Ariel Sharon's 'Final Will' to Rabbi Lau

"If youth know that 'Ma'ariv' is a daily but not that it is the name of a prayer Jews have been saying for millennia - we have a problem."

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Sivan Rahav Meir,

Sivan Rahav meir
Sivan Rahav meir
צילום: עצמי

1.

The victims were friends of friends, so many friends. I did not know all the fatalities personally, but I heard stories about their lives and saw how their deaths affected our joint friends and plunged them into mourning. First was the road accident in which three members of a family from Kfar Adumim were killed – a father, his son and daughter.

Then there was the terrorist attack in the Salomon family home in Neve Tzuf in which the head of the family and two of his children were murdered. Then a famous singer and also a recipient of the Israel Defense Prize drowned while trying to save relatives swimming at the seaside. Then the body of the 18-year old boy from Jerusalem who fell into a river during a trip to Georgia was found.

And then, members of Kibbutz Lehavot Haviva were all of a sudden talking about a young mother and her infant daughter who just stopped at the side of the highway and were killed by a passing car. In all kinds of places around the country people are now trying to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Our Rabbis teach us that as the month of Av begins, we must reduce our joy and this year it is particularly easy to do so. The month of Av began last week, and this Tuesday we will commemorate Tisha B'Av, a period known for the tragedies that occurred throughout the generations. Once again, this year we were reminded that the world is not yet perfect, that there is still a need for trying to correct our lives and our surroundings.

There is indeed much that needs to be done in the important fights against terror, traffic accidents, and drowning. This week we can also talk about the fragility of our existence, the ephemerality of our lives and of how precious and holy each and every moment is.

In these days of Av, our task is to increase our ahavat chinam, to love others freely without passing judgment. This sequence of events helps us take stock of our lives. These sudden tragedies should show us just how preferable it is to forgive, to see the positive in everyone and everything, to give way on the road, and to give way and yield in general. There is no time for other nonsense because we have no idea what will happen one minute from now.

2.

When a haredi person spits or shouts out, it becomes headline news. When a haredi sets up a high-tech venture capital fund worth millions, he has to beg for an interview on a regional radio station or on a TV breakfast show – and is unsuccessful. The managers of the "Kamatech" launched their latest project this week and wrote to tell me about it.

"We thank God for reaching this milestone of launching the venture capital fund for haredi start-ups. The glittering event was attended by fifty of the most prominent Israeli high-tech entrepreneurs, each of whom had invested tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money in the fund. The list of attendees included the CEO's of Israel's leading companies: Yossi Mattias (Google Israel), Adi Soffer Teeni (Facebook Israel), Noam Bardin (Waze), Yoram Yakobi (Microsoft Israel) and the largest VC investors in Israel - Chemi Peres and Dov Moran as well as other international investors.

Amnon Shashua and Yossi Vardi have been on board with us, giving their advice since we started. The event took place on the rooftop of Microscoft's Herzliya headquarters. The participants were given name tags bearing the Microsoft logo but everyone, even the competitors who had contributed to the fund, wore them and a rare sense of unity was felt. In the Israeli haredi high-tech scene there are more than one thousand startups and the fund's first investment was in Yisrael Gurt, a young haredi belonging to the Ger Hasidic sect. Google ranked him #22 in the Hacker Hall of Fame, a positive accolade as he identifies and prevents security breaches. Adi Soffer Teeni has invested his own money in Gurt's cyber company. During a dvar Torah on a religious topic, someone jokingly shouted out about (a topic causing much media noise in Israel, ed.)"religionization".Chemi Peres retorted that at this event there is no religionization, only capitalization.

The fund has raised $2.5 million so far and plans to raise far more. The atmosphere at the event was very special, above and beyond the business aspect. These people are not basing their investments on philanthropic reasons but, thank God, because of the tremendous financial opportunities the fund has opened up for them. As a byproduct, we hope that people will become closer to the haredi world. With all the talk of high-tech and technology, we considered it important to give a souvenir gift of a Book of Tehilim, the Psalms to take home."

3.

The storm around the "religionization" in state secular schools has subsided somewhat, due to the terrorist attack on the Temple Mount, the metal detectors, the terrorist attack in Neve Tzuf and the events in Jordan, but it will undoubtedly return to the headlines sometime soon. Dare we even hope and pray that the issue will return, because it will be an indication that things have quietened down on the security front?

I recently came across proof that Ariel Sharon z"l was also concerned about this issue. However, whereas the media now thinks that there is too much religious content in secular schools, Sharon felt that there wasn't enough. In the introduction to his book about the basics of Judaism, "Practical Judaism" former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau writes that the deceased Prime Minister left him a spiritual final will.

"Two days before Prime Minister Sharon collapsed, he called me on Friday afternoon, about an hour before Shabbat. He said: I will be undergoing a coronary procedure next week and will be in hospital for one day. As soon as I return to work, I will contact you to fix a meeting on a painful subject that troubles me deeply. In addition to our security and economic problems, we also have two fundamental issues that need to be addressed – the rift between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewry, and the disconnect between our youth and their Jewish heritage. If most youngsters know that "Ma'ariv" is a daily newspaper but aren't aware that it is the name of the Jewish prayers that Jews have been saying every evening for thousands of years then we have a problem.

"The phone call to set up that meeting to discuss these issues never came. We ended the conversation, I wished him Shabbat Shalom and a speedy recovery. Neither of us knew that this would be our final conversation."

Rabbi Lau concludes the introduction to his book: "To this very day I am amazed by the vision of this outstanding military leader. He was not only concerned with the Iran, Syria, the Palestinians, terror organizations, the social gaps and other internal issues, but also saw the importance of strengthening the connection with Diaspora Jewry and of setting up a bridge to connect Israeli youth to their heritage."