Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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Monday, May 11, 2009


Up to Jerusalem - “L’shana ha’ba-ah b’Yerushalayim[1]

“Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:3

Driving East we passed old olive trees and new cotton fields, climbing 1400 feet into the Judean Hills, from the “new” city of Tel Aviv, backward in time thousands of years to Jerusalem. Ascending the road marched by Maccabees, Romans, Crusaders, Arabs and British, we passed Latrun fortress and the damaged hulks of “armored” vehicles (seen here) destroyed during the ’48 War of Israeli Independence, now sporting a new coat of paint and arranged in a monument to those brave Israeli's who fought and perished trying to save the Jews trapped in the Old City. Inspiration to face overwhelming odds and never give up, when it means preserving life and freedoms.

This road was critical to the survival of the new Jewish nation and the scene of intense fighting as Arab armies fired down from both sides of the high hills flanking the roadway. After the Arabs successfully closed this vital link to the Jews besieged in Jerusalem, the Israeli’s under the command of American Micky Marcus [3] (pictured here) built the famous “Burma Road” at night, around the blockade, bringing relief to Jerusalem on June 9th - just days before the UN negotiated cease-fire. But for the convoys making it through, the Jews remaining in Jerusalem would have starved or surrendered.

“New” Jerusalem

As we reach the zenith of our climb up to Jerusalem, the ancient terraced Judean hills are replaced by bastions of Jewish housing in cream and rose “Jerusalem Stone.” During the miraculous Six Day War, Israel not only held the Lebanese on the Northern Border, but liberated the Old City, pushed the Jordanian armies back to the Eastern bank of the River Jordan, the Syrian Army off the Golan Heights above the Sea of Galilee, the Egyptians over the Suez Canal, and, thereby creating the “Occupied Territories” of the West Bank, Golan Heights and Sinai. So as to firmly establish its historical and future claim to the Holy City of Jerusalem, Israel “reunified” or annexed vast tracts of land surrounding the city, thereby creating a modern or “new” Jerusalem totaling 123,000 dunams (approximately 31,000 acres.) In the nearly forty years since, Jews have made aliya from around the world building fortress-like homes, apartments, condos and office buildings on the crowns of all the surrounding hills, wrapping a security belt, or stitching a “seam,” around the new city. Today, this new, impregnable Jerusalem is the largest city in both geography and population with 730,000 inhabitants (10% of total population.)

The governor doesn't arrive until tomorrow and so we spent our afternoon walking along the parapets of the Old City of Jerusalem and then down to the Western Wall as the sun was setting. Depicted below are some of the photos I took of the Old City of Jerusalem today. In the evening we went to the best falafel shop in all of Jerusalem "Doron's" and enjoyed he wonder flavors of deep-fried mixture of chopped-up chick-peas, salad and dressing stuffed in pita bread. All is well with the world and we look forward to a very busy second day.
[1] “Next year in Jerusalem”
[2] Joshua 10: 12-14.
[3] In one of the great stories that cemented the American-Israeli partnership, West Point graduate and WWII veteran Michael Stone moved to Israel to offer his services, changed his name to Mickey Marcus. Recognizing his talent and leadership, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion appointed him to be the first “Israeli General” since Judas Macabee fifteen centuries earlier.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

DAY ONE (5/10/09) - “MiToch Bitachon B'Tzur Yisrael”[1]


Ten hours after leaving the United States, we landed at Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and, as always, the plane eruped in spontaneous applause. I immediately felt the same spiritual peace that I have felt on previous trips, but this time my heart and mind are troubled by the recent fighting in Gaza and the 2006 War in Lebanon. William Kristol wrote in the New York Times:

“Even though the security of Israel is very much at risk, the good news is that, unlike in the 1930s, the Jews are able to defend themselves, and the United States is willing to fight for freedom. Americans grasp that Israel’s very existence to some degree embodies the defeat and repudiation of the genocidal totalitarianism of the 20th century. They understand that its defense today is the front line of resistance to the jihadist terror, and the suicidal nihilism, that threaten to deform the 21st.”

This is my fifth trip to the Holy Land – the one place outside of the United States I most feel at home. Although I am not Jewish, Israel is nonetheless the birthplace of my Savior, who was. I can relate to my Jewish cousins, past and present, who long for the land of their inheritance. Away from Israel, the words of a Twelfth Century Spanish Jew beckon:

My Heart Is In the East, By Yehuda Halevi (c. 1141)
My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west--
How can I find savour in food? How shall it be sweet to me?
How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet
Zion lieth beneath the fetter of Edom, and I in Arab chains?
A light thing would it seem to me to leave all the good things of Spain --
Seeing how precious in mine eyes to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.

This return marks thirty years after my original pilgrimage and six-month long Christian “coming of age.” The sanctuary is desolate no longer but has blossomed as the rose (physically, culturally and democratically,) and we are here to learn, and learn we must, for the words of Eric Hoffer forty years ago seem even more true today: “I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel, so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us.”

[1]The 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence ends with this phrase that has a double meaning: "With faith in the God of Israel," or alternatively "From the strength of Israel."

Saturday, May 9, 2009



5/9/09 - I'm sitting in Kennedy Airport in NYC awaiting my flight to Israel. In 2004, as founder and chairman of the Utah Chapter of the America Israel Friendship Leauge, I invited the then Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon to Utah. While here, he invited Governor Huntsman to lead a Trade Mission to Israel it begins today. This will be the first of a daily post from the Holy Land. Since we won't arrive in Tel Aviv until Sunday afternoon, for my first post, I copying my journal entry from my last trip to Israel as part of a fact finding mission at the completion of the war in Lebanon. Two days ago I sent out a tweet that nine attorneys general and I had sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning Hamas for committing "war crimes" with bomb attacks on civilian targets in southern Israel, and defending Israel's right to defend itself. Read about our letter at: http://jta.org/news/article/2009/05/06/1004954/10-attorneys-general-defend-israel.

Sadly not much has changed since my last trip, and therefore, I think my2006 post is a fitting prologue to this trip. It begins on September 11, 2006:

Five years ago today terrorists attacked America and awoke a sleeping giant to the reality that radical Islamic Jihadists had declared war on all infidels. It is a war that began when the British pulled out of Palestine, and expolded on May 14, 1948, the day that David Ben-Gurion declared the birth of a democratic nation in the Middle East. Millions of Arabs massed to “push the Jews into the sea and soak the land with their blood.” Israelis have not known peace from that day on. Terror has filled their days and fear their nights. In the spirit of Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous quote “that which does not kill us makes us stronger,” Israelis pulled together with nationalistic pride, solidarity and faith and did not just survive – but prospered.

Eleven minutes after the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel at 6 o'clock PM (Washington D.C. time) the
USA became the first country to formally recognize the State of Israel. But that wasn’t the beginning of our alliance. From the moment that first GI Joe cut the locks and opened the gates to the liberation of the survivors of the Holocaust, Americans and the Children of Israel have been locked together as “Partners in Democracy.”[1] In the sixty years since that moment, our alliance has been tested, the bonds have been stretched and our friendship often challenged. But because of our common commitment to freedom and peace, democracy is alive and well and forevermore firmly rooted in the State of Israel.

Today I sat in the Newark, N.J. “Liberty” Airport waiting for my El Al flight. Looking out the window across the Hudson river I had a clear view of the New York City skyline. There was the Empire State Building. It is the most famous and recognizable skyline in the world. But five years ago it changed forever, and is now not so easily identifiable. So how have Americans responded to our “involuntary enlistment” into the War on Terror? Before 9/11 we had grown lazy, selfish and complacent. We did not appreciate our freedom, prosperity and safety. All that changed with the flames and smoke and screams of that awful morning. American naivetĂ© was swallowed up in the choking avalanche of dust that down the canyons of Manhattan that fateful morning. But what emerged from the settling dust was the natal heartbeat of America. Patriotism, community and service were reborn and ALL Americans wept, then prayed, then cheered, when President Bush, standing atop the twisted metal consecrated by its fusion with the sacrifice of so many innocents, boldly and spontaneously proclaimed to our collective soul: “I hear you, and the world hears you. And the people who knocked down those buildings are going to hear from all of us soon!"

A scant five years later and despite decisive victories that have kept the terrorists occupied “over there” so they can’t hurt us “over here,” our country is torn nearly in half. It is being ripped apart, not by Jidhadists bent on our destruction, but by Americans split on party and ideological lines with a hatred and viciousness previously reserved only for our deadliest enemies.

As the blue Star of David of the Israeli flag on the wing of our jet passed that diminished New York skyline I asked myself: “What am I looking for in Israel? What is there to learn? How can what I’m about to experience over the next week benefit those I serve?”

I hoped to find the answer in the mission. I’m looking to one of our strongest allies; an oasis of democracy and freedom in a desert of despotism and repression; a light on a hill that cannot be hid; an example of solidarity and national resolve to win a war on terror for nearly sixty years. I believe there is much we can learn from them. As the massive tires of the 747 left the soil of America and I watched the Big Apple grow small and disappear, I couldn’t help but wonder, “what becomes of us if Israel fails her latest test?”

[1] "America is now at Israel’s cradle – virtually as its mother. As such it has a high responsibility… there is much nursing and nurturing to be done to make the new nation live and grow to fulfill the two-thousands year old dream, hope and prayer of the Children of Israel." -Letter to President Harry S. Truman from Rabbi Samuel Thurman of the United Hebrew Congregation, May 17, 1948.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Throughout the United States today, Americans of all races and origins will celebrate Cinco de Mayo. In recent years with the immigration debate, some have criticized the celebration in the U.S. of a "Mexican holiday." Perhaps a brief tutorial will show why we here in the United States should be grateful for the brave Mexicans who, on Cinco de Mayo ("Fifth of May") in 1862, stood against a vastly superior French army and help preserve our own Union!

In 1861, in response to Mexico's refusal to pay off debts, Britain, Spain and France sent troops to Mexico. The new democratically-elected government of President Benito Juarez made agreements with the British and the Spanish, who promptly recalled their armies. But the French refused to negotiate. French Emperor Napoleon III had a much larger goal in mind: Conquer Mexico and install his cousin, Archduke Maximillian of Austria as ruler of Mexico; and then assist their allies, the Confederate States of America, in their war against the North. The French were unable to supply the South with desperately needed arms and supplies because of the Union's naval blockade of Southern ports. Once they ruled, Mexico however, Napoleon III planned to supply and support President Jefferson Davis through the confederate state of Texas.

In 1862, confident of a quick victory, 6,500 French soldiers marched on to Mexico City to seize the capital before the Mexicans could muster a viable defense. Along their march, the French already encountered stiff resistance before General Ignacio Zaragoza struck out to intercept the invaders. The battle between the French and Mexican armies occurred on May 5 at the town of Puebla when Zaragoza's ill-equipped and under-trained militia of 4,500 men, mostly farmers, encountered a well armed French force that hadn't lost a battle in fifty years. However, Zaragoza's small and nimble cavalry units were able to prevent French dragoons from taking the field and overwhelming the Mexican infantry. With the dragoons removed from the main attack, the Mexicans routed the remaining French soldiers with a combination of their tenacity, inhospitable terrain, and a stampede of cattle set off by local peasants. The invasion was stopped and crushed!

Zaragoza won the battle but lost the war. The French Emperor, upon learning of the failed invasion, immediately dispatched another force, this time numbering 30,000 soldiers. By 1864, they succeeded in defeating the Mexican army and occupying Mexico City. Archduke Maximillian became Emperor of Mexico. Fortunately for the United Sates of America, it was now too late to help the South turn the tide back in their favor and our Union was restored!

Fortunately Maximilian's rule was short-lived. Mexican rebels opposed to his rule resisted, seeking the aid of the United States. With the Civil War over, the unified and strengthened U.S. military returned the favor and began supplying Mexicans with weapons and ammunition, and by 1867, the Mexican freedom fighters finally defeated the French and deposed their puppet Emperor. The Mexican people then reelected Benito Juárez as president.

So eat your favorite Mexican food today, strike a Pinata, listen to a Mariachi Band, and send a big "Muchisimas Gracias" to our amigos to the South and best wishes for a Muy Feliz Cinco de Mayo!