Yishai Fleisher https://yishaifleisher.com Broadcasting, Advocacy & Public Diplomacy Fri, 21 Jul 2017 03:31:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Temple Mount Tensions https://yishaifleisher.com/temple-mount-tensions/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 03:31:26 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=2024

Was Pinchas right in zealously killing the public exhibitionists? Can Joshua replace Moses as the great leader of Israel? Will the daughters of Zelaphchad, who yearned for the Land of Israel, give God consolation? Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Rabbi Yishai for the Torah portion of Pinchas and the next generation of Israel.

Killing In the Name Of… https://yishaifleisher.com/killing-in-the-name-of/ Mon, 17 Jul 2017 03:12:42 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=2015

Was Pinchas right in zealously killing the public exhibitionists? Can Joshua replace Moses as the great leader of Israel? Will the daughters of Zelaphchad, who yearned for the Land of Israel, give God consolation? Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Rabbi Yishai for the Torah portion of Pinchas and the next generation of Israel.

Two Jewish nations, one flag https://yishaifleisher.com/two-jewish-nations-one-flag/ Mon, 17 Jul 2017 03:09:16 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=2012 Appeared originally in The Jerusalem Post

Christiane Amanpour was on my balcony scanning the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount with her eyes. The CNN journalist had come to my home to interview me about “settlers” and the Bible, and I guessed from her line of British accented-questioning – “but do you hear God telling you to take this land?” – that she was hoping to ensnare me into saying something politically incorrect and juicy.

Suddenly, her eyes locked on the large Israeli flag fluttering on the balcony and asked: “What is the symbolism of the two blue lines on the flag – is it that Israel will control the land between the Nile and the Euphrates?”

Nothing would have made her happier than if I had gone biblical on her and said that yes, God had promised this land to the children of Abraham! But instead, I went liberal: “You know, I heard that the two lines represent the splitting of the Red Sea and that the star in the middle is the Jewish people leaving the slavery of Egypt and walking toward the freedom of Israel. The flag represents the Jewish people’s fight for self-determination after 2,000 years of oppression, and the values of liberty.”

Amanpour, looking somewhat dissatisfied, left the flag motif and went onto other topics.

However, when I think about the flag of Israel today, with the Star of David flanked by two blue lines, I wonder if it represents the reality of the Jewish people. Back in the Exodus, we were one united nation, walking on dry land as two giant walls of sea stood on either side of us. But today we are actually two nations, 6 million living in Israel, 6 million living in the US, with a huge ocean separating us. Maybe the right way to draw a flag of the Jewish people is two Stars of David on either side, with a thick blue line going down the middle?

The recent Kotel scandal was a powerful tremor, with some pundits calling for a divorce between American and Israeli Jews. Also, many articles have been written over the past few years questioning whether Israel’s nationalist values comport with American Jewish liberal values. And even without political issues that divide us, the life of the Middle East is not like that of North America, linguistically, culturally and even Jewishly. Like two continents set on tectonic plates, the Jewish people can easily drift apart.

I, too, have been guilty of perpetuating this drift. I have been flying to North America for years for speaking engagements, teaching seminars, and fund-raising. Whenever I arrived at a fabulously wealthy synagogue or temple, my Zionism and my Israel-first impulse would kick in hard. In my mind I would imagine the building empty, sold to non-Jews, the congregants packing boxes to ship to their new homes in Israel. A strong sense of Zionism is a good thing, but the frustration and jealousy I felt toward American Jewry put a barrier between me and the people I came to see.

A few years ago I listened to an audiobook called Millionaire Mind. In it, the author said that if you meet a very successful person and subtly curse his good fortune because of jealousy, you will never become a millionaire. The only way to become rich is by rooting for and blessing the successful person to keep on winning. This wisdom hit me like a ton of bricks: Here I was trying to strengthen Israel through building a connection with American Jews, but I was sabotaging the whole thing with my righteous indignation and jealousy.

Now I took it upon myself to reform my ways and become a blesser. Today, whenever I come to a synagogue or temple in North America, I bless the building and the congregation, I bless the rabbi, and the Jewish education, and I bless the couples to have more children and to raise them right. I certainly did not come all the way from Israel to cause more division – I come from Israel to reconnect with my American mishpaha (family), to send them blessings from Jerusalem, and to make sure we as a people don’t drift apart. Of course, now that I’m a sending good energy, my work has become much more successful.

But still, being a staunch Zionist can lead to frustration with American Jewry, some of whom make little effort toward building the Jewish state, the greatest project of the Jewish people in 2,000 years. So now, after blessing the congregation, I urge them to take a small step toward Israel, like committing to drinking Israeli wine on Friday night. This certainly supports Israeli business, but more important, it puts the water and the fruit, the air and the soil of Israel itself to enter and unite with the body. Many people have told me that since they began they have accepted upon themselves to drink Israeli wine, they feel more connected with the homeland. This is a small step, but a meaningful one.

Indeed, the greatest divide in the Jewish world today is between American Jewry and Israeli Jewry. That divide has been exacerbated by tensions having to do with religious control of the Western Wall, acceptance of conversions and marriages, and questions of the future of Judea and Samaria. But while real questions underlie these tensions, the resulting rift in our peoplehood is disastrous and plays right into the hands of our enemies.

We mustn’t listen to those cynical voices who call for divorce – they are not our better angels. On the contrary, will have to work hard to hold hands across the Atlantic, and use the Internet and the airplane to stay connected. Let’s do everything possible to the ameliorate tensions between us and thereby ensure that the flag of Israel remains with only one, unified, Star of David.

Yishai Fleisher is the international spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron.

National identity theft at UNESCO https://yishaifleisher.com/national-identity-theft-unesco/ Sun, 09 Jul 2017 15:35:48 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=2002 Appeared originally in The Jerusalem Post

One has to hand it to the Palestinian Authority. When it adopts a policy of delegitimizing Israel, it goes all the way. Once again it is attempting to co-opt UNESCO, this time to expropriate the tombs of the very founders of the Jewish People – and to turn their resting place into a Palestinian World Heritage Site.

To achieve that feat, the upcoming UNESCO meeting in Krakow, Poland, will have to deliberately erase history instead of protecting it.

In the ancient city of Hebron, there stands a colossal, 2,000-year-old burial monument – a kind of Taj Mahal of the Middle East. Josephus, the antiquities historian, records that this monument was built by the Jewish king Herod the Great as an adornment atop the 3,800-year-old tombs of Abraham, his wife Sarah, and most of the founding family of the Jewish People. The last person to be buried there was the Jewish forefather Jacob, also known as Israel.

It is this structure, known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs or the Cave of Machpela in Hebron, that the PA is audaciously trying to claim as its own.

But the depth of Hebron’s Jewish history will present a serious challenge to that effort. The Book of Genesis records Abraham’s negotiation and purchase of the Machpela cave in Hebron for a family burial plot. Archaeological remains attest to Jewish life in Hebron during the Iron Age (First Temple) and the Roman (Second Temple) period. Throughout the Middle Ages, Jewish and Christian travelers noted the presence of a Jewish community living in Hebron and worshiping at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

In the 16th century, after the eviction of Jews from Spain, sephardi Jews buttressed the Hebron community and helped it flourish. The Hebron Jewish community was the oldest and longest unbroken presence of Jewish People in the land of Israel.

No doubt there is also Muslim history in Hebron as well. In 637 CE, during the early Muslim conquest, Muslims and Jews coexisted in Hebron. But in 1267 CE, the Mamluks, a Muslim military caste from Egypt, captured Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs and rebranded it the Mosque of Ibrahim. They altered the building by adding two minarets to the top and imposed a jihadist policy of banning Jews, Christians and all non-Muslims from entering the building or visiting the underground burial caves.

Suddenly, in an act of national identity theft, this originally Jewish building housing the founders of the Jewish People, had a Muslim look and feel, with no Jews allowed in. This is exactly the outcome UNESCO is working toward today.

Yet even back then, under Mamluk rule, Jews would not abandon the site, stubbornly holding prayer services at the outside wall of the building. They kept up that practice for the next 700 years. And so things went until 1929 when a horrific jihadist pogrom ended in the murder of 67 Jews. The community’s survivors were then evicted by the occupying British.

But yet again, Jewish magnetism to the site prevailed: in the Six Day War, Israel regained control of Hebron and the tombs. Jews flocked to site and within weeks, the first Jewish wedding was held there. Since then, secure passage, freedom of access, and freedom of worship for all faiths has been ensured at the Tombs of the Patriarchs while 700,000 pilgrims and tourists visit the site yearly.

Juxtapose the freedoms that Israeli control ensures with the PA-controlled areas, which are notoriously off-limits to Jews. A similar site to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem/Nablus, was burned down by a jihadist mob, with tourism to that hallowed spot decimated. Daily mind-numbing incitement and monthly stipends to terrorists continue unabated in PA-controlled areas.

Yet the PA’s success at UNESCO continues. Only six months ago did the PA succeed in getting UNESCO to officially deny Jewish history and rights at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – no wonder Jewish prayer is strictly forbidden there. After this decision Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated: “UNESCO just denied the 4,000-year connection between the Jewish People and its holiest site, the Temple Mount. That’s just as absurd as denying the connection between the Great Wall of China and China.”

Indeed, behind the facade of the protection of endangered sites, UNESCO has become a tool in a nefarious campaign to eradicate the evidence of Jewish indigeneity in the land of Israel and conversely malign the Jews as occupying colonialists. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has actually become the legitimate arm of the war against Israel, pushing a jihadist agenda while dressed in a sensible European suit and tie.

In Krakow the Palestinians are fast-tracking the UNESCO process by claiming that Hebron is a site in danger. However, Israel is pushing back on this point and during a meeting at the Foreign Ministry, deputy minister Tzipi Hotovely spoke with foreign ambassadors and explained that the Tomb of the Patriarchs is not in danger, and displayed maps and photographs proving that PA claims of abuses are a farce.

Yet other people in Israel are skeptical about tackling the deeply ingrained antisemitism at the UN. However, recently US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley articulated new US opposition to anti-Israelism at the UN, saying “that the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias.”

So now, more than ever, the time has come to confront the UN. The Polish government, which enjoys excellent relations with Israel, should demand that UNESCO table the anti-Israel vote so that a pogrom on Jewish history not be perpetrated on Polish soil. The US, the main funder of the UN, and the host of its headquarters, should continue to make good on its promises to push back on the UN machine. And, of course, Israel should itself fully defund UNESCO and strengthen Jewish presence in Hebron by unfreezing Jewish building there.

We must send a clear signal: if the UN and UNESCO cannot uphold the values and principles necessary to protect world cultures and heritage sites, let its validity be brought to question – not that of the Jewish People.

The author is the international spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron.

The Evil Wizard https://yishaifleisher.com/the-evil-wizard/ Sun, 09 Jul 2017 15:32:59 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=1999

We can’t defeat Israel in field combat, so let us beat them with their own power – the spirit! Thus did Balak, King of Moab reason, and hired the bizarro prophet Bilam to curse the Jews. Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Rabbi Yishai, and a talking donkey, in the fight to turn Bilam’s curses into blessings.

Plus: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on Aushwitz.

The Platypus of Torah Portions https://yishaifleisher.com/platypus-torah-portions/ Fri, 30 Jun 2017 05:15:13 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=1991

This week’s Torah Portion is filled with weird characters and occurrences including fiery snakes, giants who attack Israel, and a red heifer which cleanses away the energy of death. Rabbi Mike Feurer joins Rabbi Yishai to discuss this most unusual Torah Portion and together they too push back on the dark energy of death with life! Le’Chaim!

Yishai’s Birthday Show https://yishaifleisher.com/birthday-show/ Fri, 23 Jun 2017 04:50:19 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=1980

On his birthday, Yishai hosts Rabbi Mike Feuer at the Western Wall where they discuss false narratives, including those of UNESCO, and Korach’s anti-Moses rebellion. Then, Yishai speaks to young Jewish leaders at the Foreign Ministry.

Settlement tours: a new frontline in Israel’s ideological conflict https://yishaifleisher.com/settlement-tours-new-frontline-israels-ideological-conflict/ Tue, 20 Jun 2017 05:10:46 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=1971 Originally posted at Reuters

a new frontline in Israel’s ideological conflict

By Yuval Ben-David | HEBRON, Israel


HEBRON, West Bank The heart of the old city of Hebron is divided, with Israeli military checkpoints, mechanical turnstiles and closed-circuit cameras controlling the movement of Palestinians in and out of an area inhabited by some 800 Jewish settlers.

Inside the secured zone stand two ancient shrines, side-by-side – the Tomb of the Patriarchs revered by Jews, and the Ibrahimi Mosque revered by Muslims, ensuring Hebron’s position as a source of religious friction for centuries.

But as well as the conflict over land, settlements and religion, there is another battle in the largest city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank: an ideological conflict between left- and right-wing Israeli NGOs over how to explain Hebron to outsiders.

On one side stands Breaking the Silence, a leftist group of former Israeli soldiers opposed to the occupation, which for years has led tours of Hebron for foreign visitors, highlighting the restrictions routinely faced by its 200,000 Palestinians.

On the other stands Im Tirtzu, a right-wing NGO that over the last year has run a handful of tours denouncing Breaking the Silence, accusing it of deepening ethnic faultlines and fuelling anti-Semitism with its criticism of Israel’s actions.

“You have to understand, there’s a war of narratives here,” said Yishai Fleisher, a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, as he led a recent Im Tirtzu tour down Shuhada Street, once a busy market road but now mostly closed off to Palestinians and renamed “King David Street” by the city’s Jews.

“There are two wars we’re fighting. The narrative war justifies the other war — the war on terror,” he said. “We’re good at fighting the physical war, but at the narrative war, sadly, we’re behind.”

That is not how Breaking the Silence sees it. Since it was set up in 2004, the organization has shared testimony from former soldiers opposed to the Israeli military’s activities.

Nadav Weiman, the group’s education director, said the aim of the Hebron tours, which happen monthly, was not to level criticism at the army but to open visitors’ eyes to the realities of the occupation, now in its 50th year.”We want people to come here and understand what the occupation is,” he told Reuters. “We think the problem is the policy that sends the soldiers over here. The soldiers and the settlers are a symptom but not the problem.”


As Breaking the Silence led a group of around 20 visitors on one recent tour, two settlers allied to Im Tirtzu began screaming abuse at the guide, a former soldier.

“You’re lying to them!” one of them shouted, filming the scene on his phone. “You’re trash, you’re a stinking traitor.”

Those taking part in the tour filmed the exchange themselves, each collecting a digital record of the battle.

Weiman brushed off Im Tirtzu’s disruptions, saying his organization was focused on shedding light on wrongdoing.

“Violations of human rights are not a domestic issue, they’re an international issue,” he said. “It’s not my secret or the Palestinians’ secret, it’s the truth.”

The growing criticism of Breaking the Silence has been fuelled by right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose supporters in parliament are backing legislation that would prevent the organization from giving talks in Israeli schools.

Matan Peleg, the head of Im Tirtzu, says he wants to expose “propaganda groups”, some of which receive funding from European countries, and are painting Israel in a bad light.

“Breaking the Silence is anti-Zionist,” he said, adding that Jews have lived in Hebron for thousands of years and have the right to live in the heart of the city.

Weiman sees it very differently.

“The problem is the occupation,” he says calmly. “The command given by our government.”

As the shouting and denunciations continued during the tour, local Palestinians could only look on, nonplussed.

(Editing by Luke Baker/Mark Heinrich)


Smack Talking the Land https://yishaifleisher.com/smack-talking-land/ Thu, 15 Jun 2017 23:20:38 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=1964

The sin of our times is smack talking the Land of Israel and the State of Israel! How do we rectify this sin? How do we overcome the perpetual problem of fear, and the mistake of succumbing to dark reports about Israel? Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Rabbi Yishai to talk about and the ‘sin of the spies’ and the Torah portion of our times.

Travails of Travels https://yishaifleisher.com/travails-of-travels/ Thu, 08 Jun 2017 23:16:19 +0000 https://yishaifleisher.com/?p=1957

Yishai sits down to discuss the last two weeks of his travels in the United States of America including being scholar in residence in Livingston, New Jersey, and the Israeli Day Parade in New York City. While on the way to a post-Ramadan dinner in Turkey Yishai details the hilarious, yet arduous, travails of travels that he’s had in between Moscow, Tel Aviv and Turkey. Join Yishai for candid thoughts about the Jewish people, American Jewry, Israel and the globe.