The new Middle East

Opinion. While Trump lacks Obama's polished speaking style, he is far better equipped to distinguish good from evil - and friends from foes.

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Sivan Rahav Meir,

Sivan Rahav Meir
Sivan Rahav Meir
Self

1.

We need to eliminate all the background noises and focus on what is really important. So let's put aside Oren Chazan's selfie, however difficult that may be, and try to ignore all the other anecdotes such as Melania's hand and the state of the renovations at the house on Balfour Street.

When all is said and done, last week was a dramatic one in which the formula was reversed. In 2013, I stood a few feet away from Barack Obama at Ben-Gurion Airport and at Yad Vashem, and last week I stood near Donald Trump at the President's residence. I listened attentively to both of them and can state that there are at least two major differences between the two administrations.

The New Middle East. For so many years we have become accustomed to the flattery heaped on the Arab side and to the criticism levelled at us. Trump has changed the rules of the game. He travelled all the way to Saudi Arabia to confront their leaders and inform them that they must fight terror. He went to Bethlehem in order to look Abu Mazen straight in the eye and tell him: "You cannot promote peace if you finance terror at the same time."

And he travelled to Israel to shower praise on Zionism and Judaism, without any hint of rebuke. It's true that Obama is more impressive and sophisticated, he is trendier and politically 'correct'. In contrast, Trump is awkward and problematic in so many other aspects. Yet, it was the intellectual and progressive Obama who failed and blurred the distinction between good and evil. How symbolic it is that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize based only on his oratory and intentions. Then along comes Trump, the most non-politically-correct person imaginable, and spells out clearly and confidently who the enemy is – Iran, ISIS, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and Hamas. He came to proclaim that Israel is on the opposite side of the equation, the side of good. Trump's forthrightness was evident when he bluntly referred to the perpetrators of the terrorist attack in Manchester: "I won't call them monsters because they would like that term, they would think that is a great name. I will call them, from now on, losers because that's what they are: losers."

The New Generation of Jews. A less significant aspect of Trump's visit revealed something highly significant. Jews have held senior positions in every possible administration and government, but they often became totally assimilated into the ruling culture and forgot their Judaism. At a time when assimilation is rampant in the United States, some of the most senior people of Trump's administration are proud of their Judaism. Ambassador David Friedman and advisor Jason Greenblatt both studied in yeshivot.

During the Presidential visit to Riyadh, Greenblatt could have wined and dined with his Saudi hosts. However, he posted a picture on social media, showing his Friday night Shabbat meal of fruit and crackers. He wrote that he would eat in his hotel room and that he missed his wife and family terribly. This is no mere anecdote, it is a matter of identity.

Then came the climax when Ivanka Trump stood at the Kotel and shed a tear. She later wrote that this was a "deeply meaningful visit to the holiest site of my faith". In truth, any picture of a convert standing in prayer at the remnant of the Beit Hamikdash is moving, even if she is not the daughter of the President of the United States of America.

Their actions sent a clear message to young Jews throughout the word: You no longer have to assimilate to reach the top.

2.

"When our three boys were kidnapped, people told us that in the midst of all the sorrow, a miracle happened to us." Racheli Fraenkel was speaking at the Binyanei Ha'uma Convention Center during the World Mizrachi Yom Yerushalayim Mega Event.

The audience consisted of thousands of Jews who had travelled from all over the world to touch history and participate in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Unification of Jerusalem. They each paid a considerable sum to take part in what we take for granted on a daily basis and what we sometimes overlook.

They all knew Racheli as the mother of Naftali, one of the three kidnapped teenagers murdered in the summer of 2014. The entire Jewish world followed the days of searching for the three missing boys. What miracle was Racheli referring to?

"During those days, we were united for the first time. People from all different backgrounds, including unaffiliated Jews, came, prayed and expressed their concern. They told us that they had asked older people in their communities whether they had ever before witnessed such unity. They were told that only once before was the entire Jewish people truly united. This occurred exactly fifty years ago, in the even more dramatic days of 1967. In 1967, as in 2014, the wonderful spirit of unity arose from war and tragedy. It is possible to achieve this magic. After you experience such a miracle, something awesome happens - you lose the ability to be a cynic."

"One hundred thousand people participated in the funeral for the three boys and millions more hearts were with us in spirit. Having experienced such an event, I know that someone who has felt the genuine embrace that the Jewish people is capable of giving, will no longer be cynical. The Talmud teaches us that if we are able to share the pain of the other, in the future we will merit sharing joyous moments and the Redemption. This is the whole story in a nutshell – sharing the sorrow, caring about others, and trying to integrate this connection into our everyday lives."

"The Israel National Trail is a hiking path that traverses the entire country from North to South. Our family is registered in the database of the 'Trail Angels', volunteers who live along the trail and open up their homes to hikers who wish to eat, rest and wash up before continuing. A young man called Yaakov once entered our home, having hiked a 30-km trek that day.

After showering, eating and resting he told us a bit about himself. He was a lone soldier from Cleveland and had no idea who we were when he stopped off in our home. In response to our questions, he told us that he had fought in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge and in Hevron during Operation Bring Back our Sons, looking for the three missing teenagers.

Suddenly it hit him who we are and he was extremely moved. "I want you to know," he told us, "that when I was looking for your son, I honestly felt as if I was searching for my own brother." I assured him that "it's obvious, Yaakov, that you would feel that way because he really is your brother."

"You will forgive me for being so overwhelmed by seeing all of you here in Israel, and forgive me for using the clichés about unity, but I experienced it first-hand. The connection between all of us is a genuine one and we can make it happen."

This article was pubished in "Yedioth Aharonot." Sivan Rahav Meir is a broadcaster on Israel's Channel 2 news station.








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