Ukrainian President Zelensky addressed the Knesset yesterday via live video. He castigated Israel for its reluctance to join the international sanctions against Russia and provide the Ukrainians with military assistance, particularly its refusal to sell Kyiv its Iron Dome missile defense system. He said, “Everybody knows that your missile defense systems are the best and that you can definitely help our people, save the lives of Ukrainians, of Ukrainian Jews. We can ask why we can’t receive weapons from you, why Israel has not imposed powerful sanctions on Russia or is not putting pressure on Russian business. Either way, the choice is yours to make, brothers and sisters, and you must then live with your answer, the people of Israel.”
Zelensky also drew parallels between the invasion by Russia and the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust. That did not go over well with many Israeli lawmakers and ministers, who decried the comparison and even pointed out that a large part of the Ukrainian population played either active or passive roles in the murder of the country’s Jews.
Here are a sampling of the reactions:
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said that while “I appreciate the Ukrainian president and support the Ukrainian people in heart and action,” Zelensky should not try to “rewrite the horrible history of the Holocaust, a genocide that was carried out on Ukrainian soil.”
MK Yuval Steinitz of the Likud Party said, “It is said that a person should not be judged in times of distress, but had the speech of Zelensky, the Jewish president of Ukraine, been delivered on normal days, it would have been dismissed as borderline Holocaust denial.”
MK Simcha Rotman, of the Religious Zionist Party, said, “I don’t speak Ukrainian, but if the translation I heard was accurate, Zelensky asked us to treat the Ukrainians like they treated us 80 years ago. Sorry, I think we’ll have to decline his request. After all, we are a moral nation. Light unto the nations.”
Later last night, in a video address to his nation, Zelensky thanked PM Naftali Bennett for trying to mediate between Ukraine and Russia. PM Bennett stated that the Russians are no longer demanding the removal of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky nor the complete demilitarization of Ukraine, adding that there is “still a long way to go” in mediating between Russia and Ukraine. Bennett added that Ukraine was also no longer demanding to join NATO.
273 new immigrants landed in Israel on Sunday from Ukraine, while another 330 are expected to arrive today.
An Israeli policeman, in his early 20’s, was stabbed yesterday in an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The policeman was evacuated to the hospital in moderate condition. The attacker, a 28 year old Palestinian man from east Jerusalem, was shot and wounded by police at the scene. Public Security Minister Omer Barlev called the attacks an attempt by “deplorable terrorists and extremist forces” to undermine the celebrations of the upcoming holy month of Ramadan and the Passover festival.
Israel has climbed three places to ninth in the 2022 World Happiness Index, which is sponsored by the UN, University of Oxford and Columbia University. The report ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity. Israel is the highest ranked non-European country behind Finland, which is the world’s happiest country for the fifth year running, and followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden and Norway. Behind Israel in tenth place is New Zealand, followed by Austria, Australia, Ireland, Germany, Canada, the US and the UK. People in Lebanon (145) and Afghanistan (146) are the unhappiest with their lives. The Palestinian territories is ranked 122.
Hundreds of thousands of mourners gathered in Bnei Brak yesterday for the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the leader of the Lithuanian Haredi community in Israel and the greatest Torah scholar of our generation, who passed away on Friday at the age of 94. Rav Kanievsky spent his entire life engaged in intensive Torah study, studying at least 17 hours a day. He completed the entire corpus of Torah, Jewish law and mysticism every year on the same day, which was also the day that he left this world (after he completed his daily study). When he was not studying he was writing Torah books and answering questions and giving blessings to the thousands of people who stood in line outside his 2 room apartment each day to speak with him face to face. He also helped raise money for a multitude of charities. His saintly presence in our mundane world will be sorely missed. May his merit protect us and may his memory serve as a blessing for us all.