Everything over the past week was memorable and magical as Dr. Mehmet Oz,
America’s foremost daytime TV host and the world’s most famous doctor, toured
From dancing the horah outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in
Hebron, to dancing Friday night at the Western Wall with Israeli soldiers and
thousands of worshipers, to meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for
90 minutes of substantive conversation about Israel, Turkey and the United
States, Dr. Oz and his family showed the Jewish state extravagant love and
Mehmet is a remarkable man, and seeing him up close
reinforced the high regard in which I have always held him, ever since we
started working together for Oprah at her radio network. First there was his
attention to his children, all four of whom accompanied him, along with his
Mehmet would go nowhere without them, and pulled them in to
hear every last explanation about Israel’s ancient and modern
Then there is his dedication to his wife Lisa, a remarkable and
brilliant woman in her own right, and vastly knowledgeable about the Bible. Lisa
was constantly correcting me on biblical quotations (I purposely got them wrong
so she could feel superior). Mehmet is a man who honors his wife at every
Of course, there were the legions of fans – Jews and Arabs
from every part of Israel – that pleaded for a picture, and he turned no-one
But more than anything else, there was his attachment to the Jewish
people, on display at every moment. Mehmet is a Muslim, perhaps the world’s most
famous who is not a head of state. He is a righteous and proud ambassador of his
faith and feels an innate kinship and brotherhood with the Jewish
He praised Israel constantly, from lauding its treatment of its
minority citizens at our joint lecture at Rambam hospital in Haifa, to noting
Israel’s phenomenal medical breakthroughs at several news conferences, to
highlighting his amazement at Israel’s capacity to turn deserts into thriving
In Hebron, at the tomb of the Patriarchs, we prayed together
publicly for peace and understanding between the children of Abraham. At the
tomb of Maimonides we noted the role reversal. Maimonides, a Jew, was the
world’s most famous physician, and he served the Muslim ruler
Now, a Muslim doctor – the world’s most famous – was visiting
his Jewish brothers in the holy land 900 years later.
Sharansky at the Jerusalem Press Club for a public discussion, the three of us
debated whether there was an obligation to hate evil. Mehmet maintained that
hatred, even for the best of reasons, harmed those who harbored it.
this Sharansky and I disagreed. Natan spoke of the evil he encountered in the
KGB. I spoke of Hamas’ genocidal covenant and Hezbollah’s commitment to
Terrorists deserve our contempt. Only by truly
hating evil are we prepared to fight it.
In the end we compromised in
agreeing that hating evil should not be obsessive and internal but rather
externally directed at neutralizing those who slaughter God’s innocent children,
whoever they may be.
As I walked Dr. Oz and his family through the Old
City of Jerusalem on Friday night, we passed through Zion gate, still riddled
with bullet holes from the heavy fighting of 1967 that liberated the
At Shabbat dinner at the home of Simon and Chana Falic, my friend
Ron Dermer – Israel’s newly appointed ambassador to the United States –
explained to Mehmet that even after Israel conquered the Temple Mount in the Six
Day War it left control of Judaism’s holiest site to the Muslim Wakf, an action
had no precedent in all human history. Ron said that there could no greater
illustration of Israel’s desire to respect its Muslim citizens and seek
At the Christian holy sites, like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
in Jerusalem and Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and Muslim holy sites
like the Dome of the Rock and the vast Muslim crowds that filled mosques for
Ramadan, Dr. Oz saw first-hand how Israel is a country of thriving religious
But the highlight of the visit was the conversation with Prime
Minister Netanyahu, where Ambassador Dermer joined Mehmet and myself. We heard
the Israeli leader deeply engage Mehmet about Israel’s search for peace and the
challenges it faces with the destabilization of Syria and Egypt on the one hand,
and the changes in its relationship with Turkey on the other.
state needs more visitors like Dr. Oz, with vast global followings, to highlight
the justice of Israel’s cause. These trips should never be about propaganda, but
rather presenting the facts as they are.
Israel’s best case is made by
Israel itself. I told Mehmet and Lisa, with whom I deepened an already special
friendship, that I had no interest in presenting Israel as a perfect country
that never made mistakes.
Rather, Israel is a just country, committed to
righteous action, that struggles to do the right thing amid existential threats
on every side.
It is a small nation that is home to a people who have
vastly contributed to the positive development of human civilization yet have
been victimized throughout history and now simply wish a secure place among the
nations. One need not agree with Israel on every detail on policy, but it is
self-evident when visiting that its large heart is in the right place.
was providential that our visit to the Holy Land ended on Sunday, August 4;
mega-philanthropist Sheldon Adelson’s 80th birthday. We flew to Turkey where Dr.
Oz, the country’s biggest celebrity, was to hold a press conference. As we left
we called Sheldon and his wife Dr. Miriam Adelson, whose addiction clinic we
visited in Tel Aviv, to thank them for making the trip possible. Because that’s
how it works.
People who love Israel are infectious and produce other
people who love Israel.The author, “America’s Rabbi,” is founder of
World: The Jewish Values Network, which organized Dr. Oz’s trip to Israel. He
has just published
The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of
Tragedy and Suffering.
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