A Town with Pity: Journey to Hell and Back

Towns have personalities too.
Let me tell you the story of one.

A little Bavarian “GroBe Kreisstadt” (Country Town) of 45,000 is located in southeastern Germany. It’s a quiet, dreamy country idyll nestled not far from Munich, the metropolis with over a million inhabitants.

It’s also a town with a long and rich history. The Celts settled the land from the 5th century on and gave the rivers the names that they still bear today: Amper, Wurm and Glonn.

Then came the Romans for a period.

In 805 A.D, the community was made up of a manor, a church, a mill and 6 farms. It was located at the junction of two landscape regions: in the south, a broad area of impenetrable marshland; in the north, wooded, fertile, hilly country. If you go down to the foot of the Old Town today, you can visit the tavern which still bears the name of that ancient mill, marking the start of communal history: The Steinmuhle.

From the 12th century on many Bavarian kings would rule the area. At the death of Count Konrad II in 1182, his possessions passed to the House of Wittelsbach. For over 700 years, the Wittelsbach dukes and electors governed the fate of the market town and its inhabitants-for better and for worse. Between 1558-1573 Duke Albrecht V ruled and built the huge four-winged Renaissance palace in place of the old Gothic fortress. Part of this palace remains today as a superb attraction. Under Maximilian I (1573-1651), the market town experienced its worst time. It was plundered by Swedish troops 4 times within a period of 15 years.

With Napoleon, the little town’s era as the summer residence of the Bavarian princes came to an end. Still, it remained what it actually was: a small town where the farmers came to the cattle market and a town with renowned breweries and comfortable taverns.
Then came an unexpected period of glory of a completely different kind.

The painters arrived.

Only a few painters arrived in the 40’s and 50’s, but then starting around 1870, they stormed into town. Painters had discovered the landscape; they wanted to get away from their studios and out into nature. Hundreds of them made the pilgrimage from Munich, fascinated by the nuances in color of the moor landscape, in love with the rural idyll. There were famous names among them: Carl Spitzweg, Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth, Ludwig Dill, Adolf Holzel and Arthur Langhammer. It would become the most important German artists’ colony.

A huge powder factory would be built during World War I on what was then the eastern edge of town. Thousands of workers came during the war to manufacture ammunition for the battlefields of Europe. After the war they lost their jobs: The Treaty of Versailles prohibited the manufacture of war materials. It would become a needy community. In 1928, 1,400 of the 7,100 inhabitants were dependent on public welfare, but a strong labor movement was also developing across Germany. What was soon to happen was not destined to bring good to the little town.


The lovely little Bavarian country town has a name.
The name is Dachau.

The presence of the empty halls of the powder factory was one of the reasons why Heinrich Himmler, the Munich Chief of Police, chose to erect the first Nazi concentration camp in Dachau.

The Nazis seized power on January 30, 1933. The concentration camp became operational on March 22, 1933. This would become the first among other camps throughout Europe to isolate enemies of the National-Socialist regime: political opponents, clergymen, so-called undesirable elements and offer a “final solution to the Jewish question”.

I had the opportunity to visit Dachau in 1993 and witness firsthand the memorial site of this reign of terror. It is an experience one is not likely to forget.

In 1937, the camp originally planned for 5000 persons proved to be too small. The prisoners were forced to build a larger camp, completed in 1938.

Between March 22, 1933 and April 29, 1945, more than 206,000 prisoners were registered in the official records, however, many prisoners were taken to Dachau without being registered. The exact figures are unknown.

Over 32,000 died, through torture, execution, hunger or epidemics. Horrible atrocities took place here. The experimental station of Dr. Rascher was set up in Block 5 where high pressure and exposure experiments were practiced on defenseless prisoners. Professor Schilling had prisoners infected with Malaria agents. Bio-chemical experiments were also carried out. Many of these experiments resulted in death.

The mortality rate among the prisoners increased so rapidly that the crematory constructed outside the compound in 1940 proved to be too small and a larger one had to
be built by the prisoners in 1942.

Upon orders of the SS Economic Administration Main Office in Berlin, a gas chamber was installed. This gas chamber, camouflaged as a shower room, was not used. The prisoners selected for gassing were transported from Dachau to the Hartheim Castle, near Linz (Austria) or to other camps. In Hartheim alone, 3,166 prisoners were gassed between January 1942 and November 1944.

The name Dachau, the lovely 1200 year old town became synonymous the world over for the inhuman terror of the Nazi regime. On the 29th day of April, 1945, American troops liberated the concentration camp. The surviving prisoners in their weakness cheered their liberators and the town too could hope for a new and democratic start.

At the end of our visit, we paused for a moment of silence as my wife Rebecca placed a single red rose beneath the statue of “The Unknown Prisoner” memorial at the former crematorium.

If you were to visit Dachau today, perhaps you would be welcomed, as we were, with a message similar to the one offered by Mayor Dr. Lorenz Reitmeier:

“You have come to Dachau to visit the Memorial Site in the former Concentration Camp.
I should like to welcome you on behalf of the Town of Dachau. Innumerable crimes were committed in the Dachau Concentration Camp. Like you, deeply moved, the citizens of the town of Dachau bow their heads before the victims of this camp.
The horrors of the German concentration camps must never be repeated!
After your visit, you will be horror-stricken. But we sincerely hope you will not transfer your indignation to the ancient 1200 year old Bavarian town of Dachau, which was not consulted when the concentration camp was built and whose citizens voted quite decisively against the rise of National Socialism in 1933. The Dachau Concentration Camp is a part of the overall German responsibility for that time.
I extend a cordial invitation to you to visit the old town of Dachau only a few kilometers from here. We would be happy to greet you within our walls and to welcome you as friends.”

A horrible reality seems burned into the collective conscience.

A little country town with pity.

A village with the knowledge of both good and evil.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

Walking in the Way

sandals-walkIn today’s class Ross teaches on the subject of walking in the Way of Yehovah. He uses several examples from the patriarchal narratives to show that there have always been people, who despite the actions of the majority, have been singled out for their righteous behavior. He cites passages related to Noah, Abraham, and Job. What was it about these men that set them apart? How did their righteous walk affect those around them? While mankind has demonstrated a tendency towards sin, there are those who in every generation have “walked with God.” He appeals to the words of David to make his final point concerning the formation of the thoughts of the heart. You will not want to miss this teaching on walking upright with God in this generation.

Click here to listen to this teaching.

Remembering David Horowitz: Dialogue with an Arab King

This post is part of the new series, “Remembering David Horowitz,” see link here. For a bit of a historical review regarding Israel’s relationship with Jordan since 1948 this article that appeared today in the Jerusalem Post is a good overview.

 January 17, 1945. David Horowitz was moved to write a letter to the Emir of Trans-Jordan, Abdullah Ibn al-Hussein. Copies of United Israel World Union Bulletins were sent along with references made to select articles. Also included was a copy of the UIWU Constitution which stated in part, it’s all-embracing aims and purposes: “peace in wisdom and understanding in the love of our Creator whom all true souls should serve.”

One only has to study the history of the geopolitical entity created in Palestine under the British administration. Known as the “British Mandate of Palestine” it was first carved out of Ottoman Southern Syria after World War I. British civil administration in Palestine operated from 1920 until 1948. The “controversy over Zion” was fast becoming the burdensome stone.

In his letter, David suggested to the Emir that the “Palestine Question” be approached on the basis of the decrees of a higher power. Horowitz stated: “Could it not be solved between brethren if we begin with the premise that Abraham was our common father and that his God was the one true God for all of us?”

The next procedure should then be to take “the words and the works of the prophets of the Bible, including the wisdom of the Koran which upholds the Bible, and base all solutions on what these works promised.”

King Abdullah

Abdullah Ibn al-Hussein (1882-1951), along with his brothers Ali, Feisal and Zeid, had led the Arab forces of the Great Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule. Between 1916-1918, he worked with the British guerrilla leader, T. E. Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia fame) playing a key role as architect and planner, while leading guerrilla raids on garrisons of the Ottoman occupational forces.

Trans-Jordan was formed on April 21, 1921 when the British created a protectorate with Abdullah as Emir. Independence was gained on May 25, 1946 as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (renamed simply as Jordan in 1949), with Abdullah as king.

To David’s surprise, within two months after sending the letter, he received a lengthy reply from the Emir, dated March 2, 1945. The original letter was written in Arabic with an English translation. The Arabic letter was signed by the Emir in red ink.

Of course, the Emir was sure to look on any Jewish person as being in favor of a Jewish State in Palestine and questioned David’s motives. He also inferred that he did not want Jews settling in Palestine and also differed on David’s proposal that the Arabs and Jews take the bible and the Koran and use it as a basis for adjudicating the Palestine question.

Thus began a nearly two-year long correspondence and dialogue between the two.

It was April and it was active with historical developments.

Harry S. Truman succeeded to the Presidency on April 12, when Franklin D. Roosevelt died suddenly after months of declining health. Truman became our 33rd President.

The second annual assembly of United Israel World Union was held at the Washington, DC home of Associate Ada M. Buxton on April 28.

At the same time, delegates were gathering in San Francisco to hold meetings that would lead to the founding of the United Nations.

On April 30, Adolf Hitler committed suicide along with Eva Braun, his long-term partner, in his bunker in Berlin.

V-E Day on May 8, 1945 marked the end of World War II in Europe.

On May 29th, David answered Abdullah. He began by citing detailed passages from the Koran which confirmed the validity of the Tanach (Torah) and which upheld the laws of Moses. He also pointed out that it was Moses who had first set the historic boundaries of Israel as constituting an eternal heritage of the children of Israel.

He countered the Emir’s belief that the Koran superseded the Tanach in total. He said: “the Koran, as I have noticed, does not add nor does it diminish from the laws of Moses and the prophets. On the contrary, it champions the same.” He then proceeded to offer definitive statements in the Koran confirming the Hebrew Scriptures. Therefore, it follows that the injunctions in the Bible are as binding upon the Arabs as they are upon the Jews and the Christians.

In closing, David would express: “Would not the All-Wise and Just, the One God of all, be mocked unless the definitive statements and plans which He gave in the Bible were given careful study and consideration in the light of all available facts.”

After two months without a response from Abdullah, David sent another letter to Amman dated July 30, 1945. Included was a copy of the newly published July-August 1945 edition of the UI bulletin that contained a story, written by David, on “The Palestine Problem” which appears to have been written with Emir Abdullah in mind.

Two points in the article are worth mentioning: David began by attacking the British for being two-faced and creating disillusionment among both Jews and Arabs in Palestine. The other point was to state that the “twelve tribes” constituting the whole house of Israel, must likewise fully realize that the children of Islam are their full cousins through Abraham and by virtue of their faiths which uphold Moses and the prophets, all must accept Sinai as the mountain of all mountains of truth. All stem from one source. All worship the God of Israel.

September 2, 1945. The Empire of Japan officially surrenders aboard the battleship Missouri bringing the hostilities of World War II to a close.

Later that month a reply from the Emir arrived. David described the letter as being friendlier in tone. The Emir seemed to be agreeing with David that the British were playing a double game in its Palestine policy, stating that: “the politics of the matter has its tricks and snares.” After expressing more of his views, Abdullah closed by quoting Alfatha Sra 1 that God had said in the Holy Koran “Dispute ye not the People of the Book except in a friendly manner, so you are to have good action from us and more.”

David would respond with another lengthy reply on October 9, 1945, continuing the dialogue.

There would be no exchange between the two for almost a year. The Emir was up for a big promotion. He became King of an independent nation on May 25, 1946, becoming one of the first Arab leaders to adopt a system of constitutional monarchy during the newly emerging era of the contemporary Arab World.

October 1946 brought the final exchange between the two.

In his letter of October 5th, King Abdullah remarked: “Personally, I know you and your faith” and expressed his understanding that David was a man “to do according to his faith and national prestige.” He closed with the words: “Please accept my friendship.”

This was to be the last message from the King.

David sent King Abdullah a short note on October 22, saying: “that God would one day re-establish His Kingdom on earth” and “when the Prophet comes he will right all things for all mankind.” David then wished “that peace may come and that we may dwell as brethren again according to the Book.”

In 1949 Abdullah entered secret peace talks with Israel, including at least five with Moshe Dayan. News of the negotiations provoked a strong reaction from other Arab states.

On July 20, 1951, King Abdullah traveled to Jerusalem for his regular Friday prayers with his young grandson, Prince Hussein. The King was assassinated by a lone gunman on the steps of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The conspiracy-backed execution was motivated by fears that the old king would make a separate peace with Israel. Miraculously, a bullet also meant for Hussein, deflected off a medal he was wearing given to him by his grandfather, thus sparing his life.

The young Prince Hussein would later become King Hussein I of Jordan and enter into a peace agreement with his Israeli neighbors. And David Horowitz would live to file the story.

“I’m very happy,” said David. “You know when Abdullah was assassinated by an Arab fanatic, Hussein was a 15 year old boy and saw it happen. He has his memories.”


Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

Remembering John Hulley: 1923-2014

Many of you knew the research of John Hulley on the history and migrations of the northern Tribes of Israel–often popularly referred to as the “Lost Tribes.” Sadly John died this past week at his home in Jerusalem at age 91. He rests from his labors and his works do follow him.

Thanks to our webmaster Brian Jones for helping me to get this new web site: Remembering John Hulley, up so quickly and thanks to Joy Beth Holley for providing such a professional photo of John.

Hulley Portrait RD 3534

Photo credit: Joy Beth Holley

A Righteous Man

300px-Noah_catacombeIn this week’s class, Ross shares some insights from the first two Torah portions of Genesis. He begins with the creation of man and follows the story through the flood of Noah pointing out the great potential of man for both good and bad. Why was man created in the first place? How did man’s story go so quickly from good to bad? What was it that caused God to regret that he made man in the beginning? What led to man’s banishment from Eden? As the story introduces Noah, we read that he was a righteous man, whole in his generation. What was it about Noah, and is righteousness something that can be attained by others? These questions and more are answered in this teaching. You will not want to miss this class.

Click here to listen to this class.

An Old Vision for a New Beginning

Temple_Sinai_Circa1905In this message, drawing partly from Biblical passages, and partly from records of the dedicatory service of Temple Sinai in 1903, Ross shared an old vision for a new beginning for Roots of Faith from the Historic Temple Sinai Synagogue in Saint Francisville, Louisiana. Inspired by the hopes and dreams of Saint Francisville’s former Hebrew citizens, Ross set forth to encourage his listeners to seize their vision and bring it into fruition. You will not want to miss this inspiring message.

Click here to listen to this class.

Gleanings from Genesis

Over the years I have come to the view that the books of Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah are the most fundamental to a summary expression of the Hebrew faith as it unfolded and developed over time, from Moses through the Exiles. Of these three however, Genesis seems to be the most foundational in terms of reflecting the key concepts of the Hebrew view of life. Here are a few basic “gleanings” from just the first eleven chapters, before the narrative picks up with the story of “one man’s family,” namely Abraham and his descendants.

1. That the creation is considered to be good, good, good, good, good, good, and VERY good! There is no sense that this world is a dark place into which we have fallen, but a lovely world of light and life to celebrate.

2. That the sun and the moon are given to mark off our sacred times (appointments), days, months, seasons, and years–and observed sacred calendar visible to the entire world.

3. That human beings are made in the “likeness and image” of Elohim, every bit as much as our children/offspring are in our “likeness and image,” and that male and female TOGETHER make up the ADAM or “Humankind.” The male alone is incomplete, as is the female alone. Thus Elohim is also reflective of male/female qualities. So it is not so much a matter of human making Gods in their own image, as projections of themselves, but that the true God made humans to reflect and carry the divine image on a microcosmic level.

4. The the first commandment is to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, thus putting a divine blessing on human sexuality, family, and life rather than the negative values of celibacy and deprivation for some future “heavenly world,” as became common in all Western and Eastern religions. L’Chaim! To Life!

5. That humans are put in charge of the stewardship of the good earth, we are all to be good managers, and to dress and keep it, as Adam began to do in his little assigned area in Eden. Here we get the entire foundation of ecology, an area of concern that has just come of age in our own day.

6. That humans are given the ideal diet of every plant yielding seed and tree bearing fruit whose seed is within–this is the diet Daniel asked to have (Daniel 1:12) as opposed to the Babylonian court diet of his day–it is called there zero’im–of the seeds. Cultures that follow this (see Robbins’ classic book, Diet for a New America, as well as his latest, Healthy at 100) are free from heart disease, strokes, various forms of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, etc.

7. That the seventh day Sabbath is for all humankind, a memorial of creation, binding us to past, to one another, and to our Creator. Imagine a world (Isa 66!) in which from Sabbath to Sabbath and New Moon to New Moon the entire world focuses upon the Creator and our common human ties through creation.

8. That the “knowledge of good and evil” (coming of age, Deuteronomy 1:39) is a necessary part of our development as beings in the image of the Elohim, but with it comes freedom and responsibility and the full possibilities of choice as God-like beings, not merely children of innocence–the possibility of infinite good, but also tragic evil, as unlimited knowledge can lead to “nothing being impossible for them” in both areas of good and evil.

9. That the ‘Ish (man) needs the ‘Isha (woman) to be complete and is restless and unhappy until the “two become one,” which, combined with “leaving father and mother,” becomes the only definition of “marriage” in the Bible. The ‘Isha is a partner to the ‘Ish, “corresponding to him,” meaning opposite him as a lock to a key, as a glove to a hand.

10. That life outside Eden (innocence) is a life of toil (strain, sorrow, hardship) for both the man and the woman, each in their own spheres. The same word is used (‘itzbon) for both.

11. That jealousy and human self-centeredness can lead quickly to even murder of a brother and the breakup and fracture of families and clans leading to wars and all sorts of cultural divisions and violence.

12. That the children of Cain and the children of Seth went their separate ways and have reflected down through history very separate paths and outcomes and the production of almost opposite cultures.

13. That the children of Seth kept the vision alive and “walked with God,” as evidenced by Enoch and culminating in Noah, who was “righteous in his generations.” I understand this lineage to be the “children of the Elohim” of Genesis 6, contrary to later Jewish tradition that makes these heavenly beings.

14. That human departure from God into the “way of Cain,” led to all kinds of violence (presumably toward animals and other humans) and corruption in the earth, so much so that “every thought of the imagination of the heart was only evil continually,” and the flood was the only solution to try and preserve once again the line of Noah, who was righteous in his generations.

15. That Noah and his sons were given a new covenant, reflected in the later tradition of the “Seven mitzvot of the sons of Noach,” and sealed with the rainbow. The eating of the flesh of animals was allowed provided they were slaughtered properly and the blood removed. The sanctity of life was particularly emphasized.

16. Of the three sons of Noah the line of Ham began to go in a different direction, first with a sexual act with his father and then leading to Nimrod and the building of war machines and great Kingdoms that sought to conquer, culminating in the tower of Babel.

17. Hope remained in the line of Seth through Noah and Shem and down to Abram, in whom God recognized the potential to preserve the world and put things back on track–thus the Plan and the Project implied in Abraham’s calling.

And the rest of the Hebrew Bible, beginning in Genesis 12, is that unfolding story of “one man’s family” and its divine calling to bring all nations back to the knowledge of the Creator…


Tears of the Sphinx: Anwar Sadat and the High Cost of Peace; Part II

 Please read Part I first if you have not yet here.

On October 6, 1981, Anwar Sadat sat in a reviewing stand in Cairo, a commanding figure in gold-braided hat, starched dress uniform and green sash. As the Egyptian President watched an extravagant military parade celebrating his 1973 surprise attack on Israel, a junior lieutenant in crisp khakis stepped from a truck and walked toward him. Sadat rose, expecting a salute. Instead the young officer tossed a grenade and a band of accomplices scrambled from the truck and opened fire. Sadat fell mortally wounded, thus leaving the Middle East facing a dangerous political void and the world without one of the few leaders whose bold imagination and personal courage seemed to have made a difference to history.


As far back as 1971, Sadat displayed his willingness to break Arab taboos about Israel.

He suddenly offered to negotiate a peace treaty with the Israelis, going far beyond his predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom he succeeded as President in 1970. While a radical step forward, his terms were stiff and preconditions unacceptable. With no progress toward peace, Sadat considered war with Israel inevitable.

On October 6, 1973, while Israelis fasted on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces attacked Israel. The account and political outcome of this war can be read in part one.

In 1975, President Assad of Syria, personal friend and chief ally of Sadat, broke with him, angered that Israel was returning more land to Egypt than to Syria under the disengagement agreements negotiated through the shuttle diplomacy of Henry Kissinger.

As overall Arab unity dissolved, Sadat became more realistic, and more devoted to settling issues alone with Israel.

Egypt’s rapprochement with Israel began with a vision in Sadat’s mind: he saw himself praying in the Al Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem. For Sadat, the decision was made, the rest was only timing. Fellow Arabs at first believed he had lost his senses when he informed the Egyptian People’s Assembly that he would go “to the ends of the earth,” even to the Israeli Knesset, for peace. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin would later take him at his word and extend an invitation.

“This man is either truly great or he is mad” one of Sadat’s aides said just before the President left for Jerusalem. “Everyone will know he is great if he succeeds. Only his friends will know he is great if he fails.”

Sadat was certain of his own greatness. “I am Egypt,” he said. “I am going to Jerusalem and others will have to fall in line.” This from the man who once said “He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality and will never, therefore, make any progress.”

On November 19, 1977, Anwar Sadat arrived in Jerusalem and addressed the Knesset. It is difficult to understate the impact of Sadat’s gesture. It was a remarkable psychological breakthrough that could not have been accomplished with regular diplomacy. For the first time, Israelis saw an Arab leader extend his hand in friendship-and in their capital.

Talks would continue even amid growing tensions in the region. This would eventually lead to the summit meeting at Camp David inspired and arranged by US President Jimmy Carter.

On September 5, 1978, the three heads of state and their aides arrived at Camp David. A news blackout was subsequently imposed for the duration of the talks. They argued, they haggled and at one point personal relations became so badly strained it appeared that the talks might collapse. In the end there were breakthroughs and the framework of a successful peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Two agreements were signed on September 17, 1978 that came to be known as the Camp David Accords.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians lined Cairo’s streets when Sadat returned from Camp David. He was hailed as the “hero of peace” and called a Pharaoh by some, but in the rest of the Arab world, not so much.  Seventeen hard-line Arab nations, reacting to the separate peace with Israel, adopted political and economic sanctions against Egypt.

To the end, Sadat continued to back the Camp David process.

Throughout his life, one of the supreme virtues for Sadat was loyalty. It was demonstrated in his earlier friendship with Nasser. One of the meaningful examples was his courageous offer of hospitality to the dying Shah of Iran. He felt he owed a debt to the Shah because the Shah had supplied emergency oil to Egypt in an oil crisis after the October War. In 1980, an ailing Shah was given brief sanctuary by the governments of Mexico, the United States and Panama. Despite the fact that Sadat would be dangerously exposed to the fury of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Muslim fundamentalists, he never hesitated in urging the Shah to live out his life in Egypt. After offering refuge to the dying Shah, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, asked him why he was risking certain vilification from fellow Arabs. Sadat replied: “I don’t understand you. He was my friend. Of course, I will give him sanctuary.”

Following the assassination at the hands of a radical faction of Islamic fundamentalists called Al Taqfir wal Hijra, the extremist Arab camp greeted the news with macabre jubilation. In war-torn Beirut, left wing Lebanese militiamen and Palestinian guerrillas paraded and celebrated in the streets. In Palestine, PLO officials called Sadat’s slaying an “execution” with PLO security chief Salah Khalaf boasting that he would “shake the hand of him who pulled the trigger.” In Damascus, the government newspaper Tichrin headlined “Traitor Falls, Egypt Remains.” and in Libya, Col. Muammar Kaddafi joined in the chorus.

Throughout the long process of pursuing peace, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, himself viewed as a grizzled hardliner, became close. Close enough to exchange personal notes about family events such as the birth of a grandson or Jihan Sadat receiving her master’s degree. They addressed extremely difficult political issues, shared moments of humor and developed an enormous measure of mutual respect, one for the other. In 1978 Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin would both be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Jerusalem, Begin’s sorrow at Sadat’s death “went beyond matters of state” said an Israeli policymaker. “Begin mourned the death personally.” When official word of the assassination reached Jerusalem, Begin immediately instructed his staff to organize a trip to Cairo to attend Sadat’s funeral on Saturday. The decision was more complicated than it seemed. As a religious Jew, Begin could neither fly nor ride on the Jewish Sabbath. Thus he was forced to fly to Cairo a day early and spend the night, multiplying the security risks. He wanted to demonstrate his respect, both for Sadat and for his successor.

In Washington, the decision was made that President Ronald Reagan would not attend the funeral because of the security risks and neither would George Bush. Instead, the blue chip delegation of former Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter was a safer security risk than a sitting President or Vice President.


Anwar Sadat was buried in a muted ceremony under tight security. New President Hosni Mubarak led the funeral procession, taking the hand of Sadat’s son, Gamal.

Sadat’s body would be entombed under a black marble tombstone inscribed with the simple epitaph: “President Mohammed Anwar Sadat, hero of war and peace. He lived for peace and he was martyred for his principles.”

It has been 36 years since the Camp David Accords and 33 years since a courageous leader would be cut down for his role in bringing peace between his country and the State of Israel.

I’ve often wondered how many lives have been spared and how much hell averted in the 36 years following this historic step.

If the accumulation of evil is what condemns us, making the consequences of our actions inescapable, would not the biblical injunction to turn from evil and do good-from injustice to justice, bear a measure of redemptive fruit?

Or as Sadat expressed: “changing the very fabric of our thought to change reality and bring about progress.”

Please read Part I of Tears of the Sphinx here.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

The Feast of “Shelters”

Last night on the Jewish calendar marked the beginning of the strangest festival in the biblical calendar.  The moon reaches its fullness, marking the 15th of the lunar month. It is called the “festival of shelters,” literally and it lasts for seven days. The word is Sukkoth in Hebrew, which literally means “huts” or some other kind of temporary dwelling. Its meaning is very close to our English “homeless shelter” today. Though it is often translated “tents” or “booths” the idea is some kind of arbor or lean-to under which one can get a tiny bit of needed shelter, but nothing permanent and still very much exposed to the elements and the sky. This was one of the three ancient pilgrim feasts of Israel. We are not told too much about it, but one simple meaning seems clear.  Israel, settled in permanent dwellings and cities in the land, is never to forget its “wilderness” origins, so that once a year, in the Fall, they are to actually “go back to nature” and camp out or live in huts, tents, or temporary dwellings, for a week, so as to remember that YHVH made our ancestors live in this nomadic, temporary way in the time of Moses. This festival then vividly reminds us of that, of the camp of Israel, of the time when the Column of Cloud/Fire was visible, when there were no sacrifices or Temple, just the simple “tent of meeting,” when everyone was fed morning and evening with the mysterious “manna,” and when YHVH spoke face to face with Moses.

You can find the descriptions in the Torah, particularly in Leviticus 23: 39-43. But what is really interesting about Sukkoth is that it not only looks back, but also forward. Notice these words of the Prophet Hosea:

I have been YHVH your God since your days in Egypt, and I will make you DWELL IN SUKKOTH again, as in the days of MEETING.
I will speak through prophets, I will give vision after vision and through the ministry of prophets will speak in similies” (12:9-10)

This is really a fascinating verse, as it pictures a time of Israel’s restoration, when Prophecy returns, no more “hiding of the Face,” and the days of “meeting” could well refer to that “Tent of Meeting,” from those wilderness times. Here we have that same motif that we find elsewhere in the Prophets, the idea of an Exodus II that parallels Exodus I of the time of Moses. Thus Micah the Prophet declares: “Once again YHVH will show marvelous things as in the days when you came out of Egypt (Micah 7:14-15)

Zech 14 also tells of a time when the whole world will come up to Jerusalem and dwell in Sukkoth/tents/shelters during this week….

Some other relevant readings for this time are Hosea 12, Micah 7, Psalm 80-81, Isaiah 24-35…

Some folk camp out in tents, others gather at campgrounds or even hotels, some just stay out on their porches or balconies and many build shelters on their property, as is the custom within Judaism. The more one can actually “live” in the Sukkoth, the better in terms of getting the meaning of the festival. The moon during Sukkoth is full. On a clear night everything is bright and lovely, almost magical. The experience can remind us of a more simple and primitive time, getting away from all the “modern conveniences,” more or less what we mean when we talk of “camping out.”

Tears of the Sphinx: Anwar Sadat Assassinated 33 Years Ago Today

This two-part exclusive by our Executive Vice-President Ralph Buntyn, who was in Cairo the day of the assassination 33 years ago today is truly relevant and timely as we continue to wrestle with the complexities of the Middle East conflicts.

 For some, the number 33 seems to hold special prophetic significance.

For me, it’s an appropriate time for a look back. 33 years ago, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated.

I was in Cairo on the day it occurred. Realizing the magnitude of the event, I made an effort to witness, capture and chronicle as many details as possible of this tragic story as it unfolded. Additional research has revealed an incredible story about the Egyptian leader who would dare to make peace with Israel.

I will be presenting a two-part account of this historic event that includes little known facts that shaped the tragic outcome.

Part one of this series that follows is a revision of an article first published in 2007 under the title “Tears of the Sphinx”. It is a personal account that includes a historical narrative.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 3.04.38 PMDateline October 6, 1981. Another of those days that was destined to live in infamy and one that would make a lasting impression on me. I can still recall that suddenly out of a hushed silence, there were gasps, screams and cries that erupted from the passengers. One woman, sobbing uncontrollably, cried out “there goes the peace”.

The day had progressed uneventfully as my wife Rebecca and I boarded our El Al plane in Tel Aviv for the short flight to Cairo, Egypt. After spending ten days in Israel, we planned to stay in Cairo for a few days where we would visit the Cairo Museum and take in the sites of ancient Egypt. Just before we were scheduled to land, the announcement came over the public address system; President Anwar Sadat had been shot and critically wounded while attending a military parade. The moment remains forever etched in my memory. What followed was the reality that we were witnessing one of the defining moments in modern Middle Eastern history. After finally landing, we experienced more of the display of raw emotions and anguish amid a highly tense situation as we made our way through the airport and finally to the Cairo Concorde Hotel where we would be staying.

We were confined to our hotel for twenty-four hours as a part of the security clampdown around the city. Egyptian soldiers and security guards were stationed around the hotel. Tanks and military vehicles rumbled down the streets to wherever. We later watched as planes landed bringing world dignitaries to attend the state funeral, including Air Force One as it arrived with the U. S. delegation.

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Anwar Sadat was born on Christmas day, 1918 in the Nile Delta village of Mit Abul Kom, the son of an Egyptian clerk and his part Sudanese wife. It was the year the War in Europe ended and the year that Egypt demanded, in vain, total independence from Britain. A religious child, he attended both Muslim and Coptic Christian schools. Later while attending a Military Academy, one of his classmates was the late President Gamal Abdul Nasser.

All his life, Sadat flirted with danger. His courage and a kind of reckless self assurance was one of the keys to his success. He took desperate chances as a young man, plotting against King Farouk and the colonial domination of Great Britain. As President, Sadat infuriated the Soviet Union when he abruptly threw 18,000 Soviet military personnel out of Egypt. In 1971 he raised the possibility of signing an agreement with Israel provided all the occupied territories captured by the Israelis were returned. With no progress toward peace, Sadat began to say that war with Israel was inevitable. Throughout 1972 and much of 1973, he threatened war unless the United States forced Israel to accept his interpretation of Resolution 242 – total Israeli withdrawal from territories taken in 1967. In April, 1973 Sadat again warned that he would renew the war with Israel, the same threat he had made in 1971 and 1972. Most observers remained skeptical of the rhetoric.

On October 6, 1973 on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan it happened. Egypt and Syria opened a coordinated surprise attack against Israel. The equivalent of the total forces of NATO in Europe was mobilized on Israel’s borders. On the Golan Heights, approximately 180 Israeli tanks faced an onslaught of 1,400 Syrian tanks. Along the Suez Canal, fewer than 500 Israeli defenders with only three tanks were attacked by 600,000 Egyptian soldiers, backed by 2,000 tanks and 550 aircraft. Nine Arab states, including four non-Middle Eastern nations actively aided the Egyptian-Syria war effort. The Soviets gave wholehearted political support to the Arab invasion while pouring weapons into the region. This would lead to the October 12 emergency airlift order of supplies and arms by U. S. President Nixon. Between October 14 and November 14, 1973, the US would provide 22,000 tons of equipment transported to Israel by air and sea. The airlift alone involved 566 flights. To pay for this infusion of weapons, Nixon asked Congress for and received 2.2 billion in emergency aid for Israel.

Thrown on the defensive during the first two days of fighting, Israel mobilized its reserves and began to counterattack. What followed, history tells us, was an epic period of intense engagement. In the greatest tank battle since the Germans and Russians fought at Kursk in World War II, roughly 1,000 Israeli and Egyptian tanks massed in the western Sinai from October 12-14. On the 14th, Israeli forces destroyed 250 Egyptian tanks in the first two hours of fighting. By late afternoon the Israeli forces had routed the enemy, accomplishing a feat equal to Montgomery’s victory over Rommel in World War II. By October 18th, Israeli forces were marching with little opposition toward Cairo. About the same time Israeli troops were on the outskirts of Damascus. This reversal of fortune would bring us to the brink of nuclear war.

The Soviets began to panic and on October 24th they threatened to intervene in the fighting. Responding to the Soviet threat, Nixon put the U. S. military on alert, increasing its readiness for deployment of conventional and nuclear forces. The danger of a U. S –Soviet conflict was real. In fact, this was probably the closest the superpowers had come to a nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. What followed was an intense period of diplomatic efforts to gain a cease-fire with which Israel reluctantly complied, largely because of U. S. pressure, and because the next military moves would have been to attack the two Arab capitals, action few believed to be politically wise.

By the end of the fighting, 2,688 Israeli soldiers had been killed. Combat deaths for Egypt and Syria totaled 7,700 and 3,500, respectively.

Ironically, the United States had helped save Israel by its resupply effort and then rescued Egypt by forcing Israel to accept the ceasefire. In January 1974, Israel and Egypt negotiated a disengagement agreement thanks to Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy.

The risks Anwar Sadat later took for peace overshadowed his risks in war. In 1977 defying the wrath of most of his fellow Arabs he did the unthinkable and traveled to Jerusalem, the heart of his enemy’s camp, and so began a march to a Mideast peace. His performances in Jerusalem and at Camp David shattered an insidious myth: that Arabs and Israelis could never negotiate face to face. In 1978 Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize with another old conspirator turned statesman: Menachem Begin.

On October 6, 1981, exactly eight years to the day that he launched the Yom Kippur attack on the Jewish nation, Anwar el-Sadat, the villager who hero-worshipped Mahatma Gandhi as a young boy and would one day rise to lead Egypt, this one who would dare seek peace with the Jewish nation, would be cut down by the enemies of peace. The fanatic Islamic group Al Taqfir wal Hijra, the largest such fundamentalist group in Egypt and whose roots were tangled in the Muslim Brotherhood, would darken the whole political landscape of the Middle East.

We would later visit the Giza Plateau, where stood the timeless pyramids and the great Sphinx. The Sphinx, sitting as if guarding the tombs of past Pharaohs, with a weathered face and empty stare, like one who had already seen too much.

In part two, we get a glimpse of the personal side of Anwar Sadat and his motivation for making the decision that would cost him his life.

Please be sure and read Part II of “Tears of the Sphinx” here.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.