Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Jewish Thought Series: What Bibi Should Have Replied to Obama

This is a Guest Blog by Avraham Reiss of Jerusalem

Obama insisted on a settlement freeze - and Bibi agreed.
In the face of Jewish Thought. And against it. We have precedent. A number of precedents.
I'm saying here how I think the Jew Netanyahu should have answered the gentile Obama.
And I'll say first in Obamese, and then in Jewish.

Mr President, former President Calvin Coolidge is reputed to have said that the business of America ... is business. I have to remind you that the business of Israel is ... Zionism. And Zionism first and foremost means building the Land of Israel. Settling the waste lands, and making them liveable.
During the Cold War, Mr President, had the Soviets come to an American President with a condition for disarmament talks that America stop doing business for three months, on the grounds that Capitalism negates the Communist way of life, would any American President have taken the demand seriously? Would he have said "peace with the Soviets is more important, let's stop doing business just for three months"?
I hope you can infer both my position and my answer from that analogy, Mr. President.

That was in Obamese.

Now in Jewish Thought.  From two different sources.

What is considered as probably the holiest of prayers uttered on our holiest of days, Yom Kippur, is probably the Unetaneh Tokef, whose composition is attributed to Rabbi Amnon of Magenza (Mainz), at the time of the Crusades.  (A translation of the prayer into English can be found at: )

For the sake of brevity I am using a Google source to tell the story.

'The prayer entitled U'Netaneh Tokef is attributed to a Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Germany, who lived about one thousand years ago. The story behind this piyut, a prayer-poem, is sad and poignant, and may shed light on the prayer itself.The Bishop of Mainz summoned Rabbi Amnon, a great Torah scholar, to his court and offered him a ministerial post on the condition that Rabbi Amnon would convert to Christianity. Rabbi Amnon refused. The Bishop insisted and continued to press Rabbi Amnon to accept his offer. Of course, Rabbi Amnon continued to refuse. One day, however, Rabbi Amnon asked the Bishop for three days to consider his offer.

As soon as Rabbi Amnon returned home, he was distraught at the terrible mistake he had made of even appearing to consider the Bishop's offer and the betrayal of G-d. For three days he could not eat or sleep and he prayed to G-d for forgiveness. When the deadline for decision arrived, the Bishop sent messenger after messenger to bring Rabbi Amnon, but he refused to go. Finally, the Bishop had him forcibly brought to him and demanded a response. The Rabbi responded, "I should have my tongue cut out for not having refused immediately." The Bishop angrily had Rabbi Amnon's hands and feet cut off and then sent him home.

A few days later was Rosh HaShanah, and Rabbi Amnon, dying from his wounds, asked to be carried to shul. He wished to say the Kedushah to sanctify G-d's Name and publicly declare his faith in G-d's Kingship. With his dying breath, he uttered the words that we now know of as the U'Netaneh Tokef.

Three days later Rabbi Amnon appeared in a dream to Rabbi Kalonymous ben Meshullam, a scholar and poet, and taught him the exact text of the prayer. Rabbi Amnon asked that it be sent to all Jewry and that it be inserted in the prayers of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur for all time.’

That story, Mr Prime Minister of Israel, should have been the guiding light and spirit behind your reply to President Obama.

But we can go back much further. The Torah, the Written Law, is written entirely in Hebrew, except for two words. These two words are in Aramaic. The English translators couldn’t handle them, and so they appear together as one word, in transliterated Aramaic.

Genesis 31, 46-48:
46 And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
47 And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.
48 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;

The translation is little short of atrocious, but the meaning is understandable even in the current translation.

The commentator Sforno points out that Jacob uses the Hebrew term for a monument (the “Galeed” is actually in Hebrew two words: Gal Ed, Gal meaning a heap of stones, and Ed meaning a witness. Such a heap of stones thus “bears witness”, and is therefore what we know as a monument.

So what actually happened here, says Sforno, is that Laban (whose native tongue was Aramaic) named the monument to peace between himself and Jacob in his language – Aramaic – but Jacob insisted on using the Hebrew – Gal Ed. And Laban “capitulated”, reverting to the Hebrew term as declared by Jacob.

This, says Sforno, is the power of Jacob: when Jacob insists on his terms, he has the power to subjugate his opponents.

Did you get that, Bibi?


  1. It is very easy to say what we would do, but we do not know what pressures are on any of these men that are revealed to them only after they take office. I know it is important to pray for those in leadership positions because we Christians are encouraged to do this (1 Timothy 2 1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.)

    Having said that, have always felt that God has his hand on Bibi Netanyahu and I find it interesting that he has discovered the value of reading the scriptures. When others wrote him off as a spent force, it was always my feeling that he would be back. I do not think that he has completed the work appointed for him and it may yet be that the heart of this work is still in the future.

    As for Obama, the man would terrify me if I did not believe in the sovereignty of God. He is a man surrounded by lies and deception; a flatterer who has come from nowhere and simply by his inaction he is a threat to Israel.

    Putin is also a significant player, less deceptive and, I think, very dangerous.

    For some reason, I do not think we should write off Tony Blair, although many in the UK would love to. I do not know what part he has to play but I cannot shake the feeling that his political story is not over. Blair and Obama have much in common and they both understand the battle far better than many of their contemporaries. Obama's actions make perfect sense if one assumes that he is utterly hostile to Israel. Blair, on the other hand, could conceivably come down on Israel's side but the matter is still moot.

    I could, of course, be wrong.

  2. Blair is like the curate's egg - good in parts! I didn't like his domestic policy, but did like his foreign policy.
    He is very hard to fathom.

  3. I agree. His foreign policy displayed great acumen although he failed to explain it domestically. Unfortunately, he allowed the lunatics to determine domestic policies. His political future, if he has one, is unlikely to be in the UK!

  4. Ian G,
    thank you for your comments. I found myself in agreement with practically everything you said.

    Regarding Divine influence over kings, I refer you to Proverbs, 21,1 which says:
    "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will."

    The translation into English of "he turneth it" is inaccurate: the original Hebrew uses a 'weaker' word, whose root is based on the word 'inclination', causing one Jewish commentator to state that G-d places an inclination into the hearts of kings, but the actual follow-thru depends on the king himself, and is his responsibility.

    Rgearding the future, my own views tend to turn towards the apocalyptic, and I have biblical references for this.

  5. Avraham, I think that all serious and prayerful students of prophetic scripture would agree that we are close to the coming of the Messiah. Consequently, we need to view world leaders with great care, most especially those who seem to come from nowhere. There will be more than one. There already has been more than one.

    I am fascinated by the Biblical references you refer to. Clearly, I will be aware of some of them, but Israel still has much to teach the Church (and we you). Should you be gracious enough to share your views, Daphne knows how to contact me.

    I have followed the link on your name and find the article on stones interesting. The stones will cry out, but not to Allah. In both our books the stones testify to the Messiah and to YHWH.