Not your average kvittel: Obama’s letter to God read around the world

Obama's letter in the Kotel

Obama's letter in the Kotel

“Lord — Protect my family and me,” reads the note published in the Maariv daily. “Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.”

Someone – most likely a yeshiva student police say in Jerusalem – grabbed the note that Sen. Barack Obama placed in the Western Wall during his visit there last week. Then he sold it to Maariv Newspaper (who may face charges for publishing it.)

The letter, written on stationary from the King David Hotel, is a beautiful prayer to God. The rabbinic authorities that run the Western Wall – what we call the Kotel – are furious for this invasion of privacy. As they point out – Jewish law explicitly forbids intercepting and reading private mail.

Now that the letter is public and in papers around the world, I can publish the content here without violating that law.

Cynics will say that the letter is too good – that he must have known, or in fact even set up this whole thing. They will say that he used Judaism’s Holiest site to pursue more votes from Jews with this letter. Well duh, as my kids say. Every politician that has ever visited the Kotel did it with an eye to Jewish votes. What is more impressive are the contents of the letter.

According to Ynetnews.com Obama said during his 5am visit that, “America loves Israel and the Jewish people and will stand by the Jewish people, he said, standing at the Wall. The US, he added, will continue to look out for Israel’s security need and is Israel’s true


Personally, the letter is the best Western Wall prayer that any politician could have ever written, let alone a potential leader of the USA, and the most powerful man in the world. I am enough of an idealist to hope that he meant what he says in the prayer, but enough of a realist to acknowledge that a person’s actions are not always inline with their prayers.

Reuters video follows – a single heckler during he entire visit yells “Jerusalem is not for sale” perhaps pausing for a moment when Obama is praying. As he walks away from the Kotel, shouts of “Obama, Obama” from Israeli supporters (sic) drown out the hecklers. Rush Limbaugh’s headline “Messiah heckeled at Wester Wall.” [Video may not appear – click on link]

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Pro-Israel activists are Sleepless in Seattle

posterOn the ballots in Seattle is a tricky little bill called Initiative 97 by a group called “Seattle Divest from War and Occupation.” The initiative calls for Seattle to divest and would impose guidelines on how the city invests employee retirement funds, mandating that funds cannot be invested in companies “profiting” directly from our occupation of Iraq — and here is the rub — Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territory.

According to Robert Jacobs, Northwest Regional Director of StandWithUs:

With respect to I-97, it’s an initiative that proposes to divest from companies investing in Iraq – but MOST of the initiative would use the City of Seattle and Seattle City Light’s retirees’ pension funds to make an anti-Israel political statement. I-97, the “Divest from War” initiative, would have Seattle divest from companies selling products to the Israeli government. Companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, PACCAR, even Coke. Neither the title of the initiative nor the pitch from the signature gatherers tell you this.

Seattle is not a town known for hard-core pro Israel activity, but this initiative might just change that. It is not just the chance that this thing will pass that has Jews in Seattle worried, it is that it further erodes support for Israel in the city that ran Rachel Corrie Diaries for over a month to great reviews and crowds.

And as if proof was still needed that this was an anti-Israel effort – Cindy Sheehan has endorsed them!Read more from JTA and StandWithUs.

Bush following Obama’s lead on Iran?

First the Bush administration and company were ridiculing Sen. Obama for saying he would negotiate directly with Iran – even with the Mad Man from Tehran if terms were right. The level of acrimony was intense, but the poo didn’t stick. In other words, Americans are far more worried about their paycheck and their jobs and how far their house values have fallen, to care that much about whether Iran is in our diplomatic orbit. Pundits on the left and right aside, this issue slide off the table, caused Obama no hard – except among hawkish folks that don’t trust him anyway.

Next we had the news last week that Burns was going to a meeting with Iranians in Europe. Burns is the number 3 person at the State Department:

In a departure from long-standing policy, the State Department announced Wednesday Under Secretary of State William Burns, the third-highest US diplomat, will join the EU-led discussions with Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

Of course State were quick to point out that Burns will not look at the Iranians, or even toss spitballs.

And now was have leakage of a story about the possibility of opening a diplomatic post in Iran.

PARIS: The Bush administration is considering establishing an American diplomatic presence in Iran for the first time since relations were severed during the 444-day occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran nearly three decades ago, European and U.S. officials said.

The idea would be to open a so-called interests section, rather than a fully staffed embassy, with U.S. diplomats who could issue visas to Iranians seeking to visit the United States. But the officials, who spoke Thursday on the condition of anonymity under diplomatic rules, cautioned that the idea had not been approved by the White House and could be delayed or blocked by opposition within the administration.

The general Bushistic approach to diplomacy with Iran —rejection, isolation, name-calling, middle finger wagging— is crumbling faster than you can say “reduction in Gulf tensions will result in a drop in oil prices which would help certain folks get elected to the white house.”

Ok. That might not be what is going on here. What matters is that Bush & Co. slandered Obama for his position on Iran – be it good, bad, or other – and now is pursuing the same course. Yes, Burns is not President, but it’s a slippery slope. It goes something like this:

First you have friends that want to set you up, and you tell everyone that you would never date someone like that. Finally, you realize that your obstinacies and stubbornness have not gotten you where you want to be, so you reconsider and ask your friends to set you up. You will not go out with them, but you suggest that you should meet at a party. Less pressure, not so obvious.

So they set up a party where you get a chance to see them across the room. You pretend not to be too interested, but end up speaking in a corner, hoping not to draw to many stares and attention. After all you had told everyone that you would never ever ever date someone like that.

When you get home you make a few phone calls, and before you know it you are on a date going out for coffee. We all know where this is going….

Siblings reunited 65 after Holocaust separated them

Still the saga of the Holocaust continues. Long lost family reunited. Another blow to Hitler’s plans.

JERUSALEM – Hilda Shlick thought she lost nearly all her family in the Holocaust — until her Internet-savvy grandsons located her 81-year-old brother in Canada.

“After 65 years, I have found the sister who I love,” Simon Glasberg said Monday in heavily accented English, his eyes filling with tears. “I can’t stop kissing her.”

Using the database of Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, two of Shlick’s grandchildren, Benny and David, began unearthing a mystery spanning six decades and three continents.
While improved technology in recent years has made the task of tracking Holocaust survivors easier, fewer and fewer survivors remain as each year passes.

Scanning the database, the grandsons, both in their 20s, discovered an entry erroneously stating their grandmother had perished half a century earlier. That entry led them to other surviving relatives, who eventually brought about the siblings’ emotional reunion Friday.