Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Yitzhak Shamir

Dear Pastors:

Yesterday, I was thinking about the death of the great Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir, whom I never met, but ‘got to know’ through my good friend, Shamir’s former Chief of Staff, Dr. Yossi Ben-Aharon. I told my grandson Kale, Deacon Bill Johnson and Associate Pastor Joe D. Finn, "One of my biggest problems always has been ‘to think I am somebody,’ when I know down deep in my soul that I am just a nobody."

Menachem Begin, who is also a former Prime Minister became PM during the presidency of Baptist Jimmy Carter. Begin believed Carter to be a ‘truly born again Christian,’ as ole JAV does too.  Begin wrote as he was first coming to America to meet Carter: "I believe Jimmy Carter to be a decent man, and his impulse is entirely sincere. He is a truly religious Southern Baptist. I’m told that he prays privately several times a day and that each night, before retiring, he and his wife study the bible together in Spanish, to lend scope to their learning. As a genuine born-again Christian he lives by the conviction that God has placed him on this earth to fulfill a destiny. He sees himself as a healer,  and as a healer he wants to bring peace to the Holy Land. Yet, as much as I respect his religious conviction, I doubt, as [former PM] Rabin did, his grasp of the complexities of the Middle East. Certainly, he shows little comprehension of the Jewish right to Eretz Yisrael, nor of our genuine security concerns. But since I believe him to be an honest man I have to believe he can detect the truth when he sees it, and is, therefore, open to persuasion."

Begin had his Military Aide, General Poran, whom he called "Freuka," prepare three maps: 1st, showing PLO concentrations in southern Lebanon; 2nd, showing Israel’s minute size compared to their 22 Arab neighbors; and 3rd, the tiny distance between the old 1967-border, and the Mediterranean Sea, which he had marked —telling Freuka with a cheeky look, "INSM." "Which stands for?" asked Freuka. "Israel’s National Security Map, of course," Begin replied.  

In 2004, we brought a number of Israelis to Washington, D.C. There we tried to petition the U.S. Congress in an effort to keep Condi’s "Road Map to Peace" plan from being implemented, or what I call the ‘giving land for peace.’ It was a failed effort when the Gush Katif’s beautiful 21 communities and 4 of the Shomron were given to the so-called "Palestinians." Dr. Yossi Ben-Aharon, Shamir’s Chief of Staff was one of the affected Israelis.

Yossi told me much about his former boss, Yitzhak Shamir. I can remember Yossi telling how Shamir lived very modestly, and had a perspective devoid of panic. Following is a Jerusalem Post article written about former Prime Minister Shamir.

Shamir had seen what the Jews went through in Europe before statehood prior to 1948 and also took an active part in Israel’s rebirth.

More than any other Israeli politician I have covered over the last quarter century, Yitzhak Shamir – who was buried in Jerusalem on Monday – embodied the steely resilience of his people.

He came squarely out of the "we survived pharaoh, we can survive this as well" school of thought.  Nothing fazed him, at least outwardly. Nothing daunted him, nothing took him aback.

That was one of the two qualities that stood out when thinking of Shamir. The other was his lack of pretension; the modesty of his lifestyle. Both qualities are praiseworthy; both needed by today’s leaders.

Regarding his modest lifestyle, a family friend rented an apartment in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood in the early 1980s when Shamir was the foreign minister and a major political force in the country.

He was shocked to learn a few days after moving in, that the quiet, unpretentious couple in the modest flat across the hall was none other than the Shamirs.

This simplicity of lifestyle is an admirable trait especially when leaders ask the Country to make sacrifices. Not in Shamir’s file can there be found stories about luxury apartments, lavish trips abroad, a post- or pre-premiership chase after wealth. Shamir, like Menachem Begin who preceded him, disdained opulence and lived in simple surroundings.

"Ah, but those were different, less materialistic times," the counterargument goes. "Everybody had less."

True, but societal values are impacted from the top. The example leaders set, the way they live their personal lives, filters down to the people. And the example Shamir set – little, tough, proud Shamir who walked briskly a few paces in front of his security guard on his daily walk – was one where simplicity, not rampant materialism, was to be esteemed....

[Dr. Lee Roberson, former Pastor of the great church Highland Park Baptist in Tennessee, would always state, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." Leaders who let their "egomania," get in the way,as Obama does, won't go out of their way to make themselves available to their people as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir did.]

[Shamir went against President George H.W. Bush when he] oversaw the great waves of Russian-speaking and Ethiopian Jews into Israel in the early 1990s.

Once in early 1992, while the administration of George H. W. Bush threatened to withhold badly needed loan guarantees if construction in the settlements continued, Shamir went to a school in Jerusalem for some kind of ceremony. There he was asked about the impending crisis with the U.S....

[His reaction to George H. W.] was very similar to the gist of all his reactions to the reporters’ breathless questions of impending doom during those days – be it from the first intifada, the crisis with the US or scuds from Iraq during the first Gulf War.

"Tov," he would say, "things are not so bad; they’ve been worse; relax, keep things in proportion. We’ve had to deal with worse in the past, we can handle this."

This perspective was not religiously based, it was not of the put-your-faith-in- God-because-he-will-take-care-of-things variety, but rather based on his historical perspective and a faith, as his son said Monday at his funeral, in the eternity of the Jewish people.

Shamir saw what the Jews went through in Europe before statehood; he experienced, through the destruction of his family, the pain and that agony of the Holocaust.

But he also experienced and took an active part in Israel’s rebirth.  If the Jewish people could face the nightmare of the 'Shoah' and emerge in a state of its own, it could deal with such trivial issues as loan guarantees, lack of suitable employment for immigrants and even intifada violence.

Some mocked his unrealistic "Tov, we’ve seen worse, we’ll manage" approach; others saw it as a healthy, Jewish way of putting this people’s day-to-day tribulations into greater historical perspective.

Instead of panicking, Shamir radiated a supreme confidence in the Jewish people’s ability to deal with the challenges thrown in its direction.

This is a quality the country needs in its leaders today, no less than it did 25 years ago.

Now, news from Lebanon tells us that, "the Israel Air Force bombed an intelligence gathering device in southern Lebanon on Monday, according to Lebanese media reports.

One of the reports claimed that the attack was carried out by an air-to-surface missile which struck a "device" between the southern towns of Zrariyeh and Tayr Filsay.

Al Manar TV said that the attack targeted a device that had been installed on a Hezbollah telecommunications cable.

Naharnet said that Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati asked UNIFIL to investigate the bombing.

The reported bombing on Monday is not the first time that Israel has been accused of destroying intelligence-gathering devices it had hidden throughout Lebanon."



PSALM 122:6

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