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Numbers, in and of themselves are innocuous, it is the actions of people that imbue them with meaning.

The teenager wasn’t asked when the Nazis tattooed a number on his arm. A decision made by men declared that men, women and children could be catalogued, used and discarded. Numbers labeled them as less than human.

Unlike so many others beside him, by some miracle (or many small ones) the teenager survived Auschwitz. He moved to America, got married and had a family. Over the years, throughout all his activities, no matter what he accomplished, Gerhard Maschkowski always carried with him the reminder that once he was less than human: the number that branded him a Jew.

71 years after liberation from Auschwitz the numbers on Gerhard’s arm have faded, less clear but always there. Time has not, cannot, erase the numbers from his arm or the memories that accompany them.

Sometimes numbers are a lot more than just numbers.

Sometimes the contrast between one set of numbers and another is nothing short of breathtaking.

Militaries worldwide issue their soldiers identification tags: “dog tags.” Each army decides to put different pieces of information on the tag. IDF tags have the soldier’s first and last name and their military identification number which, interestingly, is different from the civilian social security number issued to all Israeli citizens.

Now try to imagine yourself in Gerhard Maschkowski’s shoes. After being transformed into nothing but a number, what would it be like to hold in your hand dog tags given to a different Maschkowski? A Maschkowski, young and tall and strong. A Maschkowski born in the land of the Israel, who has now joined the Israel Defense Forces.

Gerhard Maschkowski and Tal Maschkowski - with two very different numbers

Here the number is added to the name, it does not come instead of the name.

Here the number is a badge of freedom, not a mark of freedom stripped away.

The young Gerhard had no one to defend him and no tools to defend himself. Now Maschkowski’s can defend themselves and other Jews as well.

The IDF means that never again will Jews remain defenseless against those that wish to exterminate us. Never again will it be necessary to count on the mercy of another for our protection. History has taught us that there is no one else that can be relied on. We must save ourselves. The ability to do so is the freedom of Israel.

Just ask Gerhard. He knows.

Sometimes numbers are much more than just numbers.

What is the connection between Donald Trump, the GOP elections and the story about the IDF soldier now on trial for executing a terrorist in Hebron?

It might seems weird to connect between these stories but I see a powerful (and very obvious) relationship between these seemingly unconnected issues: wanting to “win”.

Everyone wants to win. Who doesn’t? The question is what will you do to make that happen and what will you consider winning? Or, to put it another way, what will you have lost in the process?

Many of the people who support Trump explain that they do so because they want to win. Pointing out their candidate’s abhorrent behavior has little impact. It doesn’t matter how rude, obnoxious, misogynist or dictatorial he becomes. It doesn’t matte160125114628-donald-trump-quote-shoot-somebody-super-169r how incongruent his behavior is with the stated principles of his followers.

It seems that the wider the gap between behavior and principles becomes, the more vehemently his supporters respond: “Yes but I want to WIN!”

And it is possible for Trump to win the GOP elections. Such a win would be based not on principles or policy but on fear, anger and division enflamed by the candidate himself. He might “win” but what will be lost in the process?

And how is that connected to the IDF soldier who is now on trial for executing a terrorist in Hebron?

The connection is principles. The 10 Commandments. These are the first principles of both America and Israel, on these principles all other ideas of freedom, liberty and God-given rights are based.

It is not fashionable to discuss laws as something that developed out of God’s law. Modern society often mocks anyone who states God as a guiding factor in life. On the other hand, most will admit that Judeo-Christian society is based on the principles dictated by the 10 Commandments.

There is a reason the 10 Commandments were written in stone.

Groucho Marx famously said: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others”. The statement is funny because we know that although many do live this way, principles are supposed to remain unchanged.

Mark Twain said: “Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed.” In other words it is easy to declare principles but when these are tested by reality it is often difficult to uphold them.

The IDF solider in question will be tried in the military court system for manslaughter. His name has been withheld by the State of Israel for his own protection and in the same vein I will not name him in this article. The people advertising his name and image via social media are doing him no favor.

There has been an outcry from people in Israel and around the world: “But he killed a terrorist! A terrorist who was trying to kill Jews just one moment before! He should be given a medal, not put on trial! What is wrong with Israel?!”

The answer is: nothing.

The terrorist, along with an accomplice tried to kill Jews in Hebron. They attacked IDF soldiers there. One was shot and killed. The other was shot and wounded. Up to here there are no problems. Those soldiers reacted exactly as they should have.

The problem began when the soldier in question arrived at the scene and seeing that the terrorist was wounded but not dead, proceeded to shoot him in the head. shooting

“He hurt my friend, he needs to die.” Boom.

Righteous self-defense became a street execution. This is called killing in a fit of rage which is legally defined as manslaughter. This is not an act of heroism. This not an act done to protect others. This is a very simple, straightforward revenge killing.

As this incident was documented on video, providing the public with what seemed to be a very straightforward picture of what happened. Even so, the charges filed against the soldier are not based solely on the video. They come after a full investigation of what happened, the perceived threat, the actual threat level, how the soldier behaved, the instructions he was given and how he explained his actions to his superiors directly following the event. The conclusions of the investigation are: there was no threat that justified the execution. This was an execution, not self-defense. The soldier acted against IDF guidelines, against the rules laid down by the State of Israel. He also acted against God’s law.

“Thou shall not murder.” is one of the most universally agreed on of the Ten Commandments. The Judeo-Christian societies around the world have all adopted this as one of their society’s first principles. The Commandment specifically declares that murder is wrong. Sometimes killing is justified or even necessary for example in the case of self-defense. If life is precious and it is forbidden to murder it is also wrong to allow yourself to be murdered – thus killing in self-defense, when it is necessary, becomes the right thing to do.

Murder is never right. It’s that simple.

“But we are talking about a terrorist! He deserves to die! He was trying to murder! He knew he might be killed in the process!” All of these are true statements however, it still does not change the first principle: “Thou shall not murder.”

For Israel this is a very difficult test of principles. We are talking about one of our own, a soldier. All of our soldiers are beloved. They have a special place in society because they protect the nation, allowing us to live and most of all because they are us: our sons, fathers, husbands, friends (and daughters). Any one soldier could be the child of any family in Israel and because of this, each soldier is treated like everyone’s child.

No one wants to put a soldier on trial. Everyone understands rage against a terrorist that tried to kill your friends moments before. On the other hand principles are not fluid. Right and wrong do not change because it is one of your own that commits the wrong.

The IDF is the most moral army in the world. There is a reason the army was named the “Israel Defense Forces”. Their job is to defend. Not attack. Not avenge. Their duty is not only to protect Israel it is also to protect life. To put it another way, protecting life is protecting Israel.

It’s not about what the terrorist was about to do. It’s about what our soldiers do. We cannot force terrorists to love life. They have chosen death. Israel on the other hand has chosen life and we do our utmost to live by that creed. All Lives Matter is not a slogan. It is a very demanding standard to live by.

The desire to “win” has brought many to object to any criticism or punishment for the soldier. He is ours and we want to be right, we want to win. This sentiment is understandable however we cannot excuse manslaughter because we want our side to “win”. If we do that, we lose.

The IDF is the most moral army in the world because we live by our principles. We demand that they be upheld, even when it is difficult. This means admitting when something was done wrong.

If we do not do so we will lose our moral superiority.

Many say that war is a dirty thing and sometimes harsh actions are needed in order to prevail. That is true. It is even more reason to be certain that we do not “win the battle just to lose the war”. Every day in Israel is a battle against terrorists that want to kill us. The war is for our survival and if we lose our soul in the process, our society will not survive.

There are things that are more important than “winning.”

The horrific attacks in Brussels two days ago lead me to contemplate airport security and the difference between the way we do things in Israel and the way things are done elsewhere.

And the difference between the feeling of security and actual security. Big difference.

Airports are sensitive locations. An attack on an airport is an attack on the gateway to the country in which it is located, effecting both the local city and the feeling of freedom – people become afraid to travel, an effective attack shuts down travel and by extension commerce, at least for a while.

I find it shocking that 3 individuals can bring a major European city to its knees and no one points out that this is a major scandal. How easy it is for a few terrorists to put a stop to freedom! (How many terrorists will it take to shut down the entire continent?)

Living in Israel makes you look at security in a different light. Scanning the surroundings, assessing safety vs. threat becomes reflexive. This is not a matter of being in some state of hyper-tension, fear or hysteria, it simply becomes automatic. Going to a new place, the image of how easy/difficult it would be to carry out a terror attack flashes through the mind as a matter of course. An instant later the image is put aside (not forgotten) and the activity at hand is continued with full enjoyment.

Maybe this is why, in general, Israelis scorn measures that are meant to give the feeling of security. We all want to feel secure but it is more important to actually be secure.

On my recent family vacation we went (among other places) to Disney World. It was at Disney’s Magic Kingdom where the cursory bag check at the park entrance seemed most ridiculous to me. Visitors park their car and go with a stream of people to a boat or a monorail station where everyone is transported to the park entrance. There bags are checked and every so often someone is selected for a random screening via a metal detector. Supposedly this ensures visitors safety. No one seems to have realized that the boat docking station or the monorail where hundreds of people gather together at one time would be the simplest place in the world for a suicide bomber to blow him or herself up. Park the car, walk in to the crowd with everyone else and kablooey. Dozens of people would die, many more would be injured, the Disney reputation would be forever damaged and the American economy would take a major hit.

Easy.

There is a big difference between the feeling of safety and actual safety.

The terror attack in the Brussels airport took place in the departures lounge. In most airports in the world security measures begin after passenger check in.

America has invested millions in security technology. After every attempted (or successful) attack the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has added additional security measures. After the shoe-bomber they started forcing everyone to remove their shoes for screening. After a foiled terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives carried onboard the TSA banned all liquids, gels and aerosols from passenger carry-on luggage. A child cannot carry a bottle of water to drink while waiting at the gate because, possibly, it might be part of an international terrorist conspiracy. If you accidentally forget that you have a bottle of water in your bag and it is discovered in the security screening the screener is not allowed to give it to you to drink (you have to either allow them to throw it away or be escorted to a location before the checkpoint where the screener will then give you your water or cola or yogurt. There you can consume it and later come back through the check point). This is of course reasonable because maybe you will drink the water and explode on the spot. Or maybe you will race to the bathroom with it and at the speed of light create a bomb you can detonate before security catches you…

After the underwear bomber tried to get through security with a bomb strategically placed so it would not be found in a normal screening, the TSA implemented fully body scanners. Every single person needs to go in the capsule, raise their arms like a criminal surrendering to the police and undergo a full body scan that shows every contour of the body. Right to privacy? Sure – unless you want to fly? Then the last, most private things are stripped from you.

There is a race between terrorists and technology. The terrorists strive to circumvent the technology, when they succeed additional technology is added. The investment needed to fund this “security-race” is continually increasing while, at the same time, passenger freedoms are restricted more and more.

European airport security has less technology measures than those of their American counterparts. In addition, that “small” issue of freedom of movement between EU countries complicates the matter. It is known, for example, that many European citizens have gone to Syria for ISIS training. It is also known that many of these have returned to Europe. It is not known where exactly these people are.

Israel’s Ben Gurion airport is different. Interestingly, while being world-renowned for its safety, the Ben Gurion model is not adopted elsewhere. Why?

The two security models are diametrically opposed. While the rest of the world relies on technological solutions for safety, Israel relies first on people and backs them up with technology. While the rest of the world begins security measures after the check-in point, Israel’s airport security begins before people even enter the airport.

Machines that scan bags and people, stripping to have articles of clothing scanned and hysteria about nail files and bottles of water may give the impression of security. Feelings are nice but what about facts?

While Israel has cutting edge technology available to enhance security, the first line of security consists of well trained, experienced, people. It is the ability to recognize someone who is behaving suspiciously that makes all the difference in the world. It then becomes possible to further investigate that specific person, define their threat level and when needed, remove the threat.

It is not necessary to treat everyone like criminals in order to keep the public safe.

It is not technology that makes a person dangerous or assures detection of a danger. The 9/11 hijackers used box-cutters not high powered rifles. The problem was not their weapons but the unprepared flight crew who did not have the knowledge, training or skills to deal with the threat. And the civilians who sat quietly while they were being hijacked… It wasn’t technology that prevented Flight 93 from being used to crash in to another building a wreck more terror on America. It was people. It was Todd Beamer and the men with him who, with no weapons, decided to storm the cockpit and take down the terrorists.

Where there is a will, there is a way and frankly the terrorists have a lot more will than the minimum wage, (often) poorly educated, low interest employees working in airport security around the world.

To oversimplify, while airport security around the world strives to detect “ways” that passengers can be hurt, things that can be used as weapons and bombs, Israeli security detects people who have the will to commit acts of terrorism.

But this means profiling and profiling is racist… right?

Wrong.

Profiling is the extrapolation of information about something, based on known qualities. When applied to security this means, detecting people who may pose a threat, based on known behaviors and tendencies of people who have, in the past, been dangerous to the public. This is called learning from experience.

When someone behaving suspiciously is detected they can then be taken aside, further questioned and inspected. This allows security to focus in-depth on the few who could be a problem, without creating a burden on those who are not.

The profile of a potential terrorist is complicated, some of its elements I am familiar with, more I am not. (Similarly much of Israeli security measures are seen while others remain unseen.) And no, potential terrorists are not necessarily Arabs or Muslims. Most Arabs and Muslims will move freely through Ben Gurion airport, without undergoing in-depth security checks because they are law abiding citizens that pose no threat. Potentially dangerous people do not necessarily have any religious or ethnic ties to Islam. They can also be innocent people who, because of their naiveté became, unbeknownst to them, carriers of bombs set to explode at later time (for example mid-flight).

Elsewhere, so as not to appear “racist,” people are chosen for random additional security checks. In a world terrified of offending it is considered better to subject everyone to offensive, intrusive and cumbersome inspections than to actually identify potential dangers. It is better to focus on giving the feeling of security than being actually secure.

And it is much more fun to point at Israel and accuse us of racism and prejudice than to learn from our experience.

Israel was saddened by the attacks in Brussels. We know the pain caused by terrorism and empathize with the victims. At the same time it was Israel who warned that the security measures in the Brussels airport were inadequate. What a pity their advice was not applied in time…

It is our experts who investigate all the airports where flights depart to Tel Aviv and analyze their security measures. Think about that – Israeli airport security does not begin just at the checkpoint everyone passes driving in to Ben Gurion, it begins at the airports where there are flights destined for Tel Aviv.

That is real security.

 

 

 

 

A real friend is someone who not only says nice things but also acts accordingly.
A true friend is consistent in his support. What he says and does remains the same, no matter who is asking, if the cameras are on him or not, if it is convenient or not.

This is what a friend of Israel sounds like.

All Americans should care about this because attitude towards Israel is indicative of attitude towards all freedoms.

Let freedom ring!

Two weeks ago I found myself in Washington DC, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Contemplating but not silent, the 19 foot tall form of Lincoln looks out through the columns of the temple where his memory is enshrined, towards the towering monument honoring the father of the nation, George Washington. This was the man who helped root in America’s foundation the notion that the America was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”

The message is easy to hear, it is placed in stone for all to see. In case the juxtaposition of the two memories escapes the viewer, Lincoln’s words are also inscribed on the walls. The ideals of America were not being lived. Slavery was a wrong that had to be corrected, even if it meant a war between brothers: “Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.”

Lincoln explains that, after the war, the healing of the nation must be done: “with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

War is never to be desired but it was necessary in order to preserve the founding principles of America. After the war the Union could not be healed if brother held malice for brother, to achieve a just and lasting peace it was necessary to bind the nation’s wounds and care for all (not care only for one side or the other).

Saving the Union was not a result of winning the war but rather a result of both adhering to founding principles and having no malice towards the side that did not do the same.

I stood in the temple dedicated less to the specific man and more to his ideas about what it took to save the Union and felt a weight of sadness. What would he say about the America of today?

Turning to look where he gazed, out past the reflecting pool, towards the Washington Monument, I could not help but think of a different man who stood, looking in the same direction. Rev. Dr. King stood in the shadow of Lincoln, looking towards the memory of Washington and told the people of America that she was not living her founding principles. I felt dizzy picturing the sea of faces looking up at Rev. Dr. King. Black and white, men and women, young and old – Americans stood side by side because they too believed in proposition that all men are created equal.

And they did it with malice towards none.

The rage felt by the followers of Malcolm X stands in stark contrast. On one hand it is easy to understand. Wrath is a justifiable reaction to extreme injustice. The desire to inflict pain on people (or even their representations) who have caused deep physical and spiritual wounds is a natural reaction. But, to borrow from Lincoln’s words, when both sides read the same Bible, and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other, the prayers of both sides cannot not be fully answered.

It was not the rage of Malcom X or the Black Panthers that changed America. It was the people who stood together, despite the danger to themselves, who in their presence declared, with no malice but “with firmness in the right,” that liberty belongs to all men.

Anger did not change America. Courage, honor and love did.

It changed the world.

It was never one man that “made America great,” it was many, vastly different individuals who united with adherence to guiding principles. It was courageous, unwavering conviction, despite danger and little hope for victory. Above all, it was malice towards none that swayed the balance. Love won.

America was never great because a great conqueror made her so. America was great because the courage and love of her people made her honorable in ways that other nations were not.

But what about the America of today?

It seems that the fundamental change Obama promised is being fulfilled. He taught America, and the world, that there is no such thing as American exceptionalism and many seem to believe him.

Americans are busy arguing over whose lives matter more, dividing over race lines and attacking people of different religious or political beliefs. A large group of Americans feel the political system is so corrupt that maybe it is time to try socialism. Another group, is crying out for a strong man to swoop in, take control and “make America great again.”

For the past years America has stood on the wrong side of conflicts around the world. She has abandoned her allies, enabled the rise of terrorism which has in turn, destabilized the world. America is vacant from the scene, enabling other powers such as Russia and China to take her place at the world’s table.

Where has America’s honor gone?

Freedom in America is not just an American issue. The existence of a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal” is a beacon of hope for people worldwide.

In the Gettysburg Address Lincoln acknowledged that an America that lives by her guiding principles is an “unfinished work” and asked the people to: “be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

In the America of today I see the Union (and with it, the free world) hanging in the balance.

If the people of America choose to continue the broken political system America will drift even further from her founding principles.

If the people choose to abandon the American experiment and replace it with a socialist government America as we know it will no longer exist.

Many Americans feel the urgency and this has led them for a “strong man” who promises that he will fix the problem. The problem is that this also results in end of the government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Wise leaders have helped America stay on the course set by her founders. Leaders serve their people.

“Strong men” are not leaders but opportunists, there to serve themselves. We see examples of this around the world and throughout history: Putin, Saddam Hussein and Mussolini, just to name a few. These men fan the flames of hate, anger and fear, knowing that hate makes people weak and easier to control. We are seeing this in America today as well…

With great power comes great responsibility. The people of America have a responsibility, to themselves and to the world.

The crowd attending the Restoring Honor rally, organized by Glenn Beck, is seen from the top of the Washington Monument in Washington, on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010.

There are some Americans who understand the idea of Restoring Honor. This image is of the crowd attending the Restoring Honor rally, organized by Glenn Beck, as seen from the top of the Washington Monument in Washington, on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010. I wonder how many of the people who attended that day will be guided by the founding principles of America in their choices this election season…

This is no game.

Although many are acting like it is, it’s not a reality tv show either. Responsibility cannot be relegated to one man to swoop in and save the nation. No one man can fix all the problems or “make America great again.” It is the choice of each individual that will make the difference and it is enough individuals uniting with firm adherence to guiding principles that will sway the balance.

The message of the monuments on the Washington Mall, is plain to see. The lessons of history speak through them for all willing to listen:

Anger does not win. Love does.

America’s greatness came from her honor.

America’s honor came, not from any one man but from vastly different individuals who united with courage and with malice towards none, to create a land of liberty.

America’s government exists to preserve that liberty, not to empower itself. And it is the duty of the people to make sure that this is so.

Loyalty must not be to any one man but to these guiding principles.

This is what made America great. If people of America choose this course they can restore her honor and make her great again.

I don’t even want to consider the alternative.

Interestingly shame and honor, two conflicting emotions, can occupy the same space… In Israel, today both are at the forefront.

Today former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, begins his prison sentence. It is deeply embarrassing that someone who held the most important position in the land, who has been privy to State secrets and has made life and death decisions, is a corrupt politician who has violated the laws of the land he was in charge of.

At the same time, today Israel is marked with a badge of honor. The Nation has decided that corruption will not be tolerated and that no one is too big to jail. Bribery and obstruction of justice (for which Olmert was convicted) are not tolerated. Embezzlement and sexual misconduct (for which other Israeli politicians have been prosecuted) are not tolerated.

The laws of the land are to be upheld equally for all citizens. People who have titles are not excused from responsibility, quite the opposite, those who were elected to office need to be held to higher standards than those set for the general population.

It is shameful that so many people abuse power. They are an embarrassment to the standards our society sets for itself. On the other hand, other nations can learn from the State of Israel – corrupt officials are not something that can be tolerated. Justice must be equal to all citizens otherwise there is no justice at all.

And no one, no matter what position they held or what family they belong to, is too big to jail.

What happened to Lara Logan in Tahrir Square in Egypt should have been a wake-up call. Although she bravely reported on her near death experience of gang rape turned lynch mob, that screamed “Jew, Jew” as they attempted to tear her apart, the world just sighed, turned down the volume, looked away and said: “It’s not about Islam.”

As wave after wave of migrants beat upon the shores of Europe, the number of rapes rose dramatically. This should have set off warning alarms but Europe preferred to not see the crimes against their women, hiding the origin of the perpetrators in order to prevent “Islamophobia’ while at the same time announcing, “It’s not about Islam”.

More and more reports are coming out of women being attacked, molested and raped in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany and France.  Sweden is now number two on the list of rape countries, surpassed only by Lesotho in Southern Africa.

The mass molestation of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve was impossible to ignore or hide. Too many women filed official complaints. Police in Berlin, Hamburg, Bielefeld, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Stuttgart have reported of similar incidents. Police in Vienna and Salzburg in Austria and Zurich in Switzerland have raised the alarm about similar mass assaults against women by newly arrived Arab migrants. Also Sweden and Finland experienced the same on New Year’s Eve.

We learned that there is a name for these mass assaults: Taharrush.

More and more women are speaking out via social media about being afraid to walk in their own cities, feeling threatened, being verbally abused and physically attacked.

Now stories of molestation of European women and young girls are appearing in mainstream media. These stories are framed in the context of needing to educate migrants on how to treat women i.e. it’s not “nice” to molest or rape. No real solution is offered, aside from educational posters in public places and comments like “stay at arm’s length,” “don’t go out on your own” and “stay away from the neighborhoods where the migrants are”.

Many still refuse to see the problem. Some see but prefer to blame the victims. Women have begun to cry out for help, for protection.

I have two words for the women of Europe: Krav Maga.

It comes from Israel and it could be what saves you. Don’t wait for your government to protect you. Don’t hope a man will protect you. Protect yourself.

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