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      Fundamentally Freund
      by Michael Freund
      An alternative approach to Israeli political commentary.
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      Michael Freund is Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post. Previously, he served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister´s Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He has lived in Israel for the past decade.
      Kislev 19, 5766, 12/20/2005

      They're Killing Jewish Children


      It happened just as they said it would.

      For months prior to the pullout from Gaza, a range of commentators, analysts and Israeli military sources all predicted that the withdrawal would lead to increased Palestinian terror in Judea and Samaria.

      In other words, by running away from Gaza, Israel was laying the groundwork for the Palestinians to target their guns and their resources on “liberating” the next batch of “occupied” territory by killing Jews.

      But the left, and the media, and the Prime Minister himself all refused to listen. After all, they know better. And now, as a result, three Jewish children were murdered the other day by Palestinian terrorists in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem.

      All together, the three victims had lived a total of just 58 years. Matat Adler was 21, her cousin Kinneret Mandel was 23, and Oz Ben-Meir was 14.

      Funeral_of_gush_etzion_terror_victim_oz__1 If a person were to pass away, G-d forbid, at the age of 58, people would say that he or she had died young. What, then, can one possibly say now?

      This attack, like so many others before it, could have and should have been prevented. It was carried out by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade of Fatah, the primary faction of the PLO.

      For the past 12 years, Israel has sought to appease Fatah through concessions, withdrawals and retreats. The result has been nothing but bloodshed. It is time for Israel to halt this farce, and to stop yielding to terror.

      It is time for the Jewish state to take action and protect its citizens, and to eliminate the terrorists who prey on innocents.

      It is time for Jewish children to stop being slaughtered, once and for all.



      Kislev 10, 5766, 12/11/2005

      When Cynicism Prevails


      Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz set a new national record for cynical opportunism today – and that is no small feat.

      After days of reaffirming, declaring, insisting and announcing that he was staying in the Likud, Mofaz has now flip-flopped and said that he is bolting the party to join Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Kadima.

      Cynicism_1 And what exactly was it that prompted this dramatic change? According to various media reports, Sharon has promised Mofaz that he can remain Defense Minister.

      Of course, it was just the other day that Mofaz was telling people: “You don’t leave your home,” when asked if he was planning to leave the Likud.

      But then poll results were published in Friday’s newspapers indicating that he had little chance of winning the Likud leadership in the party’s upcoming primary – hence, his decision to jump ship.

      So much for the man’s credibility.

      This is a sorry day for Israeli politics – not so much because of Mofaz’ decision to switch parties, but more because of what it represents – a complete abandonment of any pretense of ideology, and a total embrace of crass political opportunism.

      The Jewish people deserve better, far better, than this.



      Kislev 10, 5766, 12/11/2005

      Poodles vs. People


      Here is a sad little fact worth considering: over 600 Jewish families expelled from their homes in Gaza back in August remain scattered about in a dozen hotels around the country, with neither the government nor the media showing much interest in their fate.

      The promise made by various officials prior to the withdrawal that “there is a solution for every settler” has turned into a bitter and cruel joke. So many of the evacuees still do not know where they will be making their future homes, even as they are forced to confront an unpleasant and unhelpful bureaucracy.

      Many have been unable to find permanent work, since they don't know where they will be living a month from now, while others have not been allowed to access the containers holding all of their personal belongings.

      And now, adding insult to injury, a hotel in Ashkelon reportedly plans to evict 30 families from Gush Katif on Sunday due to a contractual dispute with the government. And so, just two months after they were ejected from their homes, these people face the prospect of once again being forced to move, on the eve of the holiday of Sukkot.

      It might be tempting to say that Gaza’s Jews were “tossed to the dogs”, but even that understates the situation.

      Just last week, Environment Minister Shalom Simhon issued a press release proudly announcing his decision to allocate an additional 1 million shekels to improve animal welfare in Israel, including assistance to “animals in distress”. This comes on top of the 2.5 million shekels he has already dispensed for similar purposes.

      Doghouse And so, in the twisted moral calculus of our government, there is plenty of extra money to find shelter for cats or dogs, but not for the thousands of Jewish citizens made homeless by the expulsion from Gaza.

      When a government starts favoring poodles over people, that's as sure a sign as any that it's time for it to go.



      Kislev 3, 5766, 12/4/2005

      Making Concessions to Hamas?


      Israel this week made an astonishing concession to Hamas, with barely a peep of protest to be heard anywhere.

      Despite Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s previous threats, Israel has now agreed not to interfere in Palestinian elections even if Hamas is allowed to take part.

      Hamas_sucks As Yediot Aharonot reported the other day, “Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz tells U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Israel would not interfere with Palestinian elections even if Hamas participates, backing off earlier threats.”

      The absurdity of this stance was made lethally clear when Hamas took credit for the murder of a 20-year old Israeli soldier on Wednesday, the very same day that Mofaz was giving the terrorist group a free pass to participate in the upcoming Palestinian balloting.

      And so, we are back to the old pattern of Palestinians killing Jews, and Israel responding with capitulation, cowardice and weakness.

      The government’s handling of this issue is an utter and complete disgrace, if only because it suggests that armed terrorist groups such as Hamas can be considered legitimate participants in democratic processes.

      At this rate, don’t be surprised in a few months’ time if Israel tries to start opening talks with the terror group. With a government as depraved as this one, it seems that just about anything is possible.



      Cheshvan 7, 5766, 11/9/2005

      A Spark of Hope in Trying Times


      In these trying times for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, it is especially important to remember that not all is dark and gloomy.

      Just last week, a very special ceremony took place in Jerusalem, one that underlines both the power of Jewish memory as well as G-d’s unfolding plan to restore His people to their Land.

      For the first time, descendants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, got married under a wedding canopy in Jerusalem.

      Jin_family_wedding2 With the help of Shavei Israel, the organization that I head, Shlomo and Dina Jin recently completed their conversion back to Judaism by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, and they have now been joined together as husband and wife in accordance with Jewish law. Their daughter Shalva, who also returned to Judaism, recently completed a year of volunteer national service (Sherut Leumi) at the Shaarei Zedek Medical Center, and will soon begin her studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

      The Jin family hails from Kaifeng, on the banks of the Yellow River, where Jews first settled over 1,000 years ago. At its peak, under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the community may have numbered as many as 5,000 people. But by the middle of the 1800's, assimilation and intermarriage had taken a heavy toll, weakening the community spiritually and numerically. The last rabbi of Kaifeng died sometime in the first half of the 19th century; a few decades later, the synagogue and the community it had served were no more. Until today, however, there are still some 500 people in Kaifeng who continue to cling to a Jewish identity.

      The return of the Jins marks the closing of an historical circle. Nearly 200 years after the Kaifeng Jewish community essentially ceased to exist, the first of its offspring have now come home to Jerusalem.

      This symbolizes the indestructible spirit of the Jewish people – as well as the fact that even in the face of governmental retreat and withdrawal, the march of the people of Israel toward redemption continues to move forward.