By Larry Gordon
It was a long-anticipated day filled with expectations, enthusiasm, shock, and sadness.
That’s the unusual and very special thing about Israel. It’s always exciting and challenging, but also rewarding. So even though we have made these trips several times a year, there is never a dull moment here. Call it crazy or call it magical; that’s just what it is.
The morning of our departure, we heard the news of the untimely passing of Rebbetzin Rochel Flaum, a’h. Her husband, our dear friend Rabbi Tzvi Flaum, is a popular and scholarly rabbinical figure of international renown, a great fount of Torah knowledge with a special expertise in nuances of halachah and medicine. The levayah, which took place at Congregation Shaaray Tefila in Lawrence, was moving and heartrending. When I saw the e‑mail that the burial would be in EretzYisrael, I immediately suspected that we would be on the same plane Monday evening.
It was just two hours later, as we were checking in our bags at the El Al counter at JFK, that I saw the rabbi enter the terminal with two of his sons. We know each other well from shul and we even share a set of mechutanim, but still there is little if anything to say at a time like this. A family is going to EretzYisrael to bury their loved one; words are inadequate. But we stood near one another and the rabbi took my hand and held it. I looked into his eyes and could vividly see the pain. The boys—they are young men—had tears in their eyes. The lapels on their suit jackets were torn as a sign of mourning.
It’s a living nightmare; Hashem gives and he also takes, said the rabbi in Hebrew. As we stood there trying to say little, I had to tell the boys that I was in their position, of having just lost a parent, 25 years ago. I know it’s difficult and even seems impossible, but look at me, I said, somehow I’m still standing here. Perhaps that gave them just a little strength to carry on. I hope so.
I’ve written many times in prior columns that I am hard-pressed to remember a time flying into Tel Aviv that this larger-than-life but also tiny country was not in the throes of one kind of crisis or another. And that is true today, perhaps in a fashion that transcends many similar occasions in years previous. For one, there is an election campaign going on here with the anticipated outcome very much up in the air.
On top of that, the Palestinian Authority has had a resolution introduced at the United Nations Security Council for the UN to formally recognize the state of Palestine. It’s an old devious tactic with a new twist. On Tuesday this week, the measure came up for a vote but it was defeated, with the U.S. and Australia voting against it. [See Page 88.]
On the election front, formerly somewhat established political parties are being dissected and pulled in a multiplicity of directions. At a time like this, Israel needs national unity more than anything else. What it has at this point in time is exactly the opposite.
And then there are the internal Likud elections with MK Danny Danon challenging Prime Minister Netanyahu for leadership of the party. That election will be decided just about the same time that this issue of the 5TJT hits the street. Regardless of the outcome and what the future government will look like, few disagree that the best person to lead the country now is Mr. Netanyahu. The interesting thing about the political polls here is that they fluctuate almost every day. The big winner at this point will most likely be Naftali Bennett of Bayit HaYehudi, which, the polls say with some consistency, can garner up to 18 Knesset seats, making it the third-largest party behind Likud and Labor.
Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and his new ally Tzipi Livni want us to think that they have a magic formula that will somehow bring peace between Israel and the not-peaceful Palestinians. They don’t. So long as they will not divide Jerusalem and will not withdraw a half-million residents from communities in Judea and Samaria, there will be no deal. Herzog and Livni would like to fool us into believing that they figured out a new way to deceive the Palestinians. They haven’t.
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We have a few things planned over the next few days, including a visit to Hebron, where Danny Rosenstein says he is going to show us a part of the city we’ve never seen before. Also, I arrived in Israel armed with a series of questions supplied by Rabbi Yair Hoffman to pose to Rav Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, including seeking Rav Kanievsky’s thoughts on the orange-juice controversy. And yes, we are going apartment hunting in Jerusalem with Shia Getter. Frankly, I don’t know if and when we are going to buy a piece of the rock here, but I promised Shia that I would chronicle the experience in these pages, so that’s what I’m going to do. Stay tuned.
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I’ll never forget that Chanukah morning 25 years ago when I escorted my father to EretzYisrael for interment in Bet Shemesh. The preceding day and night felt endless. We were tzubrochen (broken). But then, just like today, I saw the Tel Aviv shoreline in the distance and that conjured up an innate, though contradictory, sense of euphoria. We were broken, sad, alive, and coming home. I believed at the time that this was my father’s plan. I still believe that.
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On Tuesday night, we went to be menachemavel the Flaum family at their son’s home in Ramat Eshkol in Jerusalem. They were sitting shivah here for a few hours before returning to New York. At the shivah house, I learned that another friend had lost his mother and was headed to Israel for the last leg of the levayah.
Another friend texted me earlier in the day that he was leaving for Israel on Wednesday. His daughter had a baby boy and the b’ris will be on Friday morning in Beitar Illit.
Not all is lost. There is still great hope. Oif simchas.
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