American Journalist Steven Sotloff Executed

(Photo: facebook)

(Photo: facebook)

Yesterday we brought you the now-confirmed news that a second American journalist has been executed by the Islamic State. The always well-spoken Michael J. Totten writes about Steven Sotloff, a man he knew though they had never met in person, and a man he greatly respected:

He and I corresponded by email and planned to meet in Libya last year, though it didn’t work out. He had to leave and I had to cancel my trip and re-route myself to Lebanon, so we never actually met. But I did introduce him to the publisher of this magazine and he wrote a few articles for us before he was kidnapped in Syria.

I sort of knew him, though not in the flesh, so I can’t tell you much about him personally, but I can tell you this: he was a hell of a lot braver than I am. I have not for even a second considered going to Syria during this conflict, and I doubt I’d be willing to go there even a couple of years from now if the conflict were to miraculously end later today.

When he lived in Benghazi and everyone was heading for the exits, he told me—and I believed him—that Benghazi was the same old Benghazi, by which he meant mostly fine aside from some unfortunate incidents. Dangerous places are often, though not always, less dangerous than they appear in the media. At least they appear that way …

Steven was brave and unlucky, but he was not stupid. He knew how risky going to Syria was and, according to Ben Taub, he planned to take a hiatus from this nasty business after one final trip and possibly apply to graduate school in Florida.

The Islamic State took that from him, and they took him from us.

I didn’t actually meet him, but I miss him anyway. Sincerest condolences to his friends and family.

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Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 8:19 AM  | Stand for Israel

Rabbi Eckstein Recommends: Rebbe, by Joseph Telushkin

rebbeIn this book review, Rabbi Eckstein enthusiastically recommends Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s Rebbe, the biography of one of modern history’s most important and influential spiritual leaders, the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

In this enlightening book, one of the rare works on religion to become a New York Times’ bestseller, Telushkin offers a captivating portrait of the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a towering Rabbi who turned the Hassidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement into one of the most important, cutting-edge organizations in the religious world. Through stories and teachings of the Rebbe, Telushkin gives us insight into a man who might well have been the most influential rabbi in modern history.

The release of this biography, timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Rebbe’s death, finally makes his incredible life accessible to Jewish and Christian readers alike.

Telushkin explains how at a time when most religious groups have seen declining numbers of faithful adherents, Chabad, under the Rebbe’s inspiration, has built thriving outposts in forty-nine American states, and in eighty countries throughout the world. Perhaps more importantly, the Rebbe’s teachings went well beyond the confines of his own community to deeply affect the lives of countless Jews and non-Jews across the world, and continues to do so today, perhaps even more than before …

Now, with the Gaza war hopefully behind us, Telushkin’s chapter about the Rebbe’s strong positions about the security of the Holy Land is perhaps more poignant than ever. That section alone makes this book a must-read for anyone who holds Israel dear. Rebbe also describes Rabbi Schneerson’s clandestine operations to rescue and sustain Jews in the Soviet Union and how he became in effect an ambassador for Jews, Judaism, and religious freedom globally …

For all his immense achievements, the Rebbe’s power ultimately came from a simple message that all can appreciate. As Rabbi Telushkin puts it: “Love your fellow, and not just those who agree with you.” You can understand now why I recommend this book for Christians as much as for Jews.

Epic, intimate, and masterfully told, and with dozens and dozens of…

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Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 8:11 AM  | Stand for Israel

Teen Girls Arrested in French Synagogue Bomb Plot

(Photo: wikicommons/FLLL)

(Photo: wikicommons/FLLL)

The recent rise in anti-Semitic hatred and violence in Europe – and elsewhere – has been alarming, especially as it has accelerated during Israel’s recent war with Hamas. We were especially alarmed to read this report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) of the arrest of two French girls who had plotted to bomb the Great Synagogue of Lyon:

Two teenage Muslim girls were arrested for planning a suicide bomb attack on a synagogue in France.

The teens, aged 15 and 17, were arrested last week after the plot to blow up the Great Synagogue of Lyon was discovered, the French language JSS News website reported, citing an unnamed source from the Central Directorate of Homeland Intelligence.

The girls never met, communicating only via social media, according to the source.

They were indicted on Aug. 22  for conspiracy to commit terrorism.

“These girls were part of a network of young Islamists who were being monitored by security services … “

We thank God that this plot was discovered before it was carried out, and pray for His protection against any and all who would be targeted with such hatred.

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 2:06 PM  | Stand for Israel

Breaking News: Islamic State Reportedly Executes American Journalist

(Photo: facebook)

(Photo: facebook)

We earlier brought you the story of American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by terror group, the Islamic State (IS). Now The New York Times reports that a new video claims to show IS executing another American journalist:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has beheaded Steven Joel Sotloff, the second American executed by the Islamic militant group, and posted a video of it on the Internet, the SITE Intelligence Group, a research organization that tracks jihadist web postings, said Tuesday.

The execution of Mr. Sotloff, 31, came despite pleas from his mother aimed directly at ISIS’s top leader seeking mercy for her son, a freelance journalist who was captured in northern Syria a year ago.

Word of Mr. Sotloff’s beheading came two weeks after James Foley, 45, another American journalist, was beheaded by ISIS, which warned that Mr. Sotloff would be the next to die.

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 12:55 PM  | Stand for Israel

Displaced Jews in Ukraine Once Again in Harm’s Way

(Photo: flickr/ Atlantic Council)

(Photo: flickr/ Atlantic Council)

As The Fellowship and its supporters continue to provide shelter and safety for the Jewish communities in Ukraine during their nation’s war against Russian separatists, we have continued to bring you news of the situation on the ground. Many Jews from the devastated city of Donetsk were relocated to Mariupol, which is now also in harm’s way:

Ukrainian Jews who fled to Mariupol to escape their country’s brutal civil war may have to uproot themselves again as the Ukrainian Army prepares to defend the southeastern coastal city, community leaders there told The Jerusalem Post.

More than 100 families from Donetsk, one of the primary centers of the Moscow- backed insurgency, have arrived in Mariupol in recent weeks, according to Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski.

The leader of Donetsk’s Jewish community, Vishedski had vowed to stay in the city as long as any of his constituents remained, but was forced to leave when the water supply was cut and electricity became intermittent …

Most families with children have been evacuated, he said, adding that anyone still looking to leave Donetsk can contact the community’s hotline to receive money and resources necessary to flee.

Describing the situation that prompted the exodus, he recalled daily shelling and rocket strikes that endangered the lives of the city’s remaining residents. Up to three quarters of the city’s one million citizens have fled, either to Russia or to western Ukraine …

As the rebels advance towards Mariupol, residents have begun emptying supermarkets, withdrawing their savings from local banks and hoarding gasoline, said city rabbi Mendel Cohen.

While large numbers of people have left the city of almost half a million residents, many members of the Jewish community remain, although almost all of them have packed their suitcases in preparation for their own flight, he said.

Cohen said his community has worked to provide food and lodging for their brethren from Donetsk and that anyone looking to leave Mariupol will be provided with transport to the Zhitomir camp and subsequent financial help to secure…

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 8:49 AM  | Stand for Israel

Which Side Is UNRWA On?

UNRWA-logo-724x1024As Operation Protective Edge brought Israel back into Gaza, it also brought the United Nations’ UNRWA agency back into the news. Much of this attention was due to the fact that terrorist rockets were found in UNRWA-run schools, while many more rockets were launched from such locations. Former national security adviser Elliott Abrams writes that while UNRWA has always been bad, now they seem to be even worse:

So now there are two compelling reasons to end UNRWA. Its cooperation with Hamas, and the way in which it has been permeated by Hamas, constitute one reason. The second is that UNRWA is engaged in the perpetuation and expansion of the “Palestinian refugee problem” rather than its solution …

In the decades of its existence, it has not solved or even diminished the Palesinian refugee problem; instead it has presided over a massive increase in its size, for all the descendants of Palestinian refugees are considered to be refugees as well. Once there were 750,000; now there are five million people considered by UNRWA to be “Palestinian refugees … ”

Which side is UNRWA on? Its supporters would say “on the side of Palestinian refugees,” but instead the agency appears to be on two other sides: its own, always expanding its own empire and responsibilities, and on the side of Hamas …

The Gaza war has illuminated once again the ways in which Hamas has been acting as a parasite feeding on this UN agency–to which the United States is the largest donor. Time for a change.

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 8:34 AM  | Stand for Israel

Photo Friday: How Majestic

(Photo: flickr/ spacelion)

(Photo: flickr/ spacelion)

LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:9)

How majestic is our God, and all that He has created. Enjoy this breathtaking view from the Golan Heights, and please pray for peace and protection of the residents there – as you do for all of Israel – as Islamist fighters in neighboring Syria are reportedly nearby. Shabbat shalom, friends.

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Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 2:19 PM  | Stand For Israel

IDF on High Alert in Golan Heights

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

Stand for Israel has been reporting on the developments across Israel’s border with Syria – of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters doing battle with Syrian forces. Israel is well aware of what is going on, and the IDF is on alert in the Golan Heights:

As a result of the fighting on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the level of alert was raised on the Israeli side, an army spokesperson said Thursday, without confirming that it had been increased to the highest level.

The announcement followed several incidents in the area, including the capture and execution of 160 Syrian soldiers by the Islamic State, gruesome pictures of which appeared online Thursday, and the abduction, also Thursday, of 43 Fijian U.N. peacekeepers by al-Qaeda-affiliate al-Nusra Front at the Quneitra crossing with Israel, where fighting has raged this week between Syrian rebels and government forces.

Please pray for the return of the captured U.N. peacekeepers, for God’s protection over the brave men and women defending Israel in this dangerous situation, and for God’s peace over all of His people.

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Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 11:51 AM  | Stand For Israel

Israel Has Emerged Stronger

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

As all wars do, Operation Protective Edge cost Israel much – in the lives lost, in the soldiers wounded, in the financial and emotional prices paid. Yet much was also gained. Writing at The Times of Israel’s blog, Dr. Daniel Polisar says that the war made Israel stronger by strengthening Israeli society, strengthening the Jewish state’s diplomacy, and weakening Israel’s enemies:

First and foremost, Israeli society was strengthened over the last seven weeks … showered soldiers with moral and material support, demonstrated gritty determination to continue the ground war despite the large number of IDF casualties, and bolstered the spirits of those most in need by attending en masse funerals of people whom they did not know—with the most sublime symbol being the sign placed near the grave of ex-Californian infantry fighter Max Steinberg, “There is no such thing as a lone soldier in Israel.”

Such acts gave Israelis and their leaders the fortitude to go on under difficult circumstances, but also have longer-term effects. They etched into the hearts of Israelis, especially those who recently came of age, that we are a people capable of great courage, compassion, and commitment when it matters most. When the dust settles and the commentaries of today and tomorrow are forgotten, it will be this sense that will remain and will instill in Israelis the conviction we have what it takes to survive and thrive, come what may.

Diplomatically, Israel was of course subject to increasing criticism from Europe and suffered a well-publicized rift with its leading ally, the United States. Even so, European actions, in any event not decisive, did not undergo a qualitative shift and the U.S.-Israel relationship remains firm, as witnessed by continued cooperation on numerous fronts. The only real strategic change was the remarkable deepening of Israel’s ties with Egypt, the most powerful Arab country …

Finally, the conduct of the war has given pause to Hamas and the heads of the more powerful Hezbollah about engaging soon in another military clash…

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Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 9:04 AM  | Stand For Israel

Nipping Terrorism in the Bud

(Photo: Oren Nahshon)

(Photo: Oren Nahshon)

While the ceasefire between Hamas holds for now, frightening developments are continuing to occur elsewhere, with the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations rampaging through the Middle East, nearing Israel, and endangering the entire world. And who knows when the battle against Hamas will reignite. Avi Dichter, former Israeli Minister of Internal Security and Shin Bet director, knows the threat of terrorism better than most. Writing at Israel Hayom, he says Israel cannot be complacent or indifferent to this threat, and must wake the rest of the world up to Hamas and other terrorist groups like them:

Israel should be the one to surprise Hamas, instead of waiting for rocket fire of any scale. Israel should not be the one left to mount a response. The days of Israel being dragged into a fight by Hamas are over.

In its seven years in power, Hamas has plunged Gaza into chaos, which should remain inside the Strip, instead of affecting the kibbutzim near the Israel-Gaza Strip border and cities nationwide.

Hamas’ brutality is growing. It is oppressing the people of Gaza and doing everything within its power to ensure Gaza does not become Westernized. Hamas favors maintaining a “Wild West” in the Gaza Strip, so that it can continue to dictate who can and cannot pull the trigger in Gaza, and how …

Hamas is more calculating than ISIS. It prevents the true scope of its atrocities from being revealed, mainly because it is wary of the wrath of the families of murdered Gazans. It has no qualms about harming women and children if it suspects one of their relatives might be a collaborator, but takes great care to conceal it.

Had Hamas been able to realize its tunnels conspiracy, infiltrate one of the communities near the border and abduct Israeli men, women and children, then Israel, the U.S. and the EU would have understood the true nature of Hamas’ cruelty.

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Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 8:45 AM  | Stand For Israel

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State of Israel"

Rabbi's Commentary
Remembering the Terror of 9/11, Confronting the Terror of Today

The attacks on 9/11 were a wake-up call to the dangers of Islamist terrorism, and the swift growth of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State should wake us up to a current threat that demands not just our vigilance, but also our unity.


Read Rabbi Eckstein's message »

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