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Day 2: A Day That Will Live on in Jewish History

2014-01-20 03:46:04 PM


Indescribable. Overwhelming. Euphoric. These are but mere words that cannot truly capture the last few hours, felt by Jews throughout the world, but most of all, Canadian Jews. Stephen Harper's address to the Kenesset today was truly monumental for so many reasons. Today, all Jews are Canadians.


If you haven't watched the address yet, see it here. To read a transcript (which will tell you what he said, but now HOW he said it), click here. Now, let me press rewind for a moment, and go over our day.


Our day began (after Shacharis) with a breakfast that featured Jonathan Medved (a long-time oleh from L.A.), who spoke about the "Start-Up Nation" that has made Israel one of the most sought after countries for high-tech investment, and also providing one of the highest rates of return for its investors. Truly, exciting things are happening in Israel. Also exciting is that he spoke about a changing culture, where corporate Israel is realizing that tzedakah is important, and indeed, more and more start-ups are tithing their earnings and sharing it with the needy of Israel.


In the morning, we were given the option of going to a base near Ashkelon to see the Iron Dome and other defense mechanisms that Israel is utilizing today to keep our people safe. I opted to spend the morning instead with my son, Aharon, who is studying in yeshiva. I had the privilege of visiting my rebbe from yeshiva days, Rav Avraham Kanarak, who is, bli ayin hara, a nanogenarian and who is still active in my old yeshiva, Chafetz Chaim of Jerusalem, where Aharon is studying. We visited Rav Kanarak today, father and son, to visit with this man who studied in the Kaminetz yeshiva in Europe with some of the gedolei yisrael before the war.


At 2:45 pm, we departed for the Kenesset. Here's a beautiful view of some Canadian flags from outside the hotel:


In addition to our regular delegation badges, we were each issued a 2nd badge to get us into the Kenesset:


We arrived at Kenesset, and took note of the beautiful red carpet rolled out for the PM's visit:


Here I am with my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Daniel Friedman of Beth Israel of Edmonton:


As we got closer to the entrance, we could see the beautiful greeting sign that awaiting Mr. & Mrs. Harper:


MK Rabbi Dov Lipman and I had been texting throughout the day, and we had arranged that at some point he'd meet us in the lobby while we were waiting for the PM. It was great to catch up with Rav Dov, and he shared with me some very encouraging news about the latest draft of the new law requiring national service of all Israelis, something that hopefully will be very attractive to all sectors of Israeli society (more on that later).


We waited for some time for the PM's car to arrive, and then finally, at around 6 pm, there he was, entering the Kenesset lobby to great applause. As he was welcomed in front of a beautiful Chagall wall hanging, Mr. Harper was presented with an unprecedented honor, something that has never been done before, a key to the Kenesset. Mr. Harper would later quip in his speech that now he feels he come and go to the Kenesset whenever he likes:


We finally made our way into the Kenesset room, the place where it all happens. At our seats we each found the program:


We were given wireless translation devices, but of course, I wanted to hear Kenesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, PM Binyamin Netanyahu, and opposition leader Isaac Herzog in all their Hebrew glory, as they went on about how Canada is the best friend Israel has in the world today, about how we have a prime minister who puts truth before politics, and who recognizes the great existential challenges that Israel has on a daily basis.


Of course, this is a politics, and it was interesting to hear the subtle and not-so-subtle political posturing that Bibi and Herzog took during their respective speeches in approaching the proposals for a future Palestinian state, including how to deal with John Kerry and other international brokers.


And then it was time for the main event, PM Harper's speech. You must listen to it, again, here. Listen for the moments of applause, and also look for the heckling of these two Arab MK's, pictured in the center:

They heckled Bibi, who took it all in stride - indeed, he noted that this was the only government where heckling was permitted! He further noted that despite all their griping, not one Israeli Arab wants to leave Israel!!


But then they also heckled during Mr. Harper's speech, which was both embarrassing and vindicating. Great, I thought, let the entire international community how these MK's are acting like "chayos" on the world stage. Let the world see how Israel gives a voice to its enemies even when they behave in such a deplorable, uncivilized fashion. Finally, the got up and left, which earned them a very loud ovation.


It was also great to note the great satisfaction and "bromance" between Bibi and PM Harper, which was palpable both during Bibi's speech, and while looking at his face, which was beaming, smiling, and nodding, during most of PM Harper's speech. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if during their private session last night, Bibi helped Reb Stephen write his most salient points!


Mr. Harper's speech ended with the historic words, "Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you." There were so many other historic statements that the PM made, it's hard to extract only a few. He noted that Canadians have a tendency to do what is right even when that decision doesn't provide expedient benefit to Canadians, and sometimes at great personal cost of life to Canadians. True, Canada hasn't always chosen wisely, especially during the years leading up to and during WWII, when many Jews were denied entry as refugees, but Canada acknowledges this mistake and is working to make sure that Israel will remain as strong as possible. His three points of guarantee to Israel were: (1) Canada deplores all those in the U.N. and world leadership who question Israel's very right to exist. (2) Canada believes that Israel should exercise its full rights as a great nation within the U.N. community of nations, and not be singled out for constant haranguing. (3) Israel's being singled out as a violator of human rights and being an "apartheid" state, are not only outrageous and patently false (as witnessed by our Arab MK's), but also is a new form of "sophisticated" anti-Semitism that hides behind anti-Israel accusations.


After this exhilarating moment of history, after everyone had waved their Canadian flags and applauded as loudly as we could, we left Kenesset and came back to the hotel for a beautiful dinner sponsored by CIJA and the Koschitsky family. What an amazing day!


So much more to say, but I've got to get to bed! More tomorrow, be'H.


Layla tov,



Sun, July 5 2020 13 Tammuz 5780