Yaakov Herzog, the Legendary Israeli Statesman Who Could Have Been Chief Rabbi of Britain

Born in Ireland in 1921, the Israeli rabbi and diplomat Yaakov Herzog died 50 years ago. Among his many admirers was the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin. David M. Weinberg recalls Herzog’s career and legacy:

He was, I believe, the only person over the past 100 years of Jewish history who was considered equally qualified—in religious scholarship and diplomatic skill—to serve as chief rabbi of Britain and as director general of the Israeli prime minister’s office. In fact, Yaakov Herzog was simultaneously offered both jobs in 1965, and had to make a choice. He chose to stay in Israel.

Herzog was born into an illustrious family. His saintly and scholarly father was Isaac Halevi Herzog, who was chief rabbi of Israel until his passing in 1959. His brother was Major General Chaim Herzog, who also served as Israel’s sixth president (1983-1993). His daughter, the late Shira Herzog, headed the Canada-Israel Committee (and was my distinguished boss before I moved to Israel). His nephew, Isaac Herzog, is the esteemed current president of Israel.

David Ben-Gurion, to whom Herzog was a trusted personal advisor, called Herzog Tsafnat Paneaḥ, meaning the explainer of hidden things, or the man who reveals mysteries.

One of those mysteries that Herzog helped to explain was that of the rebirth of Israel; Weinberg cites his words:

I do not believe in the distinction between the secular and the spiritual realms; I do not think that is has any place in Judaism. I, at any rate, cannot grasp nor understand the significance of the return to Zion against the background of historical continuity without a spiritual conception. . . . [A]s vindication of spirit, as validation of tenacious faith, as proof of the Jewish people’s right of return to its indigenous home, Israel’s establishment and advancement is a very big deal indeed. . . . Israel represents a vindication of faith and prayer through the ages; it is a symbol of revival, a message of hope, indeed lasting evidence of the integrity of the spirit.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Isaac Herzog, Israeli history, Religious Zionism

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security