It’s the eve of Shabbat Hagadol (lit: The Great Shabbat), the last Shabbat before Pesach, so it is fitting that we expect great news to suit the special day. Indeed there is plenty of good news to fill up this week’s Good News Friday post.
Let’s start with yet more news from over the ocean. Last week I reported on the appointment by President Donald Trump of Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, a move very much welcomed by Israel due to Pompeo’s strong support of Israel.
This week we were delighted to learn of the appointment of our old friend John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN, as the new National Security Advisor in place of H.R. McMaster:
Trump has repeatedly clashed with McMaster, a respected three-star general, and talk that McMaster would soon leave the administration had picked up in recent weeks.
Trump tweeted that McMaster has done “an outstanding job & will always remain my friend.” He said Bolton will take over April 9.
Bolton, a Fox News commentator and former diplomat known for his blunt style, was a vocal advocate of the Iraq war, and has also advocated preemptive strikes against North Korea and war with Iran. He served as ambassador to the UN under George W. Bush from 2005 to 2006.
Caroline Glick wrote in a Facebook post already back in August of last year that McMaster was not very pro-Israel:
The Israel angle on McMaster’s purge of Trump loyalists from the National Security Council is that all of these people are pro-Israel and oppose the Iran nuclear deal, positions that Trump holds.
McMaster in contrast is deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump. According to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews.
Many of you will remember that a few days before Trump’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו and his advisers were blindsided when the Americans suddenly told them that no Israeli official was allowed to accompany Trump to the Western Wall.
What hasn’t been reported is that it was McMaster who pressured Trump to agree not to let Netanyahu accompany him to the Western Wall. At the time, I and other reporters were led to believe that this was the decision of rogue anti-Israel officers at the US consulate in Jerusalem. But it wasn’t. It was McMaster.
And even that, it works out wasn’t sufficient for McMaster. He pressured Trump to cancel his visit to the Wall and only visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial — ala the Islamists who insist that the only reason Israel exists is European guilt over the Holocaust.
In May, Adam Lovinger, a pro-Trump national security strategist on loan from the Pentagon’s office of net assessment was summarily informed that his security clearance was revoked. He was fired and escorted from the White House like a spy and put on file duty at the Pentagon.
Lovinger is a seasoned strategic analyst who McMaster hated because he supported India over Pakistan, among other things.
Lovinger has not been told the grounds for his sudden loss of clearance but Mike Cernovich reported that the grounds were that he traveled to Israel for a family bar mitzvah. In other words, there were no grounds for dismissal. His boss at the Pentagon — unbelievably named James Baker, is an Obama hire who hates Trump and supports Obama’s agenda.
As for Iran, well, suffice it to say that McMaster supports the deal and refuses to publish the side deals Obama signed with the Iranians and then hid from the public.
In contrast John Bolton has been an extremely staunch friend and supporter of Israel so this is very welcome news for us. Good for President Trump for this very wise appointment, which together with Mike Pompeo’s appointment will be sure to stand strong against Iran.
Since Pesach is the festival of freedom, the following item is particularly apt for this time of the year.
Last week I wrote about Miriam Peretz, the wonderful educator and inspirational speaker, who will be receiving the Israel Prize for her work in strengthening the Jewish spirit. This week, another recipient was announced – Natan Sharansky, the outgoing head of the Jewish Agency, is also to receive the Israel Prize on Israel’s 70th Independence Day for his work in promoting Aliya and his human rights activism:
Ex-cabinet minister, human rights activist, author and outgoing Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky won the 2018 Israel Prize for his lifetime achievement and exceptional contribution to the State of Israel in the field of Aliyah and ingathering of the exiles, it was announced Sunday by Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
Bennett congratulated the former refusnik (a term used for people who were refused permission to emigrate to Israel from the Soviet Union), saying he “symbolizes the fulfillment of the Zionist dream, from the darkness of a Soviet prison to the light of freedom as the leader of the Jewish Agency.”
In a statement issued following the announcement, Sharansky called the award “a great honor and a great responsibility.”
“When it comes to kibbutz galuyot, ingathering the exiles, this prize also goes to (my wife) Avital and to all the Aliyah activists and Prisoners of Zion in the Soviet Union who fought valiantly for the right to immigrate to Israel. It also goes to the entire Jewish people, which supported the refuseniks’ struggle for freedom,” he wrote.
From the gulag to the Knesset
Born in 1948 in the former Soviet Union as Anatoly Borisovich Shcharansky, Sharansky was denied permission to immigrate to Israel by the government in 1973 for alleged information he was given which was vital to Soviet national security.
He then became a human rights activist, working as a spokesperson for the Moscow Helsinki Group, one of Russia’s leading human rights organizations, and a leader for the rights of refuseniks.
In 1977, Sharansky was arrested on multiple fabricated charges including high treason for spying for the Americans and sentenced the following year to 13 years of forced labor.
When given his sentencing, Sharansky famously stated that “to the court I have nothing to say—to my wife and the Jewish people I say ‘Next Year in Jerusalem.'”
He spent nine years in a Siberian prison. Half of that was spent in solitary confinement, where his health deteriorated to the point of endangering his life. Sharansky, a chess prodigy, later said that he managed to keep himself sane by playing chess with himself, in his head.
After nine years in prison, thanks to considerable international pressure and a campaign led by his wife, Avital Sharansky, Mr. Sharansky was released on February 11, 1986. That same day, he immigrated to Israel and arrived in Jerusalem, where he continued to fight for the rights of refuseniks.
I will never forget the day Sharansky was released from prison and made his way to Israel. I made my kids watch the news, telling them that this was history being made! Once settled in Israel Sharansky entered Israeli politics, serving as a minister in various governments, and finally being appointed Chairman of the Jewish Agency.
His life experiences and his work for human rights have been outstanding. This award is extremely well deserved and timely!
Here is Education Minister Naftali Bennett talking about Natan Sharansky:
Kol hakavod to Natan Sharansky and to the Israel Prize committee for the nomination. This is a hero we can all be proud of.
Watch this inspiring video where Natan Sharansky talks about his life, his ambitions and his hopes:
Shabbat Hagadol, the “Great Shabbat” is called thus because the closing words of the Haftara (the portion from Nevi’im, the Prophets) from Malachi 3:4-24, which we read in shul tomorrow talk about G-d’s promise to redeem Israel and to bless them. The last verses contain G-d’s promise to send Elijah the Prophet before the “Great and Awful Day”.
May these words signify that G-d’s promise of our redemption will be fulfilled speedily, especially in these trying times.
May the coming week be one of joy despite all the Pesach cleaning still facing us.
Shabbat Shalom everyone!