There''s a famous, if apocryphal story about Napoleon, and the Chabad version has it that the great French leader was once traveling through a small Jewish town in Europe. He entered a synagogue. There he saw men and women weeping while sitting on small stools holding candles while reading from books. The synagogue had only a few candles lit. It was a gloomy and sad sight to behold. Napoleon asked why the people were weeping and what misfortune had happened.
An enlightened Jewish French officer told him that nothing new and terrible had happened. The Jewish people had a custom to gather once a year on a day called the ninth day of Av, the day that marks the destruction of the Jewish people''s Temple. Twice they built a magnificent Temple in Jerusalem and both were destroyed. After their second Temple was destroyed, the Jewish people despite loss of political independence still managed to exist without their country and their Temple.
In order to commemorate these sad events they gather once a year in synagogue. There they fast, pray, and read sad prophetic writings concerning the destruction of their Temple and land. What we see in this town is happening in all Jewish communities.
Napoleon inquired as to how many years have they been doing this and was over 2000 years. Upon hearing this Napoleon exclaimed, "A nation that cries and fasts for over 2,000 years for their land and Temple will surely be rewarded with their Temple."
- - -
I do not know all of Mitt Romney''s pretensions and aspirations but I am sure that in visiting Jerusalem on the Ninth of Av, coming to the Western Wall Plaza to observe Jews mourning but at the same time, to witness our robust renewed national existence in our internationally lawful reconstituted Jewish national home in our historical patrimony, he was impressed and if he is elected President of the United States, he will be a better friend of Israel.
For example, here is how he related to the issue of the American traditional demand to halt construction in Judea and Samaria asserting it''s a private manner that should not give Israel''s enemies cause to use other means (i.e., violence and terror I presume)
The sensitive issue of Israeli settlement construction in the Palestinian West Bank is something that should be "discussed in private," Mitt Romney said in an interview with CNN Monday.
"I believe that the issue of settlements is something which should be discussed in private by the American president and our allies," Romney told Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "When we show diplomatic distance between ourselves and our ally, I think we encourage people who oppose that relationship to seek other means to achieve their ends."
I think just for that his visit was significant. But there has been some criticism of Romney for coming to the Western Wall Plaza on the fast day.
Jeffrey Goldberg wrote:
I would like very much to deal with the issue of Romney''s tacky photo-op at the site of the obliterated Jewish Temple on one of the most solemn days on the Jewish calendar (the Washington Post''s Jennifer Rubin and I had a little bit of an argument on this matter on Twitter yesterday, and she continues to believe that the Western Wall is an appropriate campaign stop for an American presidential candidate, especially on the day Jews set aside to mourn for the destruction of the Temple. I''m sure, by the way, that Rubin would endorse an Obama campaign stop at Yad Vashem on the Holocaust Memorial Day.)
Not very smart, that statement by Goldberg. Holocaust Day is the day personalities actually do visit Yad Vashem. And get their pictures taken. Some, though, do come to the Kotel at night, like Russia''s Putin or even Madonna.
The ultra-liberal Peter Beinart, typically, was worse, pontificating that
Romney used Talmudic references and Tisha B’Av to suggest the U.S. should never publicly disagree with Israel’s actions and to virtually deny Palestinian humanity. That may help him win Jewish votes, but it is bad Judaism.
Peter accuses Romney of assisting an attack on the "humanity" of our enemies? What "humanity" of Arabs is injured by Jews living on their land, after being murdered, raped and pillaged for 90 years? What "humanity" is there is forgiving failed attempts by these Arabs - not as individuals but in their inventive nationalist guise - to prevent Jewish residency anywhere in ''Palestine'', attempts that included ethnic cleansing of Jews from centuries-old homes as well as several wars of extermination, besides collaborating with Hitler from 1933 on? What "humanity" is "denied" by claiming that those Arabs in the areas of the former Mandate for Palestine not completely under Israeli sovereignty who refer to themselves as "Palestinians" do not get a second Arab/Islamist oppressive obscurantist terror state (in addition to the Hamastan in Gaza) or just a third such state after Jordan (which has a death penalty on its books for Jewish ownership of property in the kingdom)? How much intolerance and evil do you allow and even defend on the Arab side while lashing out, unreasonably, at Jews? How much will you ask Israel to surrender its security to make you feel good as a liberal?
But the article in question posted online, and by Ynet, thus assuring wide distribution, and since I have already been asked about it, and I have a feeling it will come back to haunt us, I cannot but relate to it and will do so compactly.
Another article expresses a negative view of Mitt Romney''s visit to Israel - no, not from a J Street or Open Zion standpoint, nor even from the Democratic National Committee but from an official spokesperson from the Samaria Regional Council.
The op-ed''s theme is that
Romney''s decision to visit Western Wall on Tisha B''Av for photo op is insult to Jews
and he suggests
Romney''s repeating of the expected mantra about America standing with Israel if Israel attacks Iran is not very convincing, and is pretty close to meaningless
and that he feels
unhappy today with Mitt Romney''s visit to Israel: not because of the intention, which I believe is good, but because of the choice of the visit''s date - which is terrible
and asks that we
Think of this distinguished visitor coming to the Kotel for a photo op, all shining clean and smiling – while walking by Jews sitting on the ground in mourning for our Temple that once towered over that very spot. It is about as close as an insult to our dignity as could be conceived.
Well, to be kind, I could say that it was Tisha B''Av and the fasting affected his writing.
Or that since Mitt is a Mormon, maybe this was a blow for Christians.
Or perhaps he wasn''t invited to any of the events (I don''t know that and I myself was excluded although if I had stayed at the Western Wall Plaza instead of going straight to the Rav Goren Minyan maybe I would have seen him).
It''s not that there isn''t a logic in the piece. Nevertheless, it doesn''t make sense.
I saw hundreds of Jews doing the exact same thing, taking pictures, standing next to the Kotel and all, there yesterday. Local residents and from afar. And dressed quite less modestly that the Romneys.
Not only that, but the words Mitt spoke before and after the visit to the Western Wall were superb. The photos were wonderful (see how I used one). And after all, the Wall is but the external portion of what is truly sacred - the Temple Mount.
As others have pointed out:
- although the timing at first seemed problematic, he turned it around and made it one of the utmost support for Jerusalem exactly on the most proper day - Tisha B''Av and I am given to understand that family members fasted for a period of time in empathy and the trip to City of David was powerful.
- the meetings with Shaul Mofaz and Shelly Yechimovitch were cancelled which means that the Kotel is more important.
- Abbas was not on his visitors'' list.
- his statement on Jerusalem as Israel''s capital was unequivocal.
And I do think that writing this is being plain mean:
It is something like coming to someone''s mother''s funeral and asking for cake, and then posting your picture all over the internet eating the cake, and commenting how much you love your host and promising to put in a good word for him if he has a problem with his neighbors
If anything, it is possibly the next President of the United States coming to visit you when you are down and out and assuring you that he is your friend. He took out time from an election campaign, losing stateside time and money and exposure, to make a point which is America is Israel''s friend despite the current Administration and despite the State Department. That the Bible-believers there will fight Israel''s fight. And that he is comfortable with Jewish support. That is well-worth any slight - and I think there was none - that some people think was done.
Let''s recall that there is a belief that the Messiah''s birth date is Tisha B''Av.
No, I won''t get that carried away but we can hope that the visit was a portent of a future salvation of sorts, at the very least, from another four years of Obama.