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

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security