In recent months, a number of professors and others have given interesting speeches at local synagogues. This article is the first in a series of discussions/critiques about these local synagogue talks.
These local speeches are particularly relevant in light of President Obama’s latest effort, just last week, to delegitimize and destroy Israel, and in light of the recent Hamas-Fatah unity pact.
In his May 19 address, Obama demanded that Israel should retreat to pre-1967 borders and demanded the establishment of a “contiguous” Palestinian state.
The recent Hamas-Fatah unity pact leaves no doubt that such a state would be run by Hamas terrorists.
The borders that Obama is demanding would leave 600,000 Jews homeless, dislocated from their homes, schools, synagogues and jobs; leave Israel with indefensible borders; enable Hamas to launch rockets all along Israel’s longest border; place historic Jewish holy places and land in the hands of terrorists; cut Israel into two separate pieces; divide Jerusalem; give Syria the ability to overrun Israel from the north; place Christian religious sites under the control of terrorists thereby making religious Christian visits to these sites dangerous and/or impossible; and would lead to more war – not peace. Obama’s continuing insistence on pushing for such a Palestinian state violates American interests, values and obligations.
On Monday evening, March 28 Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith, the mayor of the town of Itamar, Israel, and his wife Leah spoke at Great Neck Synagogue. The couple spoke about their love for their town, and described and showed pictures of the town’s organic farms and school for disabled children. The Goldsmiths also explained Itamar’s historic Jewish roots. The town was built (and named after) the nearby burial place of Itamar and Elazar, the sons of the Biblical figure Aaron (Moses’s brother). (Unfortunately, these Jewish burial places are now located in Awarta, a neighboring Arab village, which prevents Jews from praying at the gravesites. Awarta is also the frequent launching pad for attacks on Itamar’s families, including the murder of the Fogel family.)
The Goldsmiths also described the vital strategic importance of Itamar to all of Israel. Itamar sits on the critical hump of the mountain that watches over the entire coast of Israel and the Jordan Valley. Keeping Itamar is thus a “must” for the whole country’s security. The Palestinian terrorists understand how essential Itamar is to Israel’s safety; this is why Itamar has been a prime target of Palestinian attacks.
The Goldsmiths also provided details about Palestinian terrorists’ highly planned brutal murder of the Fogel family (including both parents, two small boys and a three-month-old baby girl) on March 11, as well as other Palestinian attacks on innocent Israeli civilians in Itamar. I wish that everyone could have heard rabbi and Mrs. Goldsmith’s talk, since the real story of the murder of the Fogel family is quite different from how the story was portrayed in The New York Times.
The New York Times portrayed the murders as the “unplanned” work of unaffiliated Palestinian teenagers merely bent on stealing a few weapons as a “test of courage.” (NYT, 4/17/11) (Using The New York Times’ standard, the 9-11 attacks on America were also merely a “test of courage” by a few teenagers.) If fact, the attack on an innocent Israeli family was carefully planned, by trained Palestinian terrorists who knew exactly how to evade the town’s security systems so that they could murder innocent Jewish parents and children.
Rabbi Goldsmith explained that there was a “blind spot” in the security fence surrounding Itamar, not in view of the cameras placed on the security fence. (Israeli budget constraints kept the town from having a sufficient number of cameras.) The terrorists knew exactly where the blind spot was, and went over the fence at that location shortly after 9 p.m. on Friday evening (the Jewish Sabbath). The fence alarm sounded at the town guards’ location, and the two individuals on guard duty drove to the location to investigate. The terrorists knew that the fence alarm would be triggered, and knew where to hide (in the nearby forest) until after the guards checked the fence. The terrorists also deliberately chose a rainy, overcast night for their attack, when it would be difficult to spot them. The guards saw nothing, and thinking that an animal had tripped the alarm, returned to their station.
After waiting silently in hiding for the guards to return to their station, the terrorists moved towards homes in Itamar. The Palestinian terrorists entered a home whose occupants were away for the Sabbath (the Cohen home), which had a view of the inside of the Fogel’s home. The terrorists stole a gun, and then remained in the Cohen home for over an hour, watching the occupants of the Fogel home celebrating the Sabbath, and waiting until the Fogels fell asleep and would be easier to kill.
After waiting and watching for over an hour until the Fogels were quiet, the terrorists entered the Fogel home through the unlocked front door. The Palestinian terrorists then locked the front door from the inside. The Palestinians then murdered Udi (age 36) and Ruth (35), and their young sons Yoav (age 11) and Elad (age 3) and baby girl Hadas (3 months) by stabbing them to death and slitting their throats. The terrorists avoided using the guns in their possession, because gunshots would have attracted the attention of others in the town, who would have come running to the family’s defense.
The Palestinian terrorists left the front door locked, and exited through a window. In order to exit through the window, the Palestinians actually stepped on the Fogel’s two-year old son, who was sleeping on the sofa under blankets. This son survived because, miraculously, he did not awaken while he was being stepped upon, and was not noticed by the terrorists.
The terrorists returned to Awarta through the same “blind spot” in the security fence through which they had entered Itamar. The fence alarm rang again, but the terrorists were nowhere in sight when the guards reached the blind spot in the fence to investigate.
The Fogel’s older daughter Tamar (age 12) came home at around midnight, and was frightened when she saw that the front door was locked, and that muddy footprints led from the open window. She ran to a neighbor for help. The neighbor helped her open the door. Tamar then entered the house, and found her parents, little brothers and baby sister murdered, in pools of blood – a horrific scene.
Itamar’s neighborhood preparedness team was alerted, and then ran from house to house in Itamar, checking whether the Palestinian terrorists had also invaded other homes.
Rabbi Goldsmith described the Fogel family as incredibly loving, warm and dedicated. The murdered boys were sweet, angelic souls, devoted to their studies. The family had previously lived in Gaza, and became homeless when Israel retreated from Gaza in 2005. (Sadly, Ariel Sharon’s decision to leave Gaza led to more deaths of Jews.)
Rabbi Goldsmith also showed pictures of the Fogel’s home in Itamar. The house was tiny, a simple box constructed out of unadorned cinder-block. Mrs. Goldsmith explained that every building and home in Itamar is constantly watched by anti-Israel so-called “human rights” groups, who scream, protest, make international cases and bring lawsuits regarding even the tiniest addition to a Jewish home or kindergarden in Itamar. (These sorts of anti-Israel leftist groups include the likes of Peace Now, B’Tselem, J-Street, Rabbis for Human Rights and other groups funded by the “New Israel Fund’ and anti-Israel foreign governments.).
Mrs. Goldsmith also noted that the Palestinians are being trained using our American tax dollars (formerly under the command of U.S. Lt. General Keith Dayton; now under General Michael Moeller; there have been a number of recent incidents where American-trained Palestinian police officers used their training and weapons to murder Israeli civilians).
Rabbi Goldsmith also spoke about previous attacks on the innocent Jews living in Itamar, and constant Palestinian attempts to infiltrate Itamar to commit more murders. In 2002, a Palestinian terrorist broke into the Shabo family home, and shot to death Rachel Shabo while she was cooking dinner, and killed three of her children (ages 16, 13 and 5). Two other children were badly wounded. The Palestinian terrorist also shot to death the neighborhood preparedness team’s commander when he approached the family’s home to help. Rabbi Goldsmith showed photographs of the Shabo kitchen, post-attack.
The pot in which Mrs. Shabo was cooking dinner when the Palestinian terrorist broke into her home was still on the stove. Also in 2002, another Palestinian terrorist infiltrated Itamar and killed three high school students (ages 14, 17 and 17). In 2004, Shlomo Miller was murdered by a Palestinian “police officer.” Other Itamar residents were murdered outside the town in ambushes and after a kidnapping in which the victim was murdered by Palestinian terrorists while in captivity.
Rabbi Goldsmith also gently appealed for funds. He stated that he understood that many people in Great Neck are pressed economically these days, but hoped that some could give. The crowd in attendance gave generously to try to help the town. It was particularly upsetting to hear that the Itamar did not have enough funds for sufficient cameras on the security fence to try to stop Palestinian murderers from infiltrating Itamar to kill Israeli children.
After the talk, several of us continued to speak with the Goldsmiths. Mrs. Goldsmith mentioned that Israel has been running drills to evacuate Israeli citizens from Israel’s major coastal cities (Tel Aviv, Haifa, etc.) to West Bank towns, in the likely event of a massive rocket attack on Israel’s coast by Hezbollah (and Hamas). Hezbollah is estimated to have amassed 45,000 rockets in Lebanon, aimed at Israel, and is apparently awaiting the word for such an attack.
The dangers that all of Israel faces underscore the need for Israel to NOT give in to Obama’s pressure on Israel to retreat to indefensible pre-1967 borders. Israel should not give up strategic land and homes which may end up being the safe haven for much of the rest of the people of Israel. Of course, the situation also underscores the need to vote President Obama out of office in 2012.
Despite all the dangers and tragedies that Itamar’s citizens have suffered and continue to face, there was much that was hopeful and uplifting in the Goldsmiths’ presentation. The Goldsmiths praised the natural and spiritual beauty of their town, and described a day-to-day sense of peace experienced by those living there. They invited everyone in Great Neck to come for a visit, to see their beautiful community for themselves. Meanwhile, people can make a “virtual visit” by viewing pictures of the town on the official Friends of Itamar website: www.friendsofitamar.org.
Elizabeth (Liz) Berney