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London Olympics, Munich 11 and Tisha B’Av

This Saturday night begins the sundown to sundown Tisha B’Av fast. It is a longstanding tradition marked by a day of communal mourning and reflection.

I wasn’t around 2,000 years ago when my people’s Temple was destroyed and thousands perished.

But, I am around today and that is why I will take the time to honor those who lost their lives in that tragedy.

Today begins the Summer Olympics in London. It is a longstanding tradition marked by 17 days of athletic competition among nations.

I wasn’t around 40 years ago when 11 Israeli men lost their lives at the Summer Olympics in Munich.

But, I am around today and that is why I will take the time to honor those who lost their lives in that tragedy.

Shame on the International Olympic Committee for not recognizing the importance of memorializing this tragedy. Please take a minute today during the Opening Ceremonies to remember The Munich 11.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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Gilad Shalit’s First Ten Days of Freedom

I’ve been paying close attention to Gilad Shalit’s first days of freedom from captivity. The debate of whether the prisoner swap was the right choice rages on throughout Israel and beyond, but I’ve become more interested in how he adapts to freedom and how he responds to his new status as a celebrity.

Perhaps what is most notable has been how the Israeli media has treated Gilad and the Shalit family since his release last Tuesday. In general, the news media has respected a 10-day moratorium on intrusion in the town where the Shalit family lives. With the exception of a few photos that were released with the family’s permission of Gilad riding a bicycle and swimming at the beach, there have been no reports of paparazzi-like intrusion into his life during the past ten days. I don’t believe this could have ever happened here in the United States. The American media and paparazzi would have staked out his home 24-7 to get the best photograph of Gilad re-adjusting to freedom in the privacy of his home. Kudos to the Israeli media for being so respectful of this 10-day period.

This video of Gilad Shalit riding his bicycle by his home in Mitzpe Hila was released with permission of the Shalit family:

I instinctively knew that it wouldn’t take long until humor became part of the Gilad Shalit story. The first real example of this is the now famous “Ugly Hamas Shirt” that Gilad wore when he was released. ynet News first reported that “The Shalit Shirt” has quickly become a fashion trend in Gaza. “The first image of Gilad Shalit out of Gaza has captured the attention of many in Israel and around the world. Shalit was led by Hamas men wearing civilian clothing including a plaid shirt. But while most focused on his gaunt frame, it appears many Palestinians were more interested in his outfit, which became an immediate trend in Gaza.” Stores in the Gaza Strip are selling “The Shalit Shirt” in a wide range of colors for 60 Shekels or about $16.50. There are already several Gaza-based Facebook groups about Gilad’s ugly shirt.

It’s unusual for a prime minister to crave the spotlight and sneak into photos because, well, they’re already the leader of the nation and always in the spotlight. However, it really seemed like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was doing just that during the reunion of Gilad Shalit and his father. It didn’t take long for the Israeli news media and bloggers worldwide to recognize that Bibi was trying to get his face into the iconic photos during Gilad’s release.

This act of hubris was immediately labeled “Bibi Forest Gump” after the Tom Hanks movie in which Forest Gump was seen in every iconic photo of American history. And then the Bibi Bombs began. People began Photoshopping Bibi’s face into iconic photos like the Begin-Sadat peace handshake, the signing of Israeli independence, Moshe Dayan walking in reunified Jerusalem in 1967, and Saddam Hussein’s hanging. Some even added Bibi to classic movie scenes from such films as Pulp Fiction and Cassablanca.

At least Netanyahu had fun with it when, yesterday, he uploaded his own “Bibi Bomb” to his Facebook page. It’s a photo of him addressing the U.N. with a superimposed photo of his face and a speech bubble from his smiling mouth with the text, “Doogri, you made me laugh.” An explanation of Bibi’s photo on Jewlicious says, “The word ‘Doogri’ means ‘honestly’, or ‘straightforward’… Not only did Netanyahu’s own version of the ‘Bibi Bomb’ play on the images circulating online, but it also expressed self-humor at his use of the word ‘doogri’ in his UN speech [when he addressed PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas saying] ‘Let’s talk ‘doogri’. That means straightforward, I’ll tell you my needs and concerns.”

There are several notable coincidences with the Shalit release. The haftorah (selection from the Prophets) that was read this past Shabbat morning (Shabbat Bereshit) from the Book of Isaiah includes such lines as: “I have called you to be righteous. I took you by the hand and kept you. I made you into a covenant for the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring the prisoners out of the dungeon, and those who sit in darkness out of prison” (Isaiah 42:6-7) and “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life” (Isaiah 43:4).

Samuel Freedman, writing in the NY Times, referenced the story of Sodom (in next week’s Torah portion) in his beautiful op-ed about pidyon shvuyim (redeeming the captives). He wrote, “The timing of this Torah reading is an absolute coincidence, an unplanned synchronicity between the religious calendar and breaking news. Yet the passage also offers an essential explanation, one almost entirely ignored in coverage of the Shalit deal, for Israel’s anguished decision to pay a ransom in the form of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, including the perpetrators of terrorist attacks on civilians. The story of Abraham saving Lot represents the earliest of a series of examples of the concept of ‘pidyon shvuyim’ — redeeming the captives, invariably at a cost — in Jewish Scripture, rabbinic commentaries and legal codes. That concept, absorbed into the secular culture of the Israeli state and the Zionist movement, helped validate the steep, indeed controversial, price of Sergeant Shalit’s liberation.”

One of the most emotional moments for Israelis living in Jerusalem was seeing the empty space outside the Prime Minister’s residence where the Shalit family’s protest tent stood for several years. The tent had served as a sign of Shalit’s captivity and a place where tourist groups would visit with the family. The tent was taken down and carted away earlier this week as Israeli President Shimon Peres visited with Gilad at the Shalit family home in the northern Israeli town of Mitzpe Hila.

Debate will continue about whether this was good or bad for Israel. Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, head of the Kadima Party, has now spoken out against the prisoner swap that brought Shalit home, saying it has weakened Israel and strengthened Hamas. Every time there’s an attempted terror strike or bombing, critics will point to the release of the prisoners. However, even the release of one Hamas terrorist in exchange for Gilad Shalit could lead to a future incident.

It’s hard to put a price on Gilad’s freedom. However, watching him ride his bike outside his home and knowing he has visited the beach with his family and played ping pong make it feel worthwhile. Hopefully, Israel’s security fence will do its job in keeping the released prisoners and other potential terrorists outside of Israel. It might be unrealistic, but I’d like to believe that the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security agency) didn’t release all those prisoners without first injecting some sort of tracking mechanism into their bodies. I jokingly posted on Facebook that Israeli news reported that the Shin Bet provided each of the released Palestinian prisoners with their own complimentary GPS-enabled smart phone so they could always be located.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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Gilad Shalit Home

Aside from writing about the impact the announcement of the Gilad Shalit-Palestinian prisoners exchange deal had on Twitter last week for the Jewish Techs blog, I haven’t written much about this developing story. There are two reasons for this. First, I feel as though it’s all been said. Second, it’s a very complex moral dilemma.

I posted a simple status update on Facebook this morning, stating “Extremely happy that Gilad Shalit is home in Israel. A captive has been redeemed.” One comment to my post summed up the moral dilemma in a concise way: “It is wonderful that Gilad has been released…but at what cost? Do you think that the 400 murderers/terrorists that have been released will lead honest productive lives? And the 600 more to come in 2 months?”

The deal is obviously lopsided because it is 1,027 Palestinian prisoners (many of whom are terrorists and convicted murderers) in exchange for one Israeli soldier who has been held captive for over five years without even access to the Red Cross. Having these prisoners freed and back on the streets should be of great concern to Israel’s security. It also sends the message to Hamas and other terrorist groups that Israel will free prisoners in exchange for captives.

However, it also sends a strong message to Israelis that the Israeli government will do whatever it takes to bring its captive soldiers home. If Gilad Shalit were my son, it wouldn’t matter how many hundreds of prisoners it took to bring him back into my arms. And that’s really why this moral dilemma isn’t a dilemma after all. We just have to put our own children in Gilad Shalit’s shoes and then ask the question.

I remember my high school years in United Synagogue Youth (USY) petitioning the U.S. government to assist in the redeeming of the captive soldiers Ron Arad, Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman. And in more recent years we prayed for the release of other captives as well. So, the video footage of Gilad Shalit’s return to Israel today is cause for celebration. It is a beautiful reunion and one that Gilad’s parents truly deserve after their tireless efforts of the past five plus years.

As we celebrate the release of Gilad Shalit and the fulfillment of the commandment of pidyon sh’vuyim (the redemption of captives) in the middle of the Sukkot festival, we must also pray that Israel is able to protect itself from any terrorism caused by the prisoners it has agreed to release in this deal. At this time of great joy, we must also remember Lt. Hanan Barak and Staff-Sgt. Pavel Slutzker, the two young men who were killed in the same cross-border raid from Gaza into Israel that resulted in the taking of Gilad Shalit. May their memories be for blessings.

For more on the question of the price at which Israel should redeem its captives, see my colleague Rabbi Barry Leff’s blog post.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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The Twittering of Gilad Shalit

Cross-posted to the Jewish Techs blog at The Jewish Week

Ynet News is reporting that the Israeli prime minister’s emissary to the negotiations for a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas to return the captive Gilad Shalit said “it’s not over yet. The deal reached is pretty complicated, but the most difficult part is behind us.” The former Mossad agent turned Gilad Shalit negotiator, David Meidan, added that he plans to travel to Egypt soon, together with the negotiation team, to plan Gilad Shalit’s return to Israel.

While the deal to free Shalit was orchestrated by high-level Israeli politicians, negotiators like Meidan, and world leaders, there was also an impressive social media campaign spanning the past few years to spread word of Shalit’s captivity through the micro-blogging site Twitter. The hashtag #FreeGilad has long been used on Twitter following any statement or link relating to the cause of freeing Gilad Shalit. As Adam Dickter blogged about yesterday, Gilad Shalit was trending on Twitter moments after news about the deal began to spread.

Dickter wrote at NewsFactorNews: “News of Shalit’s release and the controversial agreement spread quickly around the world, creating a stream of tweets. The hashtag #GiladShalit moved along computer screens almost as quickly today as #SteveJobs did last week, following the death of the Apple co-founder and former CEO. A few days before that, #iPhone5 topped Twitter, when Apple released a new phone that turned out to be the iPhone 4S, not an iPhone 5, as expected.”

In the NewsFactorNews post, Dickter quoted me about the early use of Twitter to promote the Free Gilad Movement:

Rabbi Jason Miller, who writes extensively about the intersection of Jewish themes and technology, said he learned about the deal Tuesday from a New York Times Breaking News alert, and quickly Tweeted it to his 2,357 followers. It was, in a way, coming full circle, as social media have been used extensively to raise awareness of Shalit’s plight. “The hashtag #FreeGilad is one that I have been using for at least three years now,” said Miller. “In fact, it was one of the first hashtags I ever used on Twitter. I’ve also been asked by leaders of the ‘Free Gilad’ movement if I would tweet certain statements at certain times of the year, on the anniversary of his captivity.” “It’s not just news for Israelis or Jewish people, but an international story.”

Dickter also noted that Facebook also offered an opportunity for people around the world to share their thoughts. The Free Gilad Shalit group, which has 107,112 members.

No doubt that the moment Gilad Shalit is back home safe and sound, he’ll be trending in the Twittersphere once again.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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Rabbi Jack Moline on 9/11 Forgiveness

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, commemorations are taking place everywhere. People are discussing how life would be different today had 9/11 never occurred. We are all reflecting on where we were that day and how it changed us. Memorials to honor the dead will take place all over the world.

However, there is one theme that I haven’t heard discussed very much as we mark the tenth anniversary since that dreadful day. Has it been long enough to forgive the terrorists? There are differences in belief among different faith groups when it comes to forgiveness; especially after such heinous crimes. My colleague and teacher Rabbi Jack Moline published his thoughts on this topic in the Washington Jewish Week. I found his words to be fascinating and have decided to post his op-ed in its entirety below.

Rediscovering trust in a future
by Rabbi Jack Moline

On Sept. 14, 2001, I was interviewed on the PBS program Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. Another panelist, Dr. Thomas Long of Emory University, suggested that the process of forgiveness needed to begin immediately for us. My reaction was visceral, and I suggested that he had illustrated the bright line between Jewish theology and Christian theology: to speak of forgiveness without contrition, I said, was obscene.

I have had 10 years to think about that exchange, as has anyone who remembers it. I still believe it to be true. What made for provocative television then ought rightly make for serious conversation today. Interfaith conversation, and not only between Jews and Christians, has never been more important in this country (and even globally) than it is today. The reason, I believe, is because of what was created, or perhaps accelerated, by the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.

You might argue that Americans were naive about the world before that fateful day. What fell away was a sense of trust in our own future. The crises we had faced before were met with steely resolve and a sense of purpose. For reasons sociologists and anthropologists can debate, Americans retreated into two camps. There were those who believed we had not been effective enough in promoting the American values of tolerance and equality, and we needed to redouble our efforts. And there were those who concluded that some segment of humanity was permanently resistant to our truths and needed to be punished or isolated. The loudest voices are not always the wisest, but the extremists on both sides managed to muffle the middle.

What is true of Americans in general is true of American Jews in particular. The frantic way many Jews pursued reconciliation with Muslims in particular was virtually without discrimination. (I attended an iftar dinner at a local mosque that November where I was greeted by the imam, Anwar al-Aliki.) And the sudden rise of people obsessed with the notion that we were repeating the run-up to the Shoah, with Muslims playing the Nazis, played into anger and fear. While our community has always had its extremists, over the past 10 years those people have attempted to define the middle. And absent a coherent alternative, just like in American politics, an ideological tug-of-war has replaced insight.

Israel has become the surrogate for this culture clash among American Jews. It is safe to say that most of the combatants have no intention of making aliyah, thereby making the consequences of their certainty someone else’s problem. Instead of insisting that the Jewish national homeland is a value which we all honor, it has become an issue defining whether you are (depending on your stance) a humanitarian or a bigot, a realist or a victim-in-waiting.

In the process, we have generated a heated rhetoric about Christians, Muslims and others that rely on stereotypes, which, if applied to us, would increase the membership in every one of our defense organizations. Meanwhile, as both extremes point fingers at the other, we contribute to a divisiveness in American society in general that holds us back from addressing the very genuine challenges of our changed world.

It all sounds so political, but in fact it is the essence of spiritual concern. Any approach that dehumanizes our opponents, within or without the Jewish community, violates the intentions of our Creator. Any approach that reduces the state of Israel to a litmus test compromises its real and metaphoric roles as the destination of the in-gathering. Any silence that allows extremism an uncontested platform abandons the pursuit of justice, which is never without dissent.

The 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 occurs in the very heart of Elul, the month of introspection and outreach. The former is a profoundly personal and solitary endeavor. The latter cannot be accomplished alone. They both lead, of necessity, to a place between extremes – of collective engagement, personal honesty and acknowledgment of differences. They both lead to the bright lines between our theologies and the bright light we all yearn to shine. They both lead to a rediscovery of trust in the future and of the role each of us plays in promoting a better world that the one we know.

Rabbi Jack Moline is the spiritual leader of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria.

Do you think we are ready to forgive? Please leave your opinion in the comments section below.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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Ekev – Standing Strong for Israel

A few years ago I was on my way to pick up my son from the Jewish Community Center, where he was in day care. Just a mile from the JCC I had to pull over to allow fire engines and police cars pass. I didn’t think too much of the blaring sirens and flashing lights until I realized they were headed for the JCC. When I arrived at my destination a police officer wouldn’t allow me to enter the parking lot. “But my son is inside and I need to get him,” I pleaded. I asked the officer what was happening, but he wouldn’t tell me.

Was it a bomb threat? Had there been an accident? Was anyone hurt? After a short while I learned that an old television set had been left outside on the sidewalk and it was mysterious enough to call the authorities. Once there was an “all clear,” I was allowed to enter and noticed how calm it was inside. No one in my son’s school had even known that the building was on lock-down. Thankfully, nothing happened. I was able to pick up my son who I obviously hugged a little tighter that day.

As I drove away with my child, I was thankful for his safety and immediately considered that this is how Israelis live on a daily basis. The minor ulcer I had as I thought the worst is a more typical feeling for parents in Israel. While things had been relatively calm in Israel for a while, that all changed with yesterday’s terrorist attack that killed nine in Eilat, the southern resort town, and today as thirty rockets struck Israel headed for the port cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.

What I had experienced was a random event that lasted for only a few minutes and turned out to be nothing. But in Israel there is a certain normalcy to such events.

This Shabbat, we read Parashat Ekev, which contains the command to give thanks to God for the food we eat. V’achalta v’savata u’verachta — “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the Lord your God.” The Kotzker Rebbe taught that saying the Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals) is the fundamental mitzvah in that all of us are capable to feel grateful that the earth produced food for us to eat. Reciting Birkat Hamazon, like reciting a blessing before the meal, elevates the activity of eating from simply a physical routine into the realm of the sacred. But it also connects us to the Land of Israel — the Jewish homeland. The land that we are thanking God for in the blessings is the land of Israel.

Just last week, we observed Tisha B’Av, the Jewish people’s national day of mourning. Like reciting Birkat Hamazon after meals, the somber memorial day forces us to feel a connection with Israel. Tisha B’Av is not a day for only Israelis to grieve because the destroyed Temples were located in Israel. It is a day for all Jews to grieve because the Temples were our holy temples and they were on our land in Israel.

When we thank God for our food by thanking God for the land, let us remember which land we are referring to. And when we mourn for the destruction of the temples, let us remember how we are connected to the land on which those temples stood. It is through the land of Israel that the Jewish people throughout the world are connected. And through our connection to the land, we are connected to the people in Israel who are being attacked by terrorists yet again.

Today, it is incumbent upon all Jews to stand with Israel. We must support the men, women and children who are living on the same land we refer to when we thank God for the food we eat. Am Yisrael Chai.

Shabbat Shalom.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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Israel’s Raid on Entebbe – 35th Anniversary

I missed being born on America’s bicentennial by only twenty days. July 4, 1976 was a momentous day for our nation, but I missed it.

It wasn’t until about fifteen years later that I would learn that America’s 200th birthday wasn’t the only important event that occurred on July 4, 1976. As a high school student, I attended a United Synagogue Youth (USY) Jewish youth convention at a hotel outside of Detroit. I wasn’t a board member of my congregation’s USY chapter and as such wasn’t allowed to vote in the election of regional officers. The “alternative activity” for non-voting convention attendees was to watch a movie. The movie selection was a 1977 film titled “Operation Thunderbolt.”

The movie was about Operation Entebbe, the hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. A week earlier, an Air France plane carrying 248 passengers was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and PLO supporters. The hijacked aircraft was diverted to Entebbe, outside the capital of Uganda. After landing, all non-Jewish passengers were released. Acting on intelligence from the Mossad, the IDF carried out a nighttime operation to rescue the hostages. The 90 minute rescue mission was a success, but the mission’s commander, Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed in action.

Watching the film, I recalled learning about Yoni Netanyahu at Jewish summer camp and at Jewish day school. However, I never knew the story behind his death and heroism. I was fascinated by the planning that went into the mission and the subsequent rescue of the hostages. From the movie, I learned about the ruthless dictatorship of Uganda and its villainous leader Idi Amin.

I’ve watched “Operation Thunderbolt” several more times since that first time in a hotel conference room. I’ve also seen the movie “Raid on Entebbe” with Charles Bronson, James Woods and Peter Finch and “Victory on Entebbe,” which was released in 1976 shortly after the rescue mission and stars an impressive cast of Anthony Hopkins, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Dreyfuss.

Following the rescue mission, the government of Uganda convened a session of the United Nations Security Council to seek official condemnation of the Israeli raid as a violation of Ugandan sovereignty. The Security Council ultimately declined to pass any resolution on the matter, condemning neither Israel nor Uganda for the terrorist act.

In his address to the Security Council, Israeli ambassador Chaim Herzog said: “We come with a simple message to the Council: we are proud of what we have done because we have demonstrated to the world that a small country, in Israel’s circumstances, with which the members of this Council are by now all too familiar, the dignity of man, human life and human freedom constitute the highest values. We are proud not only because we have saved the lives of over a hundred innocent people—men, women and children—but because of the significance of our act for the cause of human freedom.”

I hope we continue to teach this important event to children so they, like me, will take pride in Israel’s rescue of innocent civilians. This operation was a courageous, well-planned mission to save the lives of the hostages.

At that USY convention I was at first disappointed not to be allowed to vote in the election of officers, but upon reflection I am grateful that I wasn’t able to vote. Instead I was offered a glimpse into history and I learned that July 4, 1976 was much more than America’s bicentennial. It was an unforgettable day for Israel and in the worldwide fight against terrorism.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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Death of Osama Bin Laden Reported on Yom HaShoah

Today was Yom HaShoah, the annual commemoration of the Holocaust in which we remember the millions who perished at the hands of the Nazis. As I read the names of children from Hungary who were murdered in the Shoah, I thought about my recent trip to Berlin. I thought about how different Berlin would be today had the majority of its Jewish citizens continued to live and procreate.

I plan to write some reflections from my Berlin experience soon, but the big news now being reported is that Osama Bin Laden has been confirmed dead. It would truly be poetic justice if he were killed on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day.

However, the reports are saying that Osama Bin Laden was actually killed over a week ago. If so, that would put his death right in the middle of Passover, the time of our liberation. The theme of Passover is freedom, the principle that Bin Laden tried to crush on September 11, 2001. It would be fitting if the U.S. was able to finally kill Bin Laden during the Passover holiday. (This year, the secular anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising fell during Passover.)

In Judaism, we are commanded to remember what Amalek did to us and blot out its name from under heaven. I have no doubt that Osama Bin Laden’s name will be blotted out, but that the American people will also never forget the atrocities committed on 9/11.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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Justin Bieber Gets Crossed Off Bibi’s Calendar

Fame is an odd thing. Many world leaders, diplomats and American politicians would have a difficult time getting a private meeting with the prime minister of Israel. But a 17-year-old Canadian kid with blond hair and a talent for entertaining pre-teen girls has no problem getting face time with Benjamin Netanyahu. That is, until Justin Bieber refused to meet with children living in communities affected by Gaza rocket fire. So it sounds like the Bibi-Bieber Summit is off.

Bieber was slated to meet with PM Bibi Netanyahu tomorrow evening in Israel. Netanyahu’s advisers invited a group of children from communities near the Gaza border to attend the meeting with Bieber. In fact, last week these children got off their school bus just before it was hit by a Hamas rocket. A teen was critically wounded in the incident.

Israeli new website Haaretz is now reporting that Bieber, who’s been under constant camera fire from the Paparazzi in Israel, is refusing to meet the children, which led Netanyahu to cancel their meeting.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering not only how a 17-year-old kid gets a meeting with the Israeli prime minister, but also how he rebuffs the prime minister’s request for a PR moment.

I can only identify two of Bieber’s songs and those are the ones that my children sing around the house. However, I certainly understand the allure. These teen sensations pop up every few years. After all, to paraphrase Paul Simon: “It’s every generation throws a teen hero up the pop charts.” But there must be something more about this Justin Bieber. No matter how famous they became, I don’t think Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera ever had a peace summit with a foreign leader. And they certainly didn’t manage to get dis-invited the way Bieber just did.

While I don’t see Justin Bieber becoming the next Bono and jetting off to far away nations to lobby government leaders or address Congress, I do think Netanyahu knew what he was doing by setting up the meeting and then promptly canceling it. Bibi was going to use Bieber’s fame and cache among the world’s youth to both showcase Israel and demonstrate the realities of life in Israel amid rocket fire from Gaza. But if the young pop sensation didn’t want to play ball, the deal was off.

Bibi didn’t block out an hour from his busy schedule because he needed advice from Justin Bieber or because he wanted to look cool to Israeli youth by posing for photos with their teen idol. Bibi was exploiting Bieber’s fame for what’s known in Israel as hasbara — propaganda. If Bieber wasn’t willing, I’m sure Bibi can find someone else to do it.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |