Breaking news: Israel to Lift COVID Travel Restrictions on Most Countries, but Not U.S., U.K., South Africa and Portraying Our Sages As Fallible By Rabbi Mordechai Weiss and Don’t Be Afraid To Declare Yourself A Conservative By Dennis Prager and Second Synagogue from Temple Era Excavated in Migdal near the Kinneret and Court Acquits Jews Who Prayed on Temple Mount Disguised as Muslims By David Israel
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Israel to Lift COVID Travel Restrictions on Most Countries, but Not U.S., U.K., South Africa
As of Thursday, the list of 'red' countries with high coronavirus infections rates will shrink from 70 to 15, with Mexico to be added to it. Meanwhile, Israel mulls amending quarantine rules
Dec. 27, 2021 7:44 PM
Israel is set to lift its travel ban on most African countries and some destinations in Europe, the Health Ministry said on Monday. The United States and 13 other countries with high coronavirus infection rates will remain on Israel's list of "red" destinations.
A Health Ministry panel said that Mexico will be added to the list on Thursday, effectively barring travel to and from it.
Apart from the United States, travel restrictions will remain in place for the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Turkey, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Tanzania and Nigeria.
Travel to and from so-called "red countries" is expressly forbidden, unless permission is granted by a special committee. Those who return from the blacklisted countries must enter a seven-day quarantine.
The latest amendment to the list is pending a formal approval by the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
All other destinations that are currently on the "red" list will be removed from it. These include Italy, Germany, Ireland, Morocco, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium.
Meanwhile, Israel is mulling amending its quarantine rules. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said at a cabinet meeting Monday that his ministry is re-examining regulations for returning travelers.
"When Israel becomes a 'red' country, with thousands of local infections with omicron, there is no reason to fear a person leaving another 'red' country – after all, here he would be exposed with the same likelihood," the committee's report said. It called on the government to prepare for revoking travel restrictions altogether.
Also on Monday, Israel tightened its regulations on public access to shopping and commercial centers and updated its guidelines on COVID booster shots, as infection rates are soaring in the country.
Israel recorded 1,760 new coronavirus cases on Monday, also logging 87 active serious cases. The number marks a slight decline from Sunday's figure, which stood at 96. However, the number of new seriously ill patients has been steadily climbing over the past five days.
The R number, which marks the average number of people a carrier of the virus infects, has been on the rise throughout December and stood at 1.41 on Monday, after hitting a three-month peak on Sunday. The figure reflects Health Ministry data up to 10 days prior.
Court Acquits Jews Who Prayed on Temple Mount Disguised as Muslims
The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday night lifted all the police-imposed restrictions on two "Temple Mount Mista'arvim" who had been arrested at their homes Dec. 15 by the Jerusalem Police after starring in a Channel 13 report that put to shame the Jerusalem Police and the discriminatory policy it enforces against Jews at the Temple Mount compound.
One of the accused, Hozrim La'Har Chairman Refael Morris, was shown in the television report preparing a class of Temple Mount activists how to disguise themselves as Muslim worshippers and blend into prayer services on the Temple Mount (Jews Who Prayed on Temple Mount Disguised as Muslims Arraigned Today – Are Israel Police Losing It?). The "Temple Mount Mista'arvim" borrowed their name from the counter-terrorism units of the IDF, Border Police, and Israel Police who operate undercover in Arab cities in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. These units are specifically trained to assimilate into the local Arab population to gather intelligence and make arrests.
The court's ruling accepted an appeal filed by Honenu legal aid society attorney Nati Rom against the restrictions imposed by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on his two clients. The District Court judge rejected the police request to extend their detention and ordered their immediate release and the removal of all the lower court-imposed restrictive conditions.
During the hearing, attorney Rom argued that the claim that Jews are forbidden to ascend through the gates of the Temple Mount intended for Muslims is not true, and in fact, the opposite is true. Rom cited the 1967 Law for the Preservation of Holy Places, proving that the entry of Jews into these places should not be restricted.
The first item of the law reads:
The holy places shall be protected from desecration and any other harm and from anything that may infringe on the freedom of access to the members of the religions to the places that are sacred to them or on their feelings regarding those places.
In light of this, attorney Rom argued that the impediment to narrowing the activists' steps is disproportionate and does not comply with the law. Rom further argued that no offense of misleading a police officer had been committed, nor did the police offer any evidence proving its allegations.
The police have been aware of the Mista'arvim group, which never tried to conceal its activities. Several attempts of the members to pray disguised as Muslims have been thwarted by security forces, but a few have made it and prayed to Hashem the way you're supposed to at the Temple Mount: prostrated before His Holiness, just as the rest of us do on Yom Kippur.
The practical outcome of Sunday's ruling is that Hozrim La'Har is now free to make new attempts to join our fellow monotheists in prayer on God's holy ground. It also means that the cops must be on very high alert in case our fellow monotheists decide to pull out the curved knives in mid-prayer.
In the Channel 13 report, one of the activists was asked what he would do if he's discovered, and his answer was very practical: "I'd beat a heck of a run out of there…"
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
Second Synagogue from Temple Era Excavated in Migdal near the Kinneret
2000-year-old synagogue from the Second Temple period was recently discovered in Migdal, a large Jewish settlement from that era. Migdal, believed to have been located on the site of the depopulated village of al-Majdal, on a hilltop overlooking the Kinneret, served as the main base for Yosef Ben Matityahu (Flavius Josephus) in his war against the Romans in Galilee during the Great Revolt. This is the first time that two synagogues have been found in a single settlement from the Second Temple period.
"The discovery of a second synagogue in this Galilean settlement casts light on the social and religious lives of the Jews in the area in this period and reflects a need for a dedicated building for Torah reading and study and for social gatherings," commented Dina Avshalom-Gorni, one of the directors of the excavations. "The discovery of a second synagogue casts new light on Jewish communal life in Galilee."
The archaeological excavations at the site are being conducted by Y.G. Contractual Archaeology Ltd., headed by Yehuda Govrin, and under the academic auspices of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa. The excavations are being conducted in accordance with a tender issued by the national transport infrastructure Company Netivei Israel, in the form of a salvage excavation as part of the expansion of Route 90 (Migdal intersection).
Situated on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, Migdal was a large Jewish settlement 2000 years ago. Following the destruction of the Second Temple, it served Flavius Josephus as the main base in his war against the Romans in Galilee.
The eastern side of Migdal was excavated over a decade ago by the Israel Antiquities Authority. A synagogue discovered at the time was also dated to the Second Temple period. A unique stone was uncovered in the center of the synagogue bearing the relief of a seven-branched candelabra (Menorah); the excavators suggest that the artist who created the relief was replicating the Menorah positioned in the Temple. The stone is currently on display in an exhibition of the Israel Antiquities Authority at Yigal Allon House.
The newly-excavated synagogue is a broad, square-shaped building constructed from basalt and limestone. It comprises a central hall and two additional rooms. The walls of the central hall are coated with white and colored plaster. A stone bench, also coated in plaster, runs along the walls. In a small room on the south side of the hall, a plaster-coated stone shelf was found; the room may have been used to store scrolls.
The building uncovered in the 2009 excavations was the first synagogue from the Second Temple period found in Galilee, and the ninth in the entire country. Now, as noted, a second synagogue has been found in the same settlement.
Prof. Adi Erlich, head of the Zinman Institute of archaeology at the University of Haifa said: "The fact that we have found two synagogues shows that the Jews of the Second Temple period were looking for a place for religious, and perhaps also social, gatherings. The stone bearing the relief of a Menorah from the other synagogue at Migdal, suggests that the local Jews saw Jerusalem as their religious center, and their local activities took place under this centrality. The synagogue we are excavating now is close to the residential street, whereas the one excavated in 2009 was surrounded by an industrial area. Thus the local synagogues were constructed within the social fabric of the settlement."
Shai Klartag of Netivei Israel said: "The safety project we in Netivei Israel are undertaking here at Migdal Intersection will play an important role in saving lives and preventing road accidents. As someone who has been an engineer for many years, I am proud that thanks to the current and future projects of Netivei Israel we are privileged to uncover amazing findings like this from the splendid past of the Land of Israel."
Dr. Yehuda Govrin added that all those involved intend to ensure that the synagogue is preserved on the site and will be accessible to visitors, subject to coordination with the authorities.
A classic story found in the book of Shmuel deals with the sin of King David. According to the simple interpretation of the text, David, peering at a nearby rooftop, sees a beautiful woman bathing. Despite the fact that she is married and her husband is in battle fighting for Israel, David invites her to his castle and has relations with her. The woman, whose name is Bat-Sheva, becomes pregnant. King David, in order to "cover up" his misdeed, recalls Bat-Sheva's husband Uriah from battle. David's plan is to have Uriah renew his relationship with his wife and hopefully hide the fact that the baby that is growing inside Bat-Sheva's womb actually belongs to King David.
However, when Uriah returns home, he refuses to see his wife, advancing the argument that how could he be with her when the soldiers of Israel are in battle? David, after endless prodding and Uriah's constant refusal, sends him back to the front lines with a secret message to his general, Yoav. In this note he instructs Yoav to abandon Uriah in the heat of battle, leaving him on the front lines, alone, facing imminent death.
General Yoav follows David's orders and Uriah is killed. When the news finally reaches King David, he immediately marries Bat-Sheva with the hope that the child that Bat-Sheva was carrying would be attributed to him. However, Natan the prophet rebukes David for his sin, and the child born to Bat-Sheva and King David dies after only a short time.
The Talmud in various places deals with this series of events. At times our sages justify King David's behavior and posit that anyone who believes that King David sinned is wrong. Such a theory obviously goes against the simple meaning of the text. What then was the intention of our sages when making such statements?
Indeed, there are counter-statements claiming that David was punished numerous times for this act – by the raping of Tamar by Amnon, his son, and the rebellion of his son Avshalom and his openly defiling the concubines of King David.
However, the real issue here is whether our leaders can be wrong, or whether we always have an obligation to portray our sages as infallible, almost G-dly? As an extension of this question, if our gedolim express an opinion regarding science or medicine, must they always be right? While with issues of Jewish law we recognize the authority of our religious leaders, do we also extend this to the fields of science, astronomy, or medicine?
There was a great dispute in past years on the publication of the book The Making of a Godol. The argument was centered on the portrayal of a certain gadol when he was young and impetuous before he made his tremendous impact upon the Jewish world. In short, he was described in an unfavorable light. The book was recalled and the original was put into cherem (banned). A new copy was printed deleting the unfavorable depictions of this gadol.
A second book that caused controversy was Mysterious Creatures by Nosson Slifkin. In this book, the author delved into the scientific findings of modern science with relation to creatures that were described in the Talmud, and cited apparent contradictions with modern scientific thought. This text was also placed in cherem, ostensibly because our sages in the Talmud can never be wrong, even when dealing with questions of science or medicine.
In contrast, when I study the experiences of King David or the challenges of our gedolim when they were young, I gain more respect and admiration for them. To me, it is refreshing to learn that even our great leaders had trials in their lives, yet they were able to withstand their inclinations and become the great people that they ultimately became.
The Talmud is replete with stories of sages whose pasts were questionable. The great Rabbi Akiva was described as an unlearned person who had little respect for the Rabbis. The Talmud describes his inability to comprehend even the most elementary aspects of Judaism. Yet he aspired to become a most learned rabbi – a leader of the Jewish people. Joseph, the son of our forefather Jacob, is described in his youth unfavorably. The Talmud narrates to us how Joseph was consumed with his own good looks and appeared arrogant and conceited. Yet he too rose to great heights as viceroy of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh.
Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish is described in the Talmud as a thief before he embraced Judaism to become the great personality that he was. Yiftach, who led our people during the time of the Judges, is described in less than favorable terms by our commentators. Yet he became a leader of our people. And the list goes on and on.
Perhaps this is what is so inspirational about our Torah: that even David who was the grandchild of Ruth – a Moabite woman whose ancestor Lot had an incestuous relationship with his daughter to beget the nation of Moab – grew to be the King of Israel. That he committed this hideous sin with Bat-Sheva, but he was able to recognize it and move on. That Akiva the shepherd, who came from such a lowly background, could grow to become the great Rabbi Akiva. That Joseph, the seemingly arrogant youth, could become the dynamic leader that he eventually was.
One does not lose respect for any of our Jewish leaders for quoting the views of science and medicine in their days if those are now proven wrong. Their expertise was never in the sciences but only in the field of Jewish law. Our leaders are not infallible.
In the past years, our rabbis issued a ban on smoking after recent research revealed that smoking can cause cancer and be a danger to one's life. Does this enactment call in question the validity of the teachings of our previous sages, who permitted smoking in the various study halls? Should we continue to allow our students to smoke in the study halls in respect for the decisions of our sages of the past? Do we cast aside all research of modern science and proclaim that our sages were right?
There is one caveat to my view. I believe strongly that our children, especially at the very formative ages, should have their leaders portrayed as heroes. Perhaps this is the intent of our sages in rationalizing King David's behavior. Children need heroes! And our leaders were great tzaddikim, righteous people. But as our children mature, the reality of the humanness of our leaders must be presented, and an appreciation gained for the challenges they faced and how they overcame these to become the great leaders of our people.
Living as Jews requires one to be honest and truthful, yet to maintain a profound respect and admiration for our leaders and our glorious past.
Don't Be Afraid To Declare Yourself A Conservative
I received a phone call on my radio show from a man who said, "Dennis, I'm a gay conservative actor in Hollywood, and it is far easier to come out of the closet as gay than as a conservative."
That call was in the 1980s.
While the current cancel culture – the firing, humiliation, disparagement and smearing – of conservatives is exponentially worse today than 30 years ago, it is not new.
As a result, the great majority of Americans who are conservative – that is, about half the country – hide their true beliefs. They fear saying anything that differs with the Left. This would include such reprehensible sentiments as:
With all its flaws, America is the finest country ever made.
Men do not give birth.
There are only two sexes.
A person's color is the least important thing about them.
The greatest problem in black life is not whites but a lack of fathers.
A man who becomes a woman and then competes in women's sports is cheating.
Posting to social media a video by a renowned epidemiologist, virologist or medical doctor who asserts that ivermectin and/or hydroxychloroquine with zinc, when used early enough, almost always prevents hospitalization for Covid-19.
The list is far longer than this. But if you think even this list overstates the problem, put any of these statements on any mainstream social media platform and see what happens. See if any relatives drop you from Facebook or even from their lives. See what your employer says or does. See what Twitter or Facebook does to your account.
There are valid reasons to fear publicly differing with the Left.
So, then, what arguments can be offered on behalf of coming out of the closet as a conservative?
The first is this: For every person you alienate, you will likely bring at least one new, wonderful person into your life.
Putting aside issues of courage, of standing for what is right, of saving America from those working to destroy it, there is a great selfish reason to come out of the closet: kindred spirits, i.e., good people, will discover you.
In 2020, I received an email from a young woman in her second year at Harvard who told me that my book that explains the Left and America, "Still the Best Hope," had changed her from liberal to conservative. Needless to say, I was intrigued to learn more about her and, as it happened, she lives – as I do – in Los Angeles. So, I invited her to sit in on my radio show.
While speaking to her during commercial breaks, I was impressed enough to ask if she would be willing to describe her political and moral metamorphosis on the radio. I warned her that appearing on "The Dennis Prager Show" and talking about her conservative views would likely lead to some lost friends, angry, if not alienated, relatives, and attacks back at Harvard. I made that case persuasively enough to give her pause and ask, "May I call my mother?"
She stepped out to make the call. When she returned to the studio, she announced, "I'm coming on."
About half a year later, she made another appearance on my show, and I asked her what happened after her initial appearance.
"I went through two weeks of hell," she responded.
As predicted, she lost friends she had had since elementary school, some relatives limited their contact with her, and some students back at Harvard regarded her as an indecipherable sellout.
"Then what happened?" I asked.
"Then I entered heaven," she responded.
She offered two big reasons.
One was that she began to sleep better than she had in years. The other was the number of kindred spirits, all quality people, who reached out to her, some of whom became friends.
Regarding reason one – sleeping better – staying in the closet exacts a serious mental price on a person. One should not think only coming out of the closet exacts a price.
As for the second reason, virtually no price paid for coming out of the closet is comparable to the rewards of doing so. There is little as happiness-inducing as having kindred spirits in your life.
Now, is that worth losing one's job? If you are sure you will lose your job and no other job paying a comparable salary will be available, only you can answer that question. Similarly, if one of your children will stop talking to you because you are not "woke," it is not for me to advise you what to do. But there are no other compelling arguments not to come out of the closet.
And there are at least two other arguments for coming out.
One is that you will respect yourself more. And so will others – including, quite possibly, one or more of your children (and your grandchildren, if you have any).
And two: You will help save this country from tyranny. For some, that should suffice.