Why We Are Winning!

By: David M. Weinberg

Nov 20, 2011

This is the text of a dinner talk I gave this past Friday night in Hebron on “Why Israel in Winning” and “Defeating the Campaign to Delegitimize Israel.” The talk was delivered to a group of the American Friends of Hebron, at the Gutnick Center adjacent to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, on Shabbat Parashat Chaye Sarah 5772, November 18, 2011.

Let me begin with a true story that I was witness to at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center (Tel Hashomer Hospital) in Israel. I do public affairs work for the hospital.

Many Palestinian children sick with cancer are treated in Tel Hashomer’s Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital. Several years ago, there was an eight-year-old Palestinian child from Gaza at the hospital, ill with a rare form of cancer. He was clearly going to die without a bone marrow transplant.

Sheba worked hard to obtain permission to enter Gaza and test the child’s relatives, until they found an 18-year-old brother who was an almost perfect bone marrow match. The problem was that Israeli authorities didn’t want to grant this brother entry into Israel for the operation, because he was a Hamas activist.

A number of doctors at the hospital are senior activists in the Israeli NGO, Physicians for Human Rights, and they successfully petitioned the Israeli Ministry of Defense to grant special dispensation, and allow the older brother into Israel, in order to save his little brother’s life.

The older brother arrived Friday afternoon. Friday night, the doctor’s began the delicate procedure. Within a 24-hour window, you need to suppress the patient’s immune system, harvest the bone marrow from the donor brother, and transplant. The procedure began.

But Friday night at midnight the donor brother from Gaza disappeared. Just disappeared. Gone! The doctors went crazy. One nurse said: I saw two General Security Service agents come and take him away. The “Shin Bet” secret service had spirited the 18-year old away. This was a death sentence for the sick eight-year-old Palestinian child.

What do you do? The hospital director called the Prime Minister’s Office in the middle of the night; which called the Shin Bet. Where is my bone-marrow donor, he demanded to know!

Yes, we took him away, explained the Shin Bet. You see, they had been eavesdropping on the 18-year-old’s cell phone conversations. From within an Israeli hospital, to which he had been specially brought in order to save the life of his younger brother, this youthful Palestinian terrorist was giving instructions on the phone to the Hamas in Gaza how to get past security at Tel Hashomer Hospital and blow the place up!

The director of the hospital asked the young terrorist be returned to the hospital for a few hours in order to save the eight-year-old’s life. The Shin Bet brought him back at 3 am in leg irons to donate bone marrow, and the doctors indeed managed to save his baby brother’s life. Then the 18 year old terrorist was whisked away again.

I wanted to publicize the story, but at the time, the secret service blocked this. Now let’s say I had been able to relate the story to a senior foreign journalist – like The New York Times correspondent in Israel. Do you think the paper would have run the story? Do you think that would have made such a story favorable-to-Israel a front page feature? Unlikely. I can tell you from years of professional involvement as the spokesman for Israeli academic, medical, tourist and government institutions – just how difficult it is to get story placed that doesn’t fit the conventional, politically-correct line about Israel being the victimizer and the Palestinians the victim.

Obviously, this is a story that makes our blood boil. Why? What lessons do we draw from such a true story? As the starting point for our discussion tonight of the campaign to delegitimize Israel – and why I think Israel is successfully combating this campaign – why I think that Israel is winning! – I want to think through, talk through, the meaning of this story with you. And I want to connect the story to the story of Hebron; to our presence, and the meaning of our presence, this Shabbat evening in Hebron.

Firstly, in response to the telling of this Sheba story, the basic emotion aroused in the heart of most Israelis – in most of you too, I assume – is a sense of unfairness.

The story feeds into Israelis’ sense of being taking advantage of by the Palestinians, and unappreciated by the world. Of Israel being humane and compassionate, while its enemies being inhumane and uncaring.

The story exacerbates the sense of feeling isolated and demonized; when in fact, the demons are those would blow up an Israeli hospital that is going out of its way to treat Palestinians, even to treat Hamas family members.

The story breeds in Israeli indignation, and leads Israelis to want to mount a counterattack.

Up to this point, I think I’ve accurately described the reactions of most of you to this story; the reactions that I think most Israelis have.

From here on, however, Israelis’ reactions begin to fragment, depending on one’s personal political perspective. How to counterattack? Here Israelis begin to differ.

Friends of mine of the Left, including many of the doctors at the hospital, point with pride to the fact that Israel treats such Palestinians despite their animosity, and the story I just told you just reinforces their commitment to continue to do so.

Humanity and high morals, they say, is what distinguishes – us from them! It distinguishes the compassionate, liberal Jewish and Zionist ethical worldview – from the medieval and violent, radical Islamic worldview.

And so, friends on the Left say, they will continue to be true to their higher morals and heritage – despite Palestinian ugliness. And maybe, they say, our compassion will one day help the Arabs understand our desire for peace. After all, hospitals are one of the few places that Arab and Jew (as well as Jew and Jew) have the chance to meet each other. Maybe this brings peace closer.

Friends of mine on the right reach the opposite conclusion. We’re stupid for bringing the Palestinians into our hospitals out of an imagined sense of benevolence, they say. The Arabs neither appreciate our compassion, nor will this change their views on how fiercely they are going fight to destroy the Jewish state, they add.

The Palestinians take Israeli assistance when they have to – especially since their Arab brethren in neighboring states don’t let them in for medical treatment – and then they continue to raise their children – the same kids Israelis save — to be suicide bombers!

Either way, the Sheba story I’ve told you this evening creates a dilemma. It creates cognitive dissonance. It doesn’t fit easily into the way that any Israeli – right or left – wants to structure their world.

This cognitive dissonance is exacerbated by the way in which the intellectual climate and the tone of international debate about Israel and Israeli policies have become venomously poisoned.

It is, alas, becoming acceptable in some parts of the world to talk about Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity; to seek criminal prosecution of Israeli leaders and military men in international courts; to term Israel an apartheid state; to discuss divestment from Israeli companies; to publish blood libels about Israeli soldiers; to publish op-ed articles in the most respected journals expressing sympathy for the so-called Palestinian “right” of return and to advocate for a “one-state” solution; to turn tyrants into celebrities and grant them media attention as if they were rock stars.

Think of Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s annual tours of New York City, where he has dinner with 1,000 friends at Grand Hyatt, and lunch with 50 select American opinion-makers at the Intercontinental, and then wags his finger at the world from the UN General Assembly podium.

You all know that the assault on Israel is augmented by organizations that present themselves as global guardians of human rights; groups like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, and Oxfam, who publish report after report, applying the labels of war crimes, massacres, deliberate attack on civilians, disproportionate force, collective punishment and ethnic cleansing to Israel’s actions. These human rights superpowers are trafficking in an entire world of “lawfare” against Israel, using the language of international law and human rights to criminalize Israel.

In short, you can solidly make the argument the marketplace of ideas in polite, intellectual company has expanded to include delegitimization, even demonization of Israel.

You might say that it is a scary world. There is a lot to fear. A lot to pray about.

Fear, by the way, is not necessarily a bad thing. Our sages say that a bit of trepidation is useful. King Solomon writes in Mishlei (Ecclesiastes): Ashrei adam mefahed tamid.” It is good to always be a bit afraid. Rabbi Soloveitchik famously taught that true tefilla (prayer) arises from a sense of fear and trepidation. From distress (tzara). “Only the sufferer truly prays,” wrote the Rav. “If man does not find himself in narrow straits, if he is not troubled by anything, if he does not know what tzara is — then he need not pray. G-d needs not thanks nor hymns. He wants to hear the outcry of man, confronted with a ruthless reality. He expects prayer to rise from a suffering world cognizant of its genuine needs.”

On Rosh Hashana we pray: “Make all the world fear you, oh G-d, and impose your trepidation on all creation, and all mankind will be in awe of you and bow down to you….”

The midrash in the book of Esther says that nothing galvanized the Jewish People to teshuva, repentance, more than the shekalim of Haman, the silver coins that he paid to King Achashverosh as bribe money in order to get a royal edict to kill all the Jews. Haman’s shekalim, says the midrash — Haman’s threat to annihilate the Jewish people – was more effective at moving Jews to repentance than the prophecies and admonitions all 46 prophets in Tanach, the Bible!

So, our concern for Israel, our trepidation over the intellectual climate about Israel – should galvanize us to prayer. And there no better place to do that on Shabbat Chaye Sarah than in the Me’arat HaMachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs) here in Hebron.

NOW, I WANT TO TURN EVERYTHING THAT I HAVE SAID SO FAR on its head, and make the opposite argument!

I want to show you, I want to convince you, that Israel’s situation, our collective situation as a Jewish People, is much better than we sometimes make it out to be. I am going to prove to you that Israel is not losing the battle, but winning the battle!

I want to demonstrate to you, by conducting a brief strategic survey, that the people of Israel are strong and resilient, and more united than ever; that the Arab threat to Israel is overblown; that what I described just now as an ‘international assault’ on Israel isn’t nearly as bad as it sometime seems; and that the hard-political-left in Israel, which is behind so much of international criticism of Israel, is fading.

I want to show you that Israel is winning!

Let’s start with the international BDS campaign, the effort to apply boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli products, academics, artists and scientists. It’s not working!

Sure, like you, I know about billboard boycott campaigns in Seattle, divestment resolutions at British universities, Israeli film festival protests in Toronto, and the occasional pop star that declines to perform in Israel.

But most of the big names in popular cinema and music are performing in, and coming to, Israel. Most of those boycott and divestment initiatives have been deflected or voted down. The bark of the BDS movement is much worse than its bite. There is no BDS tsunami against Israel; it is a problem, but not a growing threat.

The same applies to flotilla assaults and other so-called freedom riders who try to bust our borders with noisy nuisance demonstrations. They’re just that: a nuisance, and nothing more. Even the unfriendly global media is growing tired of them. The Irish and Canadian ships that tried to reach Gaza two weeks ago – were a non-story, and a 24-hour story at that.

So I say to you that we are winning! Israel is winning!

What about Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, and Oxfam? Well, their charges of war crimes, disproportionate force, and ethnic cleansing are beginning to sound ever-so-hollow, even to non-Zionists, in a world where the Syrians and Iranians are busy slaughtering their own people by the dozens every day.

The Israeli counterparts of the post-nationalist, hard-left-wing international organizations (that are source of so much lawfare) – are watching their sources of funding are drying up. European Union countries, which have collectively contributed close to $100 million a year to left-wing non-profit organizations in Israel, are on the verge of economic collapse. The EU is imploding, and its ability to harm Israel and to continue funding the hard-left agenda in Israel – is fading.

So I say to you – we are winning!

Much more significant is that there is no diplomatic tsunami! The Palestinian Authority’s rush to statehood at the UN has been halted in its tracks, and observers are beginning to catch on that the Palestinians really are not ready for statehood. The elephant in the room – the Iranian-backed Hamas government in Gaza and its growing influence within the PA – is simply too large to ignore.

Talk to any level-headed Western diplomat today and, after peeling away the standard layers of political correctness, you’ll find that it is sinking in that the chances for a ‘comprehensive, grand peace deal that settles all claims’ between Israel and the PA – is simply not in the cards; not at anytime in the foreseeable future.

The hackneyed notion that “all it would take for comprehensive peace is an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines” – is fading. In private, policy-makers – even European diplomats! – talk quietly about long-term conflict management; not about grand conflict resolution. As Moshe Bogie Yaalon (Israeli Vice Premier and Minister of Strategic Affairs) says: “Solutionism” is the wrong paradigm.

And I’ll tell you that this is a good thing, a useful thing, an important development. Because while we all want comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, Palestinian demands and expectations have to be dialed down for this to be realistic. And that is going to take time. Serious people understand this.

So I say to you that we are winning!

The greatest contribution to this changed tenor of serious debate about Arab-Israeli diplomacy has been made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu did one super-critical and brilliant thing over the past two years; something whose long-term strategic value to Israel cannot be underestimated or ignored.

Benjamin Netanyahu placed on the table the need for Palestinian recognition of Israel as Jewish state.

You all need to understand and appreciate this well. This is a game-changing contribution to Israel’s diplomatic arsenal. Our demand for up-front, clear and ambiguous Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state – which the Palestinians just don’t seem willing to provide or capable of giving Israel! — has exposed the real root of conflict. The core of the conflict, as Netanyahu told Congress this year, is not Israeli concessions, but Palestinian rejectionism. The peace process is not primarily about the establishment of a Palestinian state, but about Arab recognition of a Jewish state.

And I want you to know that this argument has sunk in. Even our less-than-best friends, people who think that Netanyahu is a liar – like Obama and Sarkozy – have formally adopted Israel’s demand for Palestinian recognition as a Jewish state, as part of their formal political language.

Even more important is that a national consensus has emerged in Israel with regard to the Palestinians, which Netanyahu faithfully represents. The consensus grants Palestinians independence in theory, but in practice recognizes that they can’t be given sovereignty anytime soon. Israel is not going to be pushed into any precipitous withdrawals or risky new disengagements. This construct is profound because Israelis, for a change, are not blaming themselves for the current stalemate in peace diplomacy. This self-assurance, this rare consensus, gives Israel tremendous buoyancy and strength.

So I say to you – we are winning!

Israel also has real, true friends in the world. Take the government of Canada, for example. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has led a conceptual revolution in how Canadians think about the world, and that includes a deep understanding of and appreciation for Israel’s security dilemmas. Harper and his colleagues have stood up for Israel, often as a lone voice, in the G-8, the G-20, the UNHCR, IAEA, and the UNGA. Just last week, Canada changed its votes in favor of Israel on seven resolutions at the UN, and this weekend Canada is to sign new agreements for military and defense intelligence cooperation with Israel.

The Czechs and the Italians and the Australians and others, too, have demonstrated their close sympathy for Israel’s struggles. And there are strong pro-Israel, evangelical Christian and other, audiences, in almost all Western states.

So I say to you – we are winning!

Let’s take a look at the Arabs. The Arab world is going to be preoccupied with its revolutions and upheavals and economic crises for many, many years to come. Islamists who come to power will threaten Israel and rail against Israel, but will have little or no ability to truly threaten Israel for a decade or two at least. They will be beset by internal turmoil and socio-economic demands of almost-impossible dimensions.

Even the Turks are about to be hit by gargantuan economic crisis; Erdogan isn’t going to be able to establish his pan-Mideast Turkish empire so easily or quickly. In addition, there isn’t going to a ruler in Syria who can demand that Israel hand over the Golan Heights (– something that was always an unfair demand) with any international resonance or credibility, for decades and decades, if ever.

So I say to you – we are winning!

You’ll challenge my argument, of course, by pointing to Teheran. The Iranian challenge to Israel, to the monarchical Arab states, and to the West is significant. Their drive to obtain nuclear weaponry is real. Iran seems to be riding high, growing in influence, and gaining in the race for the bomb. International sanctions and pressures against Iran to date haven’t been nearly serious enough. And sanctions – even so-called ‘crippling sanctions’ – probably won’t do the trick.

That’s all true. Which is why the Iranian are going to be stopped! Yes indeed, they are going to be checked and rolled back. They have to be. Even Barack Obama’s administration isn’t blind to this. Talk to people in the know, even Obama critics, and they’ll tell you that defense cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem has never before been better. Never has it been more intense and concrete. This means cooperation against Iran. Things will yet happen on the Iranian front. Sabotage and viruses are just the beginning.

So again I say to you – we are winning!

As for the Israeli home front: Many Israelis on the political right feel that the political left has an injurious lock on critical junctures in Israeli public life: the judiciary, the media, and academia. But the anti-religious, anti-nationalist and hard-political-left-wing public is in demographic decline in Israel. Mainstream secular Israel is rediscovering its Jewish roots.

Witness the explosion of Biblical allusions, songs about G-d, and lyrics taken from Jewish prayers that are washing across the pop music scene in Israel. Education Minister Gideon Saar has reintroduced Jewish and Zionist content into the primary and secondary school curriculum, and over the course of the next generation this too will have salutary impact. This is very, very important, and very hopeful!

The Ultra-Orthodox too are starting to come out of their self-imposed ghettos of poverty and isolationism, and will increasingly moderate themselves and have an impact on matters of state, not just in matters of religion.

Thus the balance of gravity in Israeli politics has shifted to the Center-Right, and it is likely to remain that way for decades.

So again I say to you – we are winning!

In grand historical perspective, of course Israel is winning! The Jewish People survived two thousand years of Diaspora and Holocaust, and has managed to ingather the exiles, and build a magnificent, strong and vibrant state. Israel simply sizzles with creativity and vibrancy! Social protests and all – it is a great place to live (especially in comparison with the crumbling Arab Middle East states around Israel). Our economy is strong, and our technological edge formidable. We may even become an energy exporter!

And thus I assert – Israel is winning!

I admit that the overall rosy picture that I am trying to paint has its flaws. In particular, my assessment doesn’t sufficiently take into account three worrying and serious problems.

The first significant problem is what I call American strategic fatigue.

You see, Israel needs a strong America, engaged and projecting power in the Middle East, especially at this time of great political instability. A strong and confident U.S. posture in the region is critical to confronting the growing power of Iran and radical Islam.

But what if the United States doesn’t want to lead? What if America is tired? That, I fear, is the case. America under Obama largely wants out of the Middle East: out of Iraq; out of Afghanistan; and to a certain extent, out of Israeli-Palestinian affairs, too.

And it’s not just strategic fatigue. It is hard to shake the feeling that Obama no longer wants to project American power in the Middle East also because he no longer believe in the justness of doing so. Obama’s difficulty in openly identifying with American exceptionalism is well known. He seems embarrassed by, and has often apologized for, the exercise of American power.

Now add American policy confusion to this picture. From the burst of American military activism in Libya – to its lack of activism against Assad of Syria. From its abandonment of Mubarak in Egypt – to its misguided attempt to block Saudi intervention in Bahrain. From its coddling of Erdogan – to its brutishness towards Netanyahu. All this reinforces the view that Washington has become both confused and unpredictable – which perhaps is even more frightening than a tired superpower.

A second serious problem that I see developing is the danger of Israel becoming a wedge issue in American politics. I’m not going to dwell on this at length now, but just witness the way in which Israel has become a political football between Democrats and Republicans in the current presidential race in the US. This is very dangerous for Israel over the long term. We want and need support for Israel to remain a bipartisan issue, as much as possible. Obama is largely to blame for this growing divide, and it is a great danger to Israel.

A third strategic, long-term danger is the decline of American Jewry. I don’t have enough time to detail this for you here tonight, but through assimilation and intermarriage and the embrace of liberalism as a sort of alternative religion – American Jews are distancing themselves from Israel. J Street is not an insignificant phenomenon, especially its attraction to American Jewish youth.

J Street has unfortunately spent most of its resources bashing long-standing supporters of Israel – calling them extremists and right-wingers and accusing them of a ‘silencing’ – and listing things that Israel must be made to do. All this, instead of calling out the dangers of Iranian nuclear weapons or Palestinian anti-Semitism. That’s why they fret over the “Jewish soul” instead of working to save and protect the physical Jewish State of Israel.

This too is a long term threat to Israel.

I am very cognizant of these potential dangers, both American strategic fatigue and American Jewish fatigue. Yet I still claim that in the grand scheme of things, we have the upper hand, and yes, that we are winning!

So let me summarize: I argue before you tonight that the overall strategic balance is in Israel’s favor. There are positive trends and helpful currents in play that can be taken advantage of. While there are many threats and enemies out there, Israel and Israelis needn’t be paralyzed by fear or be depressed. There is what to work with, and Israel can positively direct its destiny.

One place from which Israelis and Jews can draw inspiration is this week’s Torah portion (parasha), known as Chayei Sarah (in which the patriarch Abraham purchases the fields and cave of Machpela in Hebron as a family burial ground; and in which he buries the matriarch Sarah). In fact, the parasha contains almost exactly the same type of ipcha mistavra, two contradictory assessments of reality, which I outlined before you tonight.

And just like my assessment, the parasha reaches a positive conclusion.

Did you ever ask yourself this question? How can the Torah in this week’s parasha say that at the time of his death Abraham had been blessed with everything?

[“Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people” (Gen. 25: 8); and “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and God had blessed Abraham with everything” (Gen. 24: 1)].

How can Rashi say that all of Sarah’s years were equal in goodness? After all, neither Abraham nor Sarah had an easy life. Theirs were lives of trial, in which their faith was tested at many points.

Consider: Abraham and Sarah were commanded by God to leave everything that was familiar: their land, their home, their family, and travel to an unknown land. No sooner had they arrived than they were forced to leave because of famine. Twice, Abraham’s life was at risk when, driven into exile, he worried that he would be killed so that the local ruler could take Sarah into his harem. Sarah herself had to say that she was Abraham’s sister, and had to suffer the indignity of being taken into a stranger’s household.

Then there was the long wait for a child, made even more painful by the repeated Divine promise that they would have as many children as the stars of the sky or the dust of the earth. Then came the drama of the birth of Ishmael to Sarah’s servant Hagar. This aggravated the relation between the two women, and eventually Abraham had to send Hagar and Ishmael away. One way or another, this was a source of pain to all four people involved.

Then there was the agony of Akedat Yitzhak, the binding of Isaac. Abraham was faced with the prospect of losing the person most precious to him, the child he had waited for so long.

So again, how can Rashi say that all of Sarah’s years were equal in goodness? How can the Torah say that Abraham had been blessed with everything? That he was completely at peace when he died?

I can make the question even tougher! Four times (12:7, 13:15, 15:18, and after his circumcision) Abraham is promised the Land of Israel.

Yet by the time Sarah dies, Abraham has no land at all, and he is forced to prostrate himself before the local Hittites and beg for permission to acquire even a single field with a cave in which to bury his wife. Even then he has to pay what is clearly a massively inflated price: four hundred silver shekels. This does not sound like the fulfillment of the promise of “all the land, north, south, east and west”!

Then, in relation to children, Abraham is four times promised many, many children, who would become a great nation (12: 2, 13:16, 15:5 and 17:5). Yet he had to wait so long for even a single son by Sarah that when God insisted that she would indeed have a son, both Abraham and Sarah (at different times) laughed.

One way or another, whether we think of children or the land – the two key Divine promises to Abraham and Sarah – the reality fell far short of what they might have felt entitled to expect.

So how can the Torah say that Abraham had been blessed with everything? That he was completely at peace when he died?

British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks answers this question by referring to our parasha.

In Chayei Sarah, says Rabbi Sacks, Avraham does two things: he buys one plot, the first Jewish piece of land, in the Land of Israel, and he arranges for the marriage of Isaac.

One field and a cave was, for Abraham, enough for the text to say that “God had blessed Abraham with everything.”

One child, Isaac (by then married with children) was enough for Abraham to die in peace.

It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. “It is not for you to complete the work but neither are you free to desist from it” (Mishna Avot 2: 16).

Abraham did not need to see all the land in Jewish hands, nor did he need to see the Jewish people become numerous. He had taken the first step. He had begun the task, and he knew that his descendants would continue it. He was able to die serenely because he had faith in God and faith that others would complete what he had begun.

To start something significant, to know that you are part of a larger narrative, and to believe that others will continue what you began – is to achieve satisfaction in life. Abraham and Sarah had that faith, and they were able to complete their lives with a sense of fulfillment.

That is exactly what is happening here with the small 80-family Jewish community of Hebron.  It is a small beginning. Inch by inch, apartment by apartment, house by house, building by building, incrementally – The Jewish Community of Hebron grows, hanging onto each parcel of land for the broader world Jewish community.

The brave people who live here in Hebron despite difficult political and security conditions, have the satisfaction of starting something significant, of placing their lives in G-d’s hands, of being part of a larger narrative, and of believing that others will continue what they began – and that is satisfaction in life.

It is a great sacrifice! It is what Rav Soloveitchik calls the secret of sacrificial action, and this is what wins battles. And we are winning, thanks to the brave and righteous people who live here in Hebron!

We are also winning because we are here, all of us, the many tens of thousands of Jews that are here in Hebron this Shabbat, from across Israel and around the world. Because we provide moral and financial support to the Jewish community in Hebron. Our presence here, 70 years after the Arabs led a massacre of the Jews of Hebron (in 1929), is proof that we are winning!

You know, we say Magen Avraham every day in tefilla; and we say Magen David in the brachot of the haftara every Shabbat and Yom Tov. Why do we use the phrases Magen Avraham and Magen David (and never Magen Yitzhak or Magen Yaacov)? Perhaps it is because both Abraham and King David reigned here in Hebron! Or perhaps, as the Aruch Hashulchan says in Tractate Nedarim, it is because “both Abraham and David had many enemies… and G-d protected them and saved them because they were brave and He loved them for this.”

G-d is our Magen Le-Dorot; Bizchut (in the merit of) Avraham Avinu and David Hamelech, who established their homes and their kingdoms, in Hebron. Zechutam, and the zechut of today’s modern-day defenders of Hebron, yaamod lanu lezechut hayom. Thanks to them, and thanks to you – we are winning!

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About David Weinberg

David M. Weinberg is a spokesman, speechwriter, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »


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A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker.


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