing soldiers any difficulties and leave in an orderly manner with heads high. Rafi Peretz received much grief for not choosing to oppose the disengagement at least with passive resistance, but he was thinking of his students to whom he wished to cause the least amount of trauma.

 

After the disengagement from Gaza, Rafi Peretz reestablished his yeshiva and was still directing this school when tapped to lead Jewish Home through probably one of their greatest challenges. His name was all many people needed to hear which brought many back to Jewish Home and others who were still debating decided to remain as he commands that much respect from those who know him. We cannot claim to have met Rafi Peretz but simply from what people who were not even considering voting for Jewish Home had to say about the man, it was obvious that Rafi Peretz is a man of quality, dignity and straight up honesty. We can only hope that he will remain as the leader of the party, we are members of Jewish Home and never considered joining Bennett and the New Right as it never quite seemed like a good idea to leave the party we chose as it represented our beliefs in virtually every manner. So, for now we have another three and some odd to four years of Bibi Netanyahu and perhaps after one more term he will be ready to retire. Whether Bibi decides that enough has been enough or that he cannot get enough out of being the King, we will be presenting Rafi Peretz as our hope to one day soon take charge as Prime Minister of Israel.

 

It is good to be the King

 

For the moment, Bibi has won, again, and some claim that we will have elections again in six months. We would bet against this, but that is going to depend on many variables. The first variable will be what happens after President Trump finally releases his “Deal of the Century” and the following screaming, shouting, rejections and general animosity. Some are claiming that Bibi will accept whatever deal President Trump presents no matter how much Israel might be required to surrender. We would like to point out that it makes no difference what deal is presented by President Trump and his team of four who were tasked with hammering out something different than the plans which came before. The team consists of United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Kushner’s aide Avi Berkowitz, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, four Jews, which may not have been the brightest idea President Trump ever had. We mean, you are attempting to sell a peace proposal to the Arab world and specifically, the Palestinian Arabs, the ones who have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and you choose four Jews to put the plan together? Really? And better yet, at least two of them are known to be strong Zionist Jews. This works only if your plan is going to be something Israel would have trouble swallowing, so then you could point to the four and ask Bibi what more he could have wanted. But, as you have possibly heard, the plan does not demand that Israel give up half of her land, like that peace plan the United Nations attempted to sell to the Arab League on November 29, 1947 where Israel was to be cut in half, half for the Jews with most of that being the Negev Desert, half for the Arab Palestinians. The Arab League turned it down as they already had a plan for settling with the Jews, their invasion for the morning of Israeli independence when they envisioned eradicating all of Israel. They did try but something went wrong, the Jews fought back and managed, despite losing over ten percent of the entire population of Israel, to survive and hold on to most of their lands. They lost Gaza to Egypt and large parts of Judea and Samaria to Jordan who illegally annexed them renaming it West Bank to avoid the all too Jewish sound of Judea, with Samaria not far behind. The Trump Deal of the Century may be the deal which will break Bibi’s hold on the Prime Minister spot. Thus far he has been beyond the reach of mortal men, the Israeli media and legal problems which always appear to crop up when elections are scheduled. Time will tell, as it does with most everything, and eventually Bibi will retire and Israel will be seeking his successor. Obviously, we have just the man for the job, but we will have to wait and see. One thing we can say, it was a shame that Rafi Peretz was not able to receive much coverage with Jewish Home not organized as many of the key organizers left with Bennett believing they were leaving behind a party about to be thrown on the trash heap of history. It is funny how things turn out, Jewish Home is in the government with four, potentially five mandates and Bennett is wishing and hoping on prayers that he will miraculously worm his way over the threshold; otherwise, he made a very poor bet. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 5, 2019

Unexplainable Joyousness in Israel

 

As Olim who have been in Israel only a few years, we are constantly amazed at how absolutely wonderful and friendly life is. This is even more amazing as we have not learned sufficient Hebrew to actually talk to Israelis such as store clerks or when attempting to make medical appointments and other similar arrangements. Most of the time, if the people we get on the phone do not speak English, they will actually follow through and provide a person to call back who speaks sufficient English to deal with whatever it is we are attempting to accomplish. But that and the fact that, even when there is not an English speaker, they will calmly and politely play charades as we use presumed common gestures to get our message across. This has led to some interesting misunderstandings as you can probably guess. Still, we are making progress in teaching all of Israel English, or at least in our small circle. Yes, there are those who are assisting with our learning Hebrew, but the rest of them will learn English by the time we become proficient in Hebrew. But our experiences are but a small part of the whole. Israel ranks as the thirteenth happiest nation on Earth. That is at least according to the survey which placed Finland as number one and Norway close behind, or as we call them, the frozen chosen. Almost everything we have dealt with thus far has been at least pleasant even if the people at the bank cannot agree amongst themselves how to get things done. This, along with other small aggravations, is largely due to Israel being a rather young nation not yet a century old. But let’s take stock at all the reasons and problems which make Israel appear to be misplaced even making the top one-hundred, let alone thirteenth.

 

Israeli Defense Force at Play on a Beach

Israeli Defense Force at Play on a Beach

 

There are almost innumerable reasons against Israel even ranking on a happiness scale when you take a first look at the news and other coverage of us. Often the first thing that people point to is that Israel is surrounded by nations which wish to kill her down to the last person. They add that these enemies stretch for thousands of miles east and west and a fair distance south with Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and then Europe heading north and then west. Turn eastward just north of Turkey and you will soon be in Russia. It is a wonderful neighborhood as long as you remain within our tight little borders. Then there is the fact that Israel is on a war footing 24/7 with threats of war being thrown in our faces regularly. Currently, Hamas is debating whether or not they wish to risk an all-out war with Israel or just to walk that tightrope where Israel does not respond with full-force. Iran is behind the scenes right now encouraging Hamas and Islamic Jihad to press the envelope even if they end up crushed by an Israeli response. Iran is thinking that if they can press the envelope and not quite get an all-out Israeli response, then they may just succeed in making Bibi Netanyahu appear to be weak and thus lose the upcoming elections. What they are apparently unaware of is what the actual result of their efforts are producing. These attacks are overt and obvious in their intent but still they will cause some voters not to vote Likud because they are not responding with sufficient force and much of what their responses have been are seen as farcical. Those who decide not to vote for Likud in order to replace Bibi are not going to vote for any party which is to the left, they are going to vote for one of the two main choices which are more Zionist and to the right. They might decide they want to vote for a party which has a military man who has seen combat and understands how the military function, a general who trained in a combat position for example. Seeking a general one might immediately jump to the Blue-White Party which touts having four generals of which three have been Chief of Staff. That sounds so very impressive until one inspects their military careers and finds that they often were overly cautious to the point of giving an appearance of timidity. One of the four generals in this party is one who might make an excellent Prime Minister except he is not heading the party, the biggest paper pusher of them all is the leader, and we will leave it at that. So, to whom are you intimating?

 

The person we refer to is not known for his military career despite his service being quite exemplary. This general was the head of the Otzem Pre-Military Academy now located in Yated. He established the academy in 1993 in Bnei Atzmon which was within the limits of Gaza. He oversaw their orderly evacuation with passive protests while doing all they were able not to make the IDF soldiers become uncomfortable with their necessary efforts to remove the students. His intent, as best as we are able to ascertain, was to minimize the stress and shock of the events to both his students, who were training to be IDF soldiers, and the IDF soldiers tasked with their removal. To those who have challenged his decision, we can only inquire what they would have had school age children do while remembering that this was already an uncomfortable and potentially scarring set of conditions. He thought of the children in his charge as well as the IDF soldiers, some may have come from the academy, and did what he thought best means of causing them the least chance for any permanent psychological trauma. Rabbi Levi explained about our former general that he did not want to enter politics, “It should be said in his praise that he didn’t want the job and needed to be convinced.” This gentleman was a combat helicopter pilot, so he definitely received combat training and flew whirlybirds, something which takes great skill, dexterity, concentration and stamina. Helicopters are some of the most intricate of the aircraft as some of the controls are counterintuitive in how they are used. I was only trained on a simulator when I trained as a crash-rescue airfield firefighter as we had to pass a simulator test just in case we were required to move a helicopter away from a crash scene or for any other reason. Training for moving fixed-wing aircraft, airplanes, was vastly more simple as those you just roll along the ground and steer them the same as one would a car. Helicopter pilots have my greatest respect for their abilities. Finally, he served as IDF Chief Rabbi for six years, a very select and prestigious position. We are speaking of the quiet strength of Brigadier General (res) Rabbi Rafi Peretz, the newly elected leader of the Jewish Home Party. Confession, we belong to Jewish Home and have since we selected a party when we named the party we preferred so as to be able to vote in primary elections and other party activities. I am also a member of their Central Committee which approved Rabbi Peretz.

 

But there are other reasons why Israel making the top twenty of a list of happiest nations on a list where it initially appears to be a list of the most socialist left-leaning nations favoring Europe is surprising. The fact that the United States ranks at number nineteen, six positions below Israel, is another surprise. Israel is the most sanctioned nation by United Nations resolutions and faces an international movement, the BDS movement, aimed at isolating Israel economically from the rest of the world. The nation consists of largely desert regions yet much of the northern half of the country is green and filled with farmland. Israel has a limited access to fresh water but has made up for the lack of fresh water sources with desalinization plants to augment the water provided largely by the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Israel basically has two seasons, so we are either having rainy weather or the hot and dry weather of our summers. In Israel, we are usually very happy to have rain but by this time of the year, we are becoming anxious for the summer. By the fall, we are really ready for the cooler weather despite the rains, or possibly, because of the rains, which accompany the cooler weather. Regions of Israel receive snow, specifically Mount Hermon where the Israeli ski resorts thrive during the winter months.

 

Skiing on Mount Hermon

Skiing on Mount Hermon

 

As happiness is often thought to reflect wealth, with Israel ranked just over thirtieth in the world proves that money is not everything. Israel ranks thirtieth in a Quality of Life Index. These ratings would lead one to expect Israel to rank similarly for happiness, but we rate far higher than many expect. Much of this has to do with things which are less easily measured. One is that Israel is a rather religious nation and that applies to all the different religions practiced within our borders. We have a wide choice of fresh fruits and vegetables which are largely grown within Israel through some of the most advanced agricultural methods, innovations and scientific developments which include variants of grains, fruits and vegetables which are better adapted to the climate in Israel. The agricultural wonders are only likely to increase as more of the southern Negev Desert is made arable through irrigation and further adaptable plants are developed through cross breeding and other methods. Many of the Israeli innovations, which are shared with developing nations around the world, can be read about with a number of informative videos in this article titled, 12 Ways Israel Feeds the World, an article which contains many interesting facts. The fact that Israel assists many nations from providing special cell towers, which are powered by solar energy and advance batteries for previously isolated villages in Africa to being one of the first nations to arrive to assist after natural and other disasters and almost always the last to leave, to sharing agricultural advances and medical advances, procedures and inventions often at no cost to the nations we assist. Knowing that your nation is actually fulfilling its desired aim of being a light unto the nations gives one pride. Realizing we do this giving freely, even to the same nations which condemn us repeatedly in votes taken at the United Nations General Assembly as well as countless United Nations agencies, we still get no reassuring support. Israel actually does what we would preach we do if we were to go around beating our chests and yelling, we did that. Instead, we arrive quietly and depart quietly always having the people with whom we interacted very happy that we came and lent a hand. Below is CNN news coverage of the earthquake aftermath in Haiti and the second is a special case from Haiti, George, a dancer, had his leg crushed requiring amputation. The Israeli doctors made arrangements for George to go to Israel and be fitted with a very special prosthetic specifically designed allowing him to return to his life’s love and career as a dancer. He is an excellent dancer even with his new leg.

 

The people of Israel are a mix which comes from every corner of the world. We are not a purely European group of Jews who had nowhere to return to after World War II. The Arab world across the Middle East and Northern Africa forced out virtually all of their Jews who were mostly only able to find one nation willing to take them in, Israel. Israel sent aircraft and boats to assist these refugees, over eight-hundred-thousand in all, in returning to their new home in Israel. We will not claim that there were not difficulties as when you almost double the population in a short period of a nation under fifteen years in age, there are difficulties in finding employment, housing and virtually everything one could imagine. In many cases, these Jews were permitted one suitcase each and those were inspected to make sure that they were not leaving with any item of wealth such as money, jewelry, paintings or other such items. The Jews from these Arab nations were just as destitute and quite traumatized just as the survivors of the Holocaust had been when coming to Israel. They also arrived in a nation being threatened by the same world they had just been expelled from and they would see wars as the Arabs attacked Israel in three major wars in barely over her first twenty-five years. Still, the people have a vibrancy and love of life which is infectious. The love and pride in their homeland is also evident and we all agree on one thing, despite any problems, we are home where we will not become victims of the government and be thrown into death camps with an intent on eradicating the Jews. We are in our country and for better or worse, we know we are home, and that is a very wonderful feeling for a people who have been victimized, persecuted and attempted to be eradicated throughout history, and as Jews, we remember our history. Why is Israel so happy? Perhaps it is the air, the people, the great food, the ice cream shops almost every other block, the beaches, the skiing, Jerusalem, the history and the fact that it is home and always has been the home we dreamed in which to live. We cannot explain why, but we can only be surprised that we are not rated higher. Sure much of the world loves to hate us, but at least now our own country will not hate us and mistreat us because it is actually and really our own country finally and at last, after over two-thousand years, we are home.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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