“Memo to U.S. Jews: Defend Israel, Support the Iran Deal” by Carlo Strenger, Haaretz, August 26


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I am tired of the sound-bite ads supporting and opposing the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the political hype and the slanderous accusations (mostly but not exclusively coming from the right-wing) against good and honest people who care deeply about both America’s and Israel’s security and well-being.

I am not a scientist, nuclear physicist or a security expert. Israel and the United States have plenty of both and it is these people who I listen to when assessing the strengths and weaknesses of this P5 +1 negotiated Iran Nuclear Agreement.

Israel’s former security chiefs who are no longer bound to silence, as opposed to Israel’s current security chiefs who are (though have talked off the record in support of the agreement), and a number of Israeli and American nuclear scientists support this agreement. That is why I do as well, despite its flaws.

Here is the complete Haaretz op-ed by Carlo Stenger (if you have not called your congressional representative to voice your support for the agreement, now is the time to do so):

Dealing with Tehran is not a matter of ideology but rather carefully balanced probabilities. Israel’s current and former security chiefs know this.

Jewish Americans are going through a harrowing dilemma. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been calling the nuclear deal with Iran a mistake of historical proportions. He has made opposing it the shibboleth of whether you are a good Jew and a true friend of Israel, or whether you let Barack Obama throw Israel under the bus. So Netanyahu keeps repeating it: By cranking up sanctions even more, a better deal with Iran can be reached, but Obama and the P5+1 group have been weak and defeatist.

Netanyahu’s tactic has created enormous problems. He has dealt further blows to Israel’s relations with the United States, created deep rifts in the U.S. Jewish community, and worst of all, he has turned the discussion into whether you are for Israel or against it. He has turned it into good versus evil: Care about the Jewish people or be willing to let them perish in the next Holocaust.

The shrillness of the debate has made many forget that dealing with Iran is not a matter of ideology but rather carefully balanced probabilities. Get the best deal under the given circumstances, and the best deal isn’t a matter of rhetoric but careful calculation.

This is my call to U.S. Jewry. Turning the Iran deal into a partisan issue is about as wrongheaded as checking your doctor’s political convictions rather than credentials and experience. This is why it’s best to listen to top Israeli security officials, who have both the professional competence and dedication to care about what serves Israel best.

U.S. Jews might therefore wonder: Why are there no prominent Israeli voices supporting the Iran deal? Well, the noise has drowned out the fact that a phalanx of security chiefs has publicly supported the deal.

I’ll mention just a few. There’s former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who heads a leading Israeli defense think tank — and who was one of the pilots who destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981. There’s Isaac Ben-Israel, a former weapons developments chief and current chairman of Israel’s space program. And there’s Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s naval commandos and the Shin Bet security service, and Efraim Halevy, a former Mossad chief.

These men have spent most of their lives defending Israel; they are more competent than any politician to assess the security implications not only of the Iran deal but of the dire consequences of reneging on it.

Furthermore, as esteemed military analyst Amir Oren has reported in Haaretz, the majority of Israel’s serving military leaders disagree with Netanyahu’s position on the Iran deal. But as befits a democracy, officers in active service don’t take public positions. Senior security officials have expressed the same position to me on condition of anonymity.

The consensus on the Iran deal among security experts is very wide-ranging, and not only in Israel. I have just spent a number of days at the World Federation of Scientists’ annual meeting on planetary emergencies in Erice, Sicily, a group that I have been part of for 11 years. The Iran deal was discussed in depth, but not in the shrill tones of politicians trying to show how tough they are on Tehran. I heard experts who know the details of the deal to the last dot and have the intellectual tools to assess its viability.

Most prominent among them is Prof. Richard Garwin, one of the world’s leading nuclear scientists who with Edward Teller designed the first hydrogen bomb. Garwin, who has been an adviser to eight U.S. presidents on nuclear strategy, gave a presentation on the deal and came to a very clear conclusion: Under the current circumstances, this is as good a deal as we will get.

Let there be no mistake: Garwin has been dealing with situations in which humankind’s survival has been at stake; he by no means trusts the Iranian regime not to try to cheat. He gave very precise assessments on how the monitoring regime and the West’s technological means make it virtually impossible for Iran to surprise the West in the coming decade.

He has given me express permission to quote his speech, and I hope we will soon be able to upload it in its entirety. Let me add that Garwin is by no means a lone voice in this assessment but has been a leader of more than 70 nonproliferation experts who have endorsed the deal.

I have deep empathy for the plight of the U.S. Jewish community, which wants to stand by Israel in these difficult circumstances. Doing so means making up your own mind and not letting Netanyahu define for you what it means to be pro-Israel.

You should not forget that Israel’s security experts have no less an investment in Israel’s safety than Netanyahu, and that their expertise on the matter is superior to his. They have no political axes to grind but simply continue their work of keeping Israel secure. If all of them think the Iran deal is good for Israel, you can safely assume that it is and support it.




Leonard Nimoy – “You and I” – A Poem for Elul and All Times



It’s been six months since we lost Leonard, and his family misses him dearly, his gentleness and intelligence, his profound interest and concern about the world, his very large heart, curiosity, and penetrating mind, his simple loving presence.

This poem of Leonard’s below came to me from a friend (I am reprinting it here by permission of the Nimoy family). I had not seen it before which points to one of Leonard’s virtues – his modesty and humility. Though he knew what were his strengths and gifts, he didn’t talk about himself that way. He spoke rather about ideas, the creative process, the arts, world events, politics, and his family.

Leonard’s poem is part of a longer work that he published in 1973 that included a blend of poetry with black and white photography.

Given the poem’s theme, it is particularly appropriate for us to read now, during this season of Elul, the Hebrew month preceding the High Holidays. I post it still with a particularly heavy heart.

Zecher tzaddik livracha –
May the memory of this honest, loving and righteous man be a blessing.

I am not immortal.
Whatever I put off for later
May never be.
Whoever doesn’t know now
That I love them
May never know.
I have killed time.
I have squandered it.
I have lost days…weeks…
As a man of unlimited wealth
Might drop coins on the street
And never look back.
I know now, that there will be an end,
A limit.
But there is time
Valuable and precious time
To walk,
Time to touch,
To warm the child
Who is cold and lonely.
There is time to love
I promise myself…
I will.
I am
I am ready
I am ready to give
I am ready to give and to receive
I am ready to give and to receive love

“Israel and the ‘A’ Word”


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Bradley Burston is a senior editor of the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz in which he writes a regular column he calls “A Special Place in Hell.”

I have known Brad for 45 years. We were part of a Zionist student group at UC Berkeley, and we recently reconnected at a J Street national conference in Washington, D.C. that he was covering for Haaretz. He was a mensch when I knew him, and he still is.

Last week Brad wrote a column he titled “It’s Time to Admit It. Israeli Policy Is What It Is: Apartheid,” and he began this way:

“What I’m about to write will not come easily for me.

I used to be one of those people who took issue with the label of apartheid as applied to Israel. I was one of those people who could be counted on to argue that, while the country’s settlement and occupation policies were anti-democratic and brutal and slow-dose suicidal, the word apartheid did not apply.

I’m not one of those people any more.  Not after the last few weeks….”

Brad then detailed the un-democratic and harsh Israeli Military Authority policies in the West Bank, the violent turn the settler movement has taken against Palestinians, and the current Israeli government response. He wrote his article in the wake of the recent bombing by Jewish terrorist settlers (allegedly) of a Palestinian home resulting in the murder of an 18-month old toddler, her father and serious burns suffered by other family members.

I believe the point of Brad’s article is that Israelis are ignoring the inhumane West Bank policies of its government. He wanted to shock people into paying attention.

I cringed. I don’t believe Israel’s West Bank military policy is Apartheid (see below). I’m concerned that the “A” word could serve as a pretext for right-wing Israelis and American Jews to discredit criticism of Israeli policies. I’m worried further still that Brad’s article could become fodder for the guns of the pro-BDS anti-Israel activists in America and around the world who would then claim: “You see – even Israeli journalists believe that Israel is an Apartheid State!”

I emailed the host of TLV1’s “The Promised” podcast, Noah Efron. This weekly hour-long program is among the most thoughtful conversations by Israelis in the English language on Israeli politics, culture and the Jewish world.

Noah Efron is a smart, funny and passionate Israeli, originally from the states, whose day job is being a scientist and Professor at Israel’s Bar Ilan University. His two fellow commentators  originally hail from the US as well and include Don Futterman, the Director of the Moriah Foundation and a writer for Haaretz, and Allison Kaplan Sommer, a journalist who is published in all the world’s leading English language newspapers and periodicals. Listening to these three think out-loud is a weekly pleasure that I eagerly anticipate.

I asked Noah to consider doing a segment on the theme of Brad’s article – Is Israel an Apartheid State? He wrote back within hours to tell me he would. The program was aired this week and was titled “Israel and the ‘A’ Word.” It is a must-listen – 15 minutes only. You can find it  here – http://tlv1.fm/the-promised-podcast/2015/08/20/israel-and-the-a-word/

This segment was exactly what I was looking for – a thoughtful critique of both Israel’s West Bank occupation and whether it is or isn’t Apartheid. All three commentators said it is NOT, but that Israel is on the road to Apartheid.

In my initial email to Noah, I shared with him part of an article I wrote several years ago on the delegitimzation of Israel that appeared in the Journal for Reform Judaism. Here is what I sent him:

In “An open letter to Archbishop Desmond Tutu” by Warren Goldstein, chief rabbi of South Africa, published in the International Jerusalem Post (November 12-18, 2010), Rabbi Goldstein writes, “…Israel has no Population Registration Act, no Group Areas Act, no Mixed Marriages and Immorality act, no Separate Representation of Voters Act, no Separate Amenities Act, no pass laws or any of the myriad apartheid laws. To the contrary, Israel is a vibrant liberal democracy and accords full political, religious and other human rights to all its peoples, including its more than one million Arab citizens, many of whom hold positions of authority including that of cabinet minister, Member of Parliament, and judge at every level, including that of the Supreme Court. All citizens vote on the same roll in regular, multiparty elections. There are Arab parties and Arab members of other parties in Israel’s parliament. Arabs and Jews share all public facilities, including hospitals and malls, buses, cinemas and parks, universities and cultural [venues].”

Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank, however, are not Israeli citizens as are those living on Israel’s side of the Green Line (i.e. the 1949 armistice lines established after the War of Independence), and they do not enjoy the same protections as do those living in Israel. For them, their fight is and has always been one against occupation. … While the case can be made that Israel’s strong and often harsh security measures imposed on Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank are a necessary evil in light of terrorism, we cannot ignore the fact that holding this territory for more than 40 years and keeping the residents there under occupation has had a corrupting moral influence on Israeli troops who have served in the West Bank and upon Israel as a whole.”

The Cottage of Candles – As We Begin Elul on Shabbat Shoftim


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There was once a Jew who went out into the world to fulfill the Biblical command – “Tzedek tzedek tirdof – Justice, justice shall you pursue.” [Deuteronomy. 26:20]

Many years passed before the man had explored the known world, except for one last great forest into which he entered. There in the forest he came upon a cave of thieves who mocked him: “Do you expect to find justice here?”

He then went into a hut of witches who laughed at him as well: “Do you expect to find justice here?”

At last he arrived at a fragile clay hut, and through the window he could see many flickering flames. He wondered why they were burning. He then knocked on the door, but there was no answer. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.

As soon as he entered, the hut appeared much larger than it had from outside. He saw hundreds of shelves, and on every shelf were dozens of oil candles. Some were sitting in holders of gold, silver or marble, and others were in modest clay or tin holders. Some were filled with oil and had straight wicks with brightly burning flames. Others had very little oil remaining and were about to sputter out.

An old man robed in white with a flowing white beard stood before him: “Shalom Aleichem, my son. How can I help you?”

The Jew said: “Aleichem shalom. I have gone everywhere searching for justice, but never have I seen anything like this. Tell me, what are all these candles?”

The old man said: “Each is a person’s soul,” as it says – ‘Ner Adonai nishmat Adam – The candle of God is the human soul.’ [Proverbs 20:27] As long as that person is alive the candle burns; but, when the person’s soul takes leave of this world, the candle burns out.”

The Jew who sought justice said: “Can you show me the candle of my soul?”

The old man beckoned: “Follow me.”

He led the Jew through the labyrinth of the cottage until they reached a low shelf, and there the old man pointed to a candle in a clay holder, “That is the candle of your soul.”

A great fear suddenly enveloped the Jew for the candle’s wick was short with little oil remaining. Was it possible for the end of his life to be so near without his having known it?

He then noticed the candle next to his own that was filled with oil, its wick long and straight, its flame burning brightly.

“Whose candle is that?” he wanted to know.

“I can only reveal each person’s candle to him or herself alone,” the old man said, and he left the Jew there alone.

The Jew stood there staring at his candle, and then heard a sputtering sound. When he looked up he saw smoke rising from another shelf. He knew that somewhere someone was no longer among the living. He looked back at his own candle, turned to the candle next to his own, so filled with oil, and a terrible thought came to him.

He searched for the old man, but didn’t see him. He lifted the candle filled with oil and a long brightly burning wick and he held it up just above his own. At once the old man reappeared and gripped his arm, saying: “Is THIS the kind of justice you seek?”

The Jew closed his eyes because the pain of the old man’s grip on his arm was so very great. When he opened them at last the old man was gone and the cottage and candles had disappeared. He stood there alone in the forest listening to the trees whispering his fate.”

This story, as told by Howard Schwartz, is not really about the objective state of justice in the world. Rather, it is about the commitment to justice each one of us has made. The old man (Was he God, The Angel of Death, The Keeper of Human Souls, one of the Lamed Vavniks – 36 righteous people who permit the world to survive?) became angry when the Jew tried to extend his own life at the expense of another.

The story uncovers a test – to what degree have we internalized Judaism’s moral principles and performed them in the world?

The month of Elul began last Saturday evening and ushered in a 40-day period in which we are called upon to do t’shuvah (turn and return to lives of dignity, integrity and decency) leading to Yom Kippur. We are as if living in our own great forest and God is calling to us: “Ayeka – Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).

Like the first man and first woman in the Garden of Eden, there is no place for us to hide. What is in our hearts must be a reflection of the deeds we perform and the values we embody.

Shabbat shalom!
The Torah portion for this week is Shoftim in which is the verse – “Tzedek tzedek tirdof – Justice, justice shall you pursue” appears. [Deuteronomy 16:20]

Source of story: Howard Schwartz included this story in his book The Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism. It is based on tale by Zevulon Qort who received it from Ben Zion Asherov of Afghanistan. I have edited the original telling.

“John Kerry on the Risk of Congress ‘Screwing’ the Ayatollah” – Must-Read Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg


So much has been written on the Iran Nuclear Agreement already, for and against, that it’s difficult to keep up.

I finally sat down to read Jeffrey Goldberg’s important interview with Secretary Kerry in The Atlantic (August 5). It may be the most important piece I have read thus far and I urge you to read the interview in full.


Here are a few passages:

Kerry: The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them,” Kerry said. “This”—a congressional rejection—“will be the ultimate screwing.” He went on to argue that “the United States Congress will prove the ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.

I operate on the presumption that Iran is a fundamental danger, that they are engaged in negative activities throughout the region, that they’re destabilizing places, and that they consider Israel a fundamental enemy at this moment in time. Everything we have done here, Jeff, is not to overlook anything or to diminish any of that; it is to build a bulwark, build an antidote. If what Bibi says is true, that they are really plotting this destruction, then having the mechanism to get rid of nuclear weapons is a prima facie first place to start, and you’re better off eliminating the nuclear weapon if that’s their plan. Then we can deal with the other things.

Goldberg: Let me posit this analysis: that the deal is actually good, but then it becomes bad 10 years down the road. As a confidence-building measure, you’ve curtailed their ability to get to a bomb, but 10 or 15 years down the road, their breakout time shrinks back down to a month or two.

Kerry: Jeff, I fundamentally, absolutely disagree with this premise. It’s not true; it’s provable that it’s not true. And close analysis of this agreement completely contradicts the notion that there is a 15-year cutoff, for several different reasons. Reason number one: We have a 20-year televised insight into their centrifuge production. In other words, we are watching their centrifuge production with live television, taping the whole deal, 24-7 for 20 years. But even more important, and much more penetrating, much more conclusive, we have 25 years during which all uranium production—from mine to mill to yellowcake to gas to waste—is tracked and traced. The intelligence community will tell you it is not possible for them to have a complete, covert, separate fuel cycle. You can’t do the whole cycle; you can’t do the mining and milling covertly. So it’s not 15, it’s 25, and it’s not even just 25 [years].

The Additional Protocol provides the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] with the right and obligation to apply safeguards on all fissionable material in Iran to be sure that it can’t be diverted to a nuclear weapon. To do that, all non-nuclear-weapons-state parties have to bring into force a comprehensive safeguard agreement with the IAEA. The full safeguard agreement. The safeguard agreement requires them to maintain detailed accounting on all material that is subject to the safeguards and operating records of all the facilities. Now, in a civil nuclear program, all facilities are declared and all facilities are inspectionable. So every facility maintains 24-7 visibility. You can’t crank up—see, the comprehensive safeguards agreement provides for a range of IAEA inspections, including verifying the location, the identity, the quantity, and composition of all nuclear materials subject to the safeguards, and the design of the facility and so forth. So I can go on—there are even requirements about any kind of nuclear research that doesn’t involve nuclear material. There are requirements about undeclared facilities, requirements about inspections. [U.S. Secretary of Energy] Ernie Moniz and our experts tell me that if the Iranians notched up their enrichment half a degree, half a point—and by the way, enrichment for civil purposes is usually about 5 percent—They will not be able to get a bomb.“

Compassionate Annihilation!?


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Ever since Zionism brought the Jewish people back into history we Jews, and especially the State of Israel, have had a major challenge; how to remain rachmanim b’nai rachmanim (compassionate children of compassionate parents) while at the same time protecting ourselves from real enemies as citizens of the modern State of Israel and as pro-Israel advocates amongst world Jewry.

In this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, we encounter a passage set down during the time of the reign of the Judean King Josiah (7th century BCE) who was in the process of solidifying his political control over all the land of Israel while the Assyrians were busy fighting on their eastern front. Here is the offending passage:

“Smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and everything in it… gather all the spoils… and burn with fire the city… and it shall be an eternal ruin forever; never again to be rebuilt. Let nothing that has been declared taboo there remain in your hands…God will then grant you mercy and the Almighty will be merciful to you, and multiply you as Adonai has sworn unto your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy 13:16)

The juxtaposition of Israel’s utter annihilation of an enemy on the one hand and the reward of compassion on the other is jarring. Rabbi Akiva (1st-2nd century CE) tried to ameliorate the brutality of the text by saying that the phrase “God will grant you to be merciful” means that you are not to kill the children (Tosefta Sanhedrin 14).

Following the destruction of the 2nd Temple (70 CE) when the Jewish people lost political control over their homeland, Talmudic tradition writing mostly from Galut (Exile) is replete with discussion of mercy and compassion as a principal Jewish trait to be nurtured and developed. One of the most famous of these is found in Yevamot 79a: “It is taught: There are three distinguishing signs of the Jewish nation: mercifulness, humility and loving-kindness. Mercifulness, as it is written, ‘God will then grant you mercy and the Holy One will be merciful to you….’”

Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar (i.e. Ohr HaChayim – 1696-1743 CE) remarked that the killing of another human being, even when done in self-defense, can lead the killer to become accustomed to bloodlust and eventually will corrupt the heart of Jewish civilization itself. Judaism teaches that we cannot become cruel and still call ourselves Jews. It is a tragic consequence that with the establishment of the State of Israel that there have been far too many occasions when Jews have been forced to get our hands dirty. Even so, tradition warns that we Jews can never forget the virtue of mercy. With this value uppermost in mind the Haganah and then the Israel Defense Forces developed a policy called Tohar Haneshek (lit. “Purity of Arms”) that is to this day an essential aspect of the training of every Israeli soldier.

Tohar Haneshek teaches how to fight a war as compassionately as possible, even at the risk of one’s own life, in order to avoid causing harm to innocent civilians. Indeed, no army in the history of the world has done more to avoid such harm to civilians than has Israel. Few know this because the Israel-haters use every opportunity to accuse the Jewish state of inhumanity and war crimes. Nevertheless, despite Israel’s uncommon record, many Israeli soldiers come home from military duty both in times of war and after service in the administered territories scarred and devastated by what they had to endure. Israel’s current government, however, in my view is guilty in a way no other Israeli government in its history has been so guilty of presiding over a hardening of heart, disrespect for Palestinians’ essential human rights, and democratic principles on which the State was founded, that I believe in time Jewish history will judge harshly.

The passage from Deuteronomy above set down 2700 years ago is disturbingly relevant today. Compassionate annihilation!? Please. There is no such thing and we ignore that truth at our own peril.

Former Top Brass to Netanyahu: Accept Iran Accord as ‘Done Deal’ – Haaretz


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When looking over the impressive and long list of former Israeli security and military personnel who support the Iran Agreement, it should be clear that not all Israelis agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu, his government, AIPAC, the Republican Party, and some Democrats.

Consider forwarding this list to your friends who are convinced that the Iran Agreement is a “bad deal” and Congress should vote against what took the P5+1 two years to negotiate.

This list was published in Haaretz and then posted on Washington’s Blog (www.washingtonsblog.org).

“Israeli Military Brass Support Iran Deal
Posted on August 5, 2015  by WashingtonsBlog

Haaretz reports that an impressive list of top Israeli military brass supports the deal with Iran. These military leaders wrote a letter to Netanyahu urging him to support the Iran deal.

Because it’s hard to read names jammed together without any organization, here’s a list of some of the military bigwigs (all now retired) who signed the letter:

 Shlomo Gaza, Chief of Intelligence, Major General
 Carmi Gillon, Director of Israel Security Agency
 Ami Ayalon, Vice Admiral, Director of Israel Security Agency
 Itamar Yaar, Colonel Deputy Israeli National Security Council
 Arie Pellman, Israeli Security Agency official
 Amiram Levin, deputy of the Mossad director, Major General
 Itzhak Barzilay, Mossad official
 Nathan Sharony, Major General, head of planning for the armed forces

Numerous admirals and generals signed the letter as well:

 David Ben Bashat, Vice Admiral
 Micha Ram, Vice Admiral
 Alex Tal, Vice Admiral
 Amira Dotan, Brigadier General, member of Parliament
 Uzi Eilam, Brigadier General, Director of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission
 Aviezer Yaari, Major General
 Giora Romm, Major General
 Moshe Lichtman, Major General
 Amram Mitzna, Major General, member of Parliament
 Abraham Almog, Brigadier General, Medal of Courage
 Asher Levy, Brigadier General
 Yossi Gonen, Brigadier General
 Giora Inbar, Brigadier General
 Arie Keren, Brigadier General
 Yoram Cohen, Brigadier General
 Shlomo Egozy. Brigadier General
 Yosef Eyal, Brigadier General
 Asaf Agmon, Brigadier General
 Uriel Agmon, Brigadier General
 Yoram Agmon, Brigadier General
 Amos Amir Brigadier General
 Mordechai ‘Motke’ Ben Porat, Brigadier General
 Shaul Gavoli, Police Major Geneneral, LDF Brigadier General
 Ilan Paz, Brigadier General
 Yitzhak Rabin, Brigadier General
 Giora Ram (Furman), PhD, Brigadier General
 Yaron Ram, Brigadier General
 Gilad Ramot, Brigadier General
 Gilad Raz, Brigadier General
 lftach Spector, Brigadier General
 Benny Taran , Brigadier General
 Aharon Vardi, Brigadier General
 Shlomo Waxe. Brigadier General
 Izak Zamir, Brigadier General
 Gadi Zohar, Brigadier General
 Amnon Reshef, General
 Ran Ronen, General
 Danny Rothschild, General

In addition, numerous top Israeli military brass have previously come out in favor of the Iran deal, including:

 Efraim Halevy, Mossad Director; former head of National Security Council
 Shlomo Ben-Ami, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Internal Security
 Shlomo Brom, brigadier general; former director of IDF strategic planning division; former deputy national security advisor
 Uzi Arad, national security advisor
 Dov Tamari, military intelligence chief; former head of special operations
 Chuck Freilich, deputy national security advisor
 Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, Chair of Israel’s space agency; former IDF general
 Uzi Even, lead scientist at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor”

Come for One Hour of Peace, Connection and Cultural Detox


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Most of us are over-programmed, disjointed and stressed out. Living in the fast lane isn’t everything that it’s cracked up to be, nor does such a life bring us what we really need deep down – a day simply to be without doing, to love without feeling lonely, to celebrate without worrying, to retrieve simplicity and dispel clutter.

Shabbat is a radical and ancient notion, one that the Jewish people gave to the world 3000 years ago. It’s a day to live counter-culturally, to protest against the domination of consumerism and materialism over our lives.

Through Shabbat, Jews have an opportunity to rediscover family and friends, and to experience why it’s important to take a day to co-exist in the world without having to change or transform it.

Many of us did not grow up with traditional Judaism in our homes, though we may be Jews and strongly identifying. We don’t know very much about Judaism, Hebrew and ritual, and our not knowing feels intimidating and embarrassing. We would rather stay away than feel bad, so we don’t come to synagogue except on state occasions when we can disappear into the crowd.

Let me say this to those of you who feel this way! Stop it! We in established synagogues all over the country want you to come for Shabbat and we don’t care how much you know or don’t know. We just want you. The more frequently you come, the more comfortable you will be. This, I know to be true.

At Friday evening services synagogues sing together, are quiet together, celebrate baby namings, upcoming b’nai mitzvah and weddings, conversions to Judaism, milestone wedding anniversaries and birthdays, and we grieve together and say the Mourner’s Kaddish when we lose our loved ones. We also talk Torah and see its relevance in our lives today. We think, we reconnect and we let go.

That’s what Shabbat is and every synagogue is open for you to join us, young and old, for one hour each week. Come together, or come alone. Plan to meet a friend and return home for a Shabbos meal.

Make every Shabbat evening a weekly date with yourself, to reconnect, to meet fellow congregants, or others about whom you care and love. Everyone is welcome – member and non-member, Jew and those from other traditions alike. We are open communities and want you.

If the service start-time is inconvenient, then leave work early on Fridays and work late another evening during the week. Work out an arrangement with your employer explaining that you want/need to celebrate Shabbat.

Give yourself a gift of one hour of Shabbos each week. Reconsider your priorities and the way you spend your time. Start your weekend together in community.

The greatest benefit of Shabbat is the experience of a replenishing rest, a rest that spills over into our weeks, our years, our lives.

A study conducted at Duke University found that those who attend religious services once a week and are part of a caring religious community add years to their lives, reduce stress, and end up in the hospital significantly less than those who don’t pray.

Singing the blessings together over light, wine and challah and eating a good meal are activities that center all of us.

Even the most harried workdays become tolerable when we know that a day of sacred peace is shortly arriving.

Shabbat returns us to the first light of creation, to the Garden of Eden of oneness and to a reunion with our innermost selves, with our loved ones, our people, and God.

Shabbat is a rekindler of light, a restorer of soul, a bridge linking heaven and earth.

Come join us and remember the Psalmist’s words: “This is the day God has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

Note: If you are already a member of a synagogue, I hope you will take full advantage of its religious community. If not, shop around and find the place that feels comfortable for you. As the Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, we welcome anyone who would like to join us. Our services on Friday evenings all begin at 6:30 PM and conclude by 7:30 PM.

Shabbat shalom!

Congressman Adam Schiff Supports the Iran Agreement – His Full Statement Here


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This morning (August 3), Congressman Adam Schiff’s District Director, Ann Peifer, sent to me (at the Congressman’s request) his just released statement of support for the Iran Agreement.

Congressman Schiff is not only a brilliant lawyer and diligent Congressional Representative in Los Angeles (my synagogue is in his district), but he is thoughtful, thorough, considered, and fair. The Congressman’s concern for the welfare of the United States and the Security of Israel is second to none.

I am deeply grateful for his leadership and his position on the Iran Agreement, and I hope that others in Congress and in the Senate regardless of party read his position carefully and come to the same conclusion that he did – that we need to support the Iran Agreement.

Following his statement, I have listed 4 articles worthy of your consideration.

Congress Should Help Strengthen Iran Deal, Not Reject It
By Rep. Adam B. Schiff

After several years of difficult negotiations with a dangerous and malevolent regime, the Administration and the representatives of the other P5+1 nations reached an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.  The deal realistically precludes Iran from developing an atomic bomb for fifteen or more years, and does so while reducing the chances of war. As one would expect in any negotiation with a bitter adversary, there are elements of the deal that turned out quite well – in this case, America’s unilateral ability to snap back the whole range of sanctions in the event of Iranian noncompliance, and the intrusive nature of inspections into Iran. And there are other elements of the deal that are concerning, even deeply concerning – lack of robust access to the sites of Iran’s past military work on nuclear weapons, and the permissible scope of Iran’s enrichment program after only fifteen years.  In the absence of a credible alternative, Congress should accept the deal and work with the Administration to strengthen its impact, while joining forces with our allies to better contain Iran’s conventional capabilities and nefarious conduct in the region and beyond.

The primary objective of the United States in the negotiations was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Given the unthinkable consequences of Iran, the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, obtaining the bomb, this has been an overriding national security imperative of the United States for decades.  As an American and as a Jew who is deeply concerned about the security of Israel, it is also intensely personal.  I believe our vital interests have been advanced under the agreement, since it would be extremely difficult for Iran to amass enough fissionable material to make a nuclear weapon without giving the United States ample notice and time to stop it.  We will still need to guard against any Iranian effort to obtain nuclear material or technology from proliferators abroad — a reality even if they had given up all enrichment — but the agreement likely gives the world at least a decade and a half without the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon and without going to war to make that so.  That is a major achievement.

The United States realized this objective by securing a number of important provisions in the agreement, including the power to snap back sanctions in whole or in part, and not subject to a veto in the United Nations. Over the past two decades, Iran has consistently and repeatedly cheated in its agreements with the IAEA. This cheating has taken many forms, including the construction of hidden enrichment facilities, some deep underground, as well as work to develop the technologies necessary to detonate a nuclear weapon. At the outset of the negotiations, Iran’s goal was to have the power to delay and obfuscate if caught, and to count on friendly nations (Russia) or nations deeply interested in its oil resources (China) to veto the re-imposition of sanctions.  But Iran failed, and the snapback mechanism provides the best guarantor of Iranian compliance.

The United States and its allies also procured an extensive and intrusive inspections regime that lasts for twenty-five years. By applying to the whole chain of the enrichment process, from the ground to the centrifuge, it realistically precludes Iran from developing a hidden and parallel enrichment process.  As a practical matter, given our intelligence capabilities and this inspection regime, the deal should prevent Iran from developing a bomb for the duration of the agreement.  If Iran cheats, it is likely to do so in areas that do not involve nuclear material, such as work on nuclear weaponization and other research and development that are more easily hidden during the twenty-four days it is allowed to play “rope-a-dope” with inspectors. Here it will be important for Congress, the Administration and our allies to make clear that any cheating will be severely penalized and result in the re-imposition of some, if not all, of the original sanctions – Iran will not be allowed to merely cease the offending conduct.

With respect to the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program (PMDs), the United States does not appear to have obtained the more robust access to military sites that we sought, but this is mitigated by the fact that the IAEA and U.S. already have considerable intelligence about the type of work that Iran has done to construct, deliver and detonate an atomic bomb.  No one expects Iran or its scientists to be the least bit forthcoming about Iran’s past weaponization work.  To the degree that we need a baseline to estimate how long it would take Iran to dash to a bomb, however, our intelligence already provides a good basis for calculations even without Iran coming clean on its PMD.

The most troubling part of the agreement for me is therefore not those parts that have generated the most discussion or criticism from opponents – the sanctions, inspections or PMD – but the size, sophistication and international legitimacy of Iran’s enrichment capability allowed in only fifteen years.  At the outset of negotiations, it was hoped that if it was necessary to grant Iran an enrichment capability at all, it would only be a token one, and that apart from a small research facility, fuel for its reactors might be stored or produced outside the country.  Instead, while approximately 13,000 centrifuges will be removed from operation, the agreement allows Iran to operate over 5,000 centrifuges and, eventually, to bring on line a faster set of instruments that reduce the time necessary to create enough fissionable material for a bomb down to a matter of weeks.

It is important to understand that even after fifteen years – or fifty for that matter – as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is never allowed to develop the bomb.  And it is certainly true that as a result of the agreement, we will have inspectors watching the enrichment process that we wouldn’t have otherwise. But at the end of fifteen years, Iran will have few constraints on the speed of its enrichment, and at that point it is the work necessary to produce the mechanism for the bomb that becomes the real obstacle to a breakout – and that work is among the most difficult to detect.

While much of the focus has been on the tradeoff between sanctions relief and limits on Iran’s nuclear program, the real painful heart of the agreement lies elsewhere — Iran is meaningfully prevented from developing atomic weapons for at least fifteen years, but it is left with a robust and internationally legitimized enrichment capability.  I have searched for a better, credible alternative and concluded that there is none.

Some opponents of the deal have argued that in the event Congress rejects the agreement, Iran has so much to gain from it that it will continue to comply even in the face of sustained American sanctions.  Given hard-liner Iranian opposition to the deal, the regime’s revolutionary ideology, and the opportunity this would provide the mullahs to continue playing victim, this hardly seems plausible.  Other opponents attempt to make the case that if we reject the deal, Iran will too, but America can somehow rebuild international support for sanctions and force Iran to come back to the table ready to concede its enrichment program.

When it comes to predicting the future, we are all looking through the glass darkly, but it is only prudent to expect that if Congress rejects a deal agreed to by the Administration and much of the world, the sanctions regime will – if not collapse –almost certainly erode.  Even if we could miraculously keep Europe on board with sanctions, it is hard to imagine Russia, China, India or other nations starved for oil or commerce, agreeing to cut off business with Iran.  The use of American financial sanctions is a powerful and coercive force, but relies upon at least the tacit acceptance of our objectives, something that would be lacking if we reject a deal agreed to by the other major powers.  A diminished or collapsed sanctions regime does not mean, as some have suggested, that Iran necessarily dashes madly for a bomb, but it will almost certainly move forward with its enrichment program unconstrained by inspections, limits on research and development of new centrifuges, metallurgy and other protections of the deal. In short, Iran will have many of the advantages of the deal in access to money and trade, with none of its disadvantages.

Instead of rejecting the deal, therefore, Congress should focus on making it stronger.

•       First, we should make it clear that if Iran cheats, the repercussions will be severe.

•       Second, we should continue to strengthen our intelligence capabilities to detect the mostly likely forms of Iranian noncompliance.

•       Third, we should establish the expectation that while Iran will be permitted to have an enrichment capability for civilian use, it will never be permitted to produce highly enriched uranium.  Not now, not after fifteen years, not ever.  If it does so, that will be construed as demonstrating a clear intent to develop the bomb and it will be stopped with force.

•       Fourth, if Iran – a nation which has threatened Israel’s existence – develops methods of shielding its nuclear facilities from aerial attack by the importation of missile defense systems or further burying its nuclear work, we will share with Israel all the technologies necessary to defeat those systems and destroy its facilities no matter how deep the bunker.

•       And fifth, we are prepared to work with Israel and our Gulf allies to make sure that every action Iran takes to use its newfound wealth for destructive activities in the region will prompt an equal and opposite reaction, and the nuclear deal will only reinforce our willingness to combat Iran’s conventional and malignant influence.

The Iranian people will one day throw off the shackles of their repressive regime, and I hope that this deal will empower those who wish to reform Iranian governance and behavior.  The fifteen years or more this agreement provides will give us the time to test that proposition, without Iran developing the bomb and without the necessity of protracted military action.  Then, as now, if Iran is determined to go nuclear, there is only one way to stop it and that is by the use of force.  But then at least, the American people and others around the world will recognize that we did everything possible to avoid war.

4 Articles Worth Reading

1. Republican Hypocrisy on Iran, The New York Times
“America is stronger when important national security decisions have bipartisan consensus,” stresses the Times editorial board. “None of that seems to matter to the accord’s opponents, many of whom never intended to vote for the deal and made clear during congressional hearings last week that facts will not change their minds.”

2. AIPAC chooses sides: It picks Bibi over its own supporters, US Jews, Al-Monitor
According to Uri Savir, “A senior member of AIPAC’s political leadership told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “We have decided to go all out on the issue, despite this being a partisan cause. We cannot stand by when the prime minister of Israel makes defeating the Iran deal his cause celebre. This is the first time in AIPAC’s history that the lobby challenges a US president on such an issue; an issue where the president’s political credibility is on the line. Secretly, some of us pray not to succeed in this battle.”

3. 6 Biggest Myths about the Iran Nuclear Deal – National Interest
Hardin Lang and Shlomo Brom contend that the “this agreement represents the best chance to make sure Iran never obtains a weapon… While there are aspects of the deal that merit close review, many of these attacks just don’t stand up to scrutiny.”http://nationalinterest.org/feature/6-biggest-myths-about-the-iran-nuclear-deal-13443
4. On Iran, a regrettable rush to judgment, Times of Israel
“I believe my friends in AIPAC and some of my friends in Israel have made a regrettable rush to judgment in immediately opposing the Iran agreement and doing so in ways likely to cause long-term harm to Israel, especially in terms of Israel’s vital need for bipartisan support in the United States,” says Mel Levine. “And despite the loud and heavily funded campaign being waged against the deal, respected Israeli national security and intelligence experts are increasingly supporting the deal.”

Recommended Articles on the Iran Agreement and Middle East Realities


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According to a recent poll (below under #7) 49% of America’s Jews support the agreement as opposed to 31% who oppose it.

The following articles are gleaned from an avalanche of stories and op-eds that have appeared this past week in the American and Israeli media, that I believe are worth reading:

1. 6 Biggest Myths about the Iran Nuclear Deal – National Interest

Hardin Lang and Shlomo Brom contend that the “this agreement represents the best chance to make sure Iran never obtains a weapon… While there are aspects of the deal that merit close review, many of these attacks just don’t stand up to scrutiny.” http://nationalinterest.org/feature/6-biggest-myths-about-the-iran-nuclear-deal-13443

2. For the Mideast, It’s Still 1979 –  Tom Friedman – The New York Times


3. One Congressman’s Iran – Roger Cohen – The New York Times  

Cohen says that “longtime friend of Israel” Representative Sander Levin supports the deal “because the accord, if fully implemented, slashes Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium by 97 percent, prevents enrichment above 3.67 percent (a long way from bomb grade) for 15 years, intensifies international inspections exponentially, holds Iran at least a year from having enough material to produce a weapon (as opposed to the current two months), cuts off a plutonium route to a bomb, preserves all American options in combating Iranian support for Hezbollah, and is far better than an alternative scenario where international sanctions would fray and ‘support from even our best allies if we move to the military option would be less likely.’”


4. Why Don’t American Jewish Groups Represent American Jews on Iran? – Peter Beinart – Haaretz

Citing J Street’s poll showing American Jewish support for the Iran deal, Peter Beinart found that when determining their position, American Jewish federations didn’t survey the community, they consulted their donors. “That’s how American Jewish plutocracy works,” he wrote. “It’s composed of decent, sincere people but it’s designed to reflect the wishes of large donors and of Benjamin Netanyahu, not of American Jews overall.”


5. For Israel’s Sake, Don’t Reject the Iran Agreement – Commentary – Amram Mitzna  –

“Nearly every day since the nuclear agreement with Iran was finalized, more Israeli generals and security chiefs have come forward with the same message: The deal is surprisingly good for Israel’s security. And as a retired major general who oversaw many elements of the Israeli military, I feel it is my duty to join my colleagues. I must state loud and clear — this agreement is better than no agreement and must not be rejected. If implemented, it will block all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, and extend the time Iran would need to build a bomb from only two months to more than a year.”  Amram Mitzna is former member of Knesset, former leader of the Labor Party, former mayor of Haifa and Yeruham, and a retired major-general in the Israel Defense Forces.                                                                  


6. Should Federation take sides?: A Rabbinic letter of support for the Iran agreement – Jewish Journal

As J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet Co-Chair, along with 40 Rabbis in the Los Angeles area including my colleagues at Temple Israel, Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh and Rabbi Jocee Hudson, we urged, “It is critical that the American public and our congressional representatives recognize there are strong, committed Israel supporters in the American-Jewish community and among its leadership who, guided by many in the Israeli security establishment, support this agreement.”


7. The Los Angeles Jewish Journal this week has numerous articles and opinion pieces on the Iran agreement   


“New Poll on US Jewish support for the Iran deal despite misgivings” by Steven M. Cohen, in which support for the Iran agreement among American Jews revealed that 49% of American Jews support passage of the agreement and 31% oppose.


“Federation Take it Back” by Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman http://www.jewishjournal.com/rob_eshman/articl/federation_take_it_back


“Federation’s letter against Iran deal brings community’s divide to the surface” reviewing Los Angeles community’s reaction –

Shabbat Shalom!


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