Originally published in 1977, Hillel Halkin’s Letters to an American Jewish Friend was hailed by Robert Alter in Commentary as a work marked by “ruthless lucidity and a “terrific impetus of personal conviction,” a book that “any Jew concerned with Israel and the future of the Jewish people ought to read.”

Today, three-and-a-half decades later, Halkin’s analysis of the existential dilemmas facing modern Jews, and in particular of the fraught relation of American Jews to Israel, has lost none of its power or resonance. Neither has his impassioned case for the Zionist solution to those dilemmas, advanced in a series of ardent and closely reasoned rejoinders to an imaginary friend’s defense of Jewish life in the Diaspora.

Long out of print, Letters to an American Jewish Friend is now being reissued. The present essay, in somewhat different form, serves as the introduction to the new edition.

It’s happened at least a half-dozen times. Somewhere—at a social gathering, after a speaking engagement, while sitting in a café—someone has come up to me and said, “You know, the reason I’m living in Israel is Letters to an American Jewish Friend.” The same is true of some portion of the reactions to the book that I received in the mail, the bulk of them in the early years after its initial publication in 1977. Of them all, the most memorable was a postcard from 1986. On one side was a photograph of Jews praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On the other, next to my address, was written:

Hillel Halkin:

Thank you for helping me find my way home.


There was no signature.

Today, re-reading the book from cover to cover for the first time since writing it, I ask myself why it had such an effect on some people. I suppose its epistolary form had something to do with it. It drew readers in; many responded with letters of their own. Not all of these agreed with me. From my point of view, disagreement was almost as good. I had never thought I could convince American Jews to move to Israel by writing a book. I had thought I might help start an argument that was missing from American Jewish life.

1. The Imperative

The argument I had in mind wasn’t about Zionism per se. Jewish backing for Israel was rarely challenged in the 1970s; only later did some American Jewish intellectuals on the political Left begin to question not just the wisdom or morality of this or that Israeli policy but the very idea of a Jewish state. Yet I would not have argued with such people in Letters to an American Friend even had they been more common at the time. I didn’t write the book to defend Israeli policies, and I have never believed that, as a Jew, I should have to make the case for Israel’s existence to anyone. Whoever disputes it deserves to be scorned, not reasoned with.

But the Zionist consensus of the organized American Jewish community in the 1970s was of a peculiarly American kind. It had rejoiced in Israel’s establishment; it took pride in Israel’s accomplishments; it celebrated Israel’s military victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 and gave thanks when Israel beat back its enemies in the Yom Kippur War of 1973; it acknowledged that its own fate and Israel’s were intertwined. Yet it did all this from a vicarious distance. Unlike the European Zionism that led to Israel’s creation, it was not a movement of self-actualization. It was one of helping others, of philanthropy and political support.

It had always been like that. From the outset, American Zionism viewed a Jewish state as a home for Jews less fortunate than America’s—for those fleeing the Europe of the Czars or Hitler, for Holocaust survivors in the DP camps, for refugees from the Arab countries of the Middle East, for Soviet Jews imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain. Its task, as it saw it, was to assist these victims of fate or anti-Semitism to reach a Jewish homeland and be absorbed there in a secure and prosperous environment; it was not to encourage American Jews to join them. Although there were tiny American Zionist youth groups that preached and practiced aliyah, emigration, the subject was never on the American Jewish agenda.

The statistics reflected this. Between 1948 and 1964, an American Jewish community of close to six million produced an annual average of some 300 immigrants to Israel. That figure rose somewhat in the mid-1960s and, then, under the impact of the Six-Day War, jumped dramatically to nearly 8,000 annually in the years 1969-1972.

My wife and I, when we moved to Israel from New York in 1970, belonged to this surge. The war hadn’t created a sudden awareness of Israel in either of us. I had grown up in a strongly Zionist home, first visited Israel during the summer I was eighteen, and returned for a longer stay several years later. My wife, also in her late teens, had spent an entire year in Israel, falling in love with the country and returning a second and a third time. We both knew Israel well. Each of us, independently, had considered living there.

But at the time of our marriage, we were both deep into our American lives, and Israel was not in the forefront of our thoughts. It was pushed back there by the 1967 war and all that surrounded it: the fearful anxiety preceding it, the jubilant relief when it was over, the realization of how much Israel had continued to mean to us even as we were thinking of other things. We traveled there as tourists in the summer of 1968—a brief description of this trip can be found toward the end of Letters to an American Jewish Friend—and left with the understanding that we had to make up our minds. We were still young enough to do with our lives what we wanted and old enough to know we wouldn’t always be. Either we were going to live in Israel or we weren’t. Less than two years later, we decided.

I don’t remember thinking at the time that our decision made us part of a wave. Or rather, if it did, the wave was of young New Yorkers like ourselves, products of the 1960s, leaving a city we had had enough of for the challenge and excitement of other places. Some went to live in rural New England or New Mexico; we moved to Israel. The life we chose for ourselves did not seem so different from what others were choosing in America. Soon after arriving, we bought land in a small farming village and set about building a house on it.

Once we did arrive, though, we became aware that we were also part of something else. The country was full of young American Jewish immigrants like ourselves. The Six-Day War had affected them as it had affected us. For a moment it almost seemed that the one thing American Jewry had never wanted to talk about—a large American Jewish aliyah—was actually taking place. The pride and excitement of being in its avant-garde were joined to the energy and optimism that prevailed in Israel in those years, when the exhilaration of the 1967 victory had not yet entirely worn off and a more sober awareness of the problems following in its wake was only beginning to sink in.

Sobriety came with the Yom Kippur War. Israel emerged from the war’s three weeks a different country—grieving, bewildered, its confidence shaken. The triumphalism of the post-1967 years vanished all at once. The economic boom came to an end. Immigration from America fell sharply, too, dropping to 5,000 in 1973, decreasing again in 1974, and in 1975 returning to its pre-1967 level. The mass aliyah never materialized.

I wasn’t in the army during the war, not being inducted and doing my basic training until the summer of 1974. But the country was then still on a semi-wartime footing, and during my first year of reserve duty I was in uniform for two months in an infantry battalion. We had a small baby and had just moved into our new house, with no telephone because no lines were available, and it was a difficult time. I was angry that I had to be away from home so much. So was my wife.

3-year-old Saudi Girl Gang-Raped in the Benevolent Wahhabi Kingdom

http://www.siotw.org/modules/news_english/item.php?itemid=1382 Several men abducted a three-year-old Saudi girl and took turns in raping her before dumping the child near a hospital in a serious condition. Disclosing the crime on Monday, police said they had arrested three suspects and two women and that more could be arrested in connection with the rape. Doctors at the hospital […]



The Grand Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovina, Dr Mustafa Ceric urged the Muslim Ummah to conquer the world through Halal movement as Halal means pure and hygiene and non-Muslim world has no hesitation to accept it.

Addressing a reception hosted by Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) held in his honour and other delegates of Global Halal Congress, Dr Ceric said that Halal movement has the strength to lead Muslims to rule the global economy as the food and other services are the basic need of every human being.

The global halal industry is shifting into high gear to expand its market in the non-Muslim world as part of a broader mission to Islamise the West.


As part of its campaign, the World Halal Forum attempts to link the halal brand with qualities prized by affluent consumers in the West and elsewhere. The video opens with the claim thathalal is “a centuries-old guide to how life should be lived” and goes on to make unsupported assertions about halal‘s natural and organic qualities, its ethical and environmentally friendly production methods and its animal welfare benefits.

The strategy includes frightening consumers off non-halal products by reminding them of recent global epidemics, such as mad cow disease and bird flu, that badly affected farm production and raised severe public health concerns. It insinuates that shifting to halal production and distribution would avoid these problems, but offers no scientific basis for this claim. In fact, Muslim methods of rearing animals can be even worse than some non-Muslim practices, and some animal welfare groups regard halal slaughtering as cruel and unhygienic.



The first order of business would be to devise and deploy a political “Iron Dome” to protect Israel from the incoming barrages of delegitimization and demonization.

The State of Israel, the country that represents Jews throughout the world as much as its citizens, is slowly but surely abdicating its role by its action or perhaps better said inaction vis-a-vis public diplomacy. What has happened to the leadership of the past, men and women who were not afraid to state their minds and fight for what has always been rightfully ours? We are no longer respected and are at the mercy of a leftist faction and media who will stop at nothing to help in our destruction. – Naomi Romm, in a Facebook response to my previous column, “Dereliction of Duty”

Israel cannot expect the world to be concerned if Israel does not regard itself, its existence and its rights with urgency and determination. This is the true and profound reason that the Israeli message about Iran did not touch the hearts of the world’s leaders, and the guilty party is we ourselves, the collective Israeli, we, the Right and the Left together, each one because of its acts of commission and its acts of omission. – Dr. Mordechai Kedar, “Survival Skills for Israel – 101,” 2013

If Israel intends to regain its legitimacy, it must advance its historical claims aggressively and forcefully. The Jewish state cannot permit others to define its identity or distort its past. It is necessary to discredit the fraudulent claims of the other side and expose its lies. Such an effort should include a long-term campaign of relegitimization. Israel must defend its sovereignty and take its rightful place in the community of nations. These are the responsibilities of nationhood. – Dr. Joel Fishman, The Relegitimization of Israel and the Battle for the Mainstream Consensus, 2012

I concluded my previous column with a promise, subject to breaking news, to provide a to-do list detailing the practical measures I would undertake to address/redress the abysmal failings in the conduct – read, misconduct – of Israel’s public diplomacy.

So despite the great temptation to invoke the “subject to breaking news” clause, and devote this week’s column to excoriating the egregiously inexplicable, inexcusable, incomprehensible release of convicted murderers in exchange for nothing, nada, zilch, zip, I will hold firm to my pledge.

After all, such disastrously counterproductive decisions as the prisoner release are largely a result of the catastrophic collapse of Israel’s public diplomacy strategy, which leaves the nation’s policy-makers hopelessly vulnerable and prone to outside pressures.

First week in office

Clearly, in a single opinion column I cannot provide a persuasive presentation of all the measures I would undertake were I to assume the role of prime minister. Constraints of time and space compel me to prioritize.

The most urgent item on the agenda is not difficult to identify. It is clearly reflected in the preceding introductory excerpts, which succinctly diagnose the chronic malaise eating away at the fabric of the nation: The total failure of the national leadership to defend Israel on the international stage as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Whether this is due to a lack of will or a lack of ability makes scant difference. What matters is that this failure has eroded Israel’s capacity to resist external pressure or rebuff external demands, no matter how absurdly unjustified or outrageously hypocritical.

It is because of the breakdown of the ability to resist pernicious initiatives that, last week, I likened Israel’s diplomatic debacle to the contraction of an HIV virus that destroys the immune system, while likening the danger of Iran’s nuclear program to that of being run over by a truck.

Of course, some might protest that the most pressing issue on the national agenda that must be given priority over others is the Iranian threat. This is, without doubt, a matter of utmost gravity, but even “Iran-firsters” will be compelled to concede that it is, as Mordechai Kedar aptly alludes, greatly exacerbated by ineffectual Israeli diplomacy.



Reproducing the earliest stem cells. Scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute are the first in the world to produce completely “reset” stem cells from adult cells. Re-engineered stem cells were previously primed to be specific to certain cells in the body. The new Israeli stem cells have the potential to be grown into any organ.

Freezing lung cancer to death. (Thanks to NoCamels.com) The IceSense3 tumor-freezing technology from Israel’s IceCure is already destroying breast cancer. Now IceCure is to conduct clinical trials on lung cancer tumors, fully funded by the Kameda Medical Center of Japan.

Trials start on blood clot treatment. Israel’s D-Pharm has begun Phase 2 testing in the Ukraine of its THR-18 treatment for patients suffering from blood clots and strokes.

Another shot at the hygiene rap. If you enjoyed watching September’s “viral” rap video by Shaare Tzedek medical staff, then here is a version with English subtitles. “It’s all in our hands” now makes perfect sense.

Israel’s health is on the move. The Mobile Health Israel Conference in Tel Aviv brought together health professionals, entrepreneurs, data experts, and others involved in the movement toward digitizing health records, distance medicine, and other innovations in health care that are part of the digital revolution.

Your personal diagnosis device. Israeli start-up Tyto Health Care has developed a device that can gather information straight from a patient’s mouth and throat, eyes, ears, heart, lungs, and skin. It includes a camera and microphone to take measurements, uploading the results to a doctor or health management organization.

To Lie for ObamaCare — on The Glazov Gang

The falsehoods told by a president — and their catastrophic consequences for a nation.

With Superstars Kai Chen, Mell Flynn and Monty Morton. Don’t miss it!

An Interview with Daniel Mandel, Director of the Z0A Center for Middle East Policy by Jerry Gordon


A renewal of Israeli Palestinian peace discussions were begun after a hiatus of three years under the aegis of US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, DC on July 29th and 30th, 2013 at the State Department and with President Obama. The goal set by Secretary Kerry was completing discussions leading to a possible final status agreement on all core issues within nine months of launch. Kerry has appointed former US Ambassador Martin Indyk to monitor these discussions with senior Israeli representative Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. The cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu approved a national referendum vote for any agreement that might eventuate from these discussions. The most controversial pre-condition for these peace discussions was the release of 104 Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorist prisoners in stages over the nine month period. Both Israelis and Palestinians are skeptical that any agreement can be reached given the failures in previous rounds. It is unclear what the underlying objectives are of the Obama Administration in re-launching these discussions at a time of great turmoil in the countries that border Israel in the Middle East. That turmoil was initiated by the rebellion against Islamists in the Arab Spring, crystallized in the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi by Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in July 2013. This was preceded by massive protests by millions of Egyptians spurred on by the Tamarod (rebellion) national petition campaign. Sporadic violence continues in Egypt as well as in the Sinai Peninsula against Jihadist groups and destruction of tunnels underneath the Egyptian Gaza frontier virtually isolating Hamas.

Attention of the Obama Administration was diverted by new developments in addressing the overarching threat of Iran achieving nuclear weapons capabilities. With the inauguration of Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani in August 2013, Iran began a charm offensive at the UN General Assembly meetings. Rouhani engaged the Obama Administration directly in a new round of P5+1 negotiations in Geneva in late October 2013 with Iran Foreign Ministry officials to explore possible options for the curtailment of nuclear enrichment. The possible quid pro quo was lifting onerous sanctions. Notwithstanding Administration outreach to President Rouhani and Iranian nuclear negotiators Congress and the Netanyahu government in Israel remain skeptical about the prospects of dismantling Iran’s nuclear program. Separately, the 29 month old civil war in Syria reached a critical stage. A UN Security Council agreement, keyed to suggestions of Russian President Putin, dispatched the Hague–based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to undertake the destruction of the vast non-conventional arsenal with the consent of the Assad regime. Further, there are continuing concerns that the opposition in Syria had splintered with the rise of al Qaeda affiliates vanquishing alleged secular opposition. This has divided opposition sponsors Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia elected not to accept a seat on the UN Security Council in late October 2013 out of pique that the US had not been more pro-active in the Syrian conflict. It accused the Administration of succumbing to engagement with Iran seeking regional hegemony under a nuclear umbrella.

Holocaust Remembrance: New Tool for Anti-Semitism? by Peter Martino


“[N]o, we are not living in a new dark age and, no, the lights are not going out all over Europe.” — Jonathan Freedland, The Daily Beast.

“When faced with examples of atrocious behaviour, we must learn from them. It appears that the suffering of the Jews has not transformed their view on how others should be treated.” — David Ward, MP; Member, Education Committee, British Parliament

Anti-Semitism has now become mainstream not just in France, as Guy Millière wrote on the Gatestone website last week, but all over Western Europe. One shocking aspect of the new wave of anti-Semitism is that the remembrance of the Holocaust is being abused to propagate anti-Semitism and feelings of hatred against Israel — the state that the Jewish people established in order to protect themselves against future holocausts.

A September 2013 article on the Gatestone website explained how history lessons and so-called remembrance education about the Holocaust in Belgian schools are being used to infuse school children with hatred against Israel. The historical existence of the Holocaust and the Nazi extermination camps is not denied, as some anti-Semites try to do, but the reality of the Holocaust and the extermination of the Jews is trivialized — especially by equating the current treatment of the Palestinians by Israel with the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews.

As noted in the September article, to debunk this equivalency myth it would suffice to point out that the Jews arriving in Auschwitz had only a few hours, or at most a few weeks, to live, while life expectancy for the Palestinians in Gaza or on the West Bank is 72 years. It would suffice to point out that more Jews were murdered in Auschwitz during one single month than Palestinians have died during the entire 65 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These simple facts are, however, never pointed out to the children that are being indoctrinated with hatred against the Jewish State.



He’s a fugitive from justice. Google and Yahoo must make sure with Obama they don’t end up in the same boat.

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was lost to history after it ignited the Chicago Fire because the fire was vastly more important than the cow. Having ignited a global fire around the U.S. intelligence community, NSA leaker Edward Snowden is inevitably being condemned to the same fate for the same reason. He isn’t at all happy about it.

Apparently frustrated by the lack of hospitality he’s receiving in Moscow, Snowden gave a letter to Hans-Christian Stroebele, a German “Green” politician, last Thursday in which he writes in the style of John Kerry’s testimony to the Senate in April 1971.

In the letter, Snowden first passes himself off as a “technical expert” previously employed — directly or indirectly — by the NSA, the CIA, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was never, of course, an intelligence analyst or spy: he was a low-level computer “administrator” inexplicably given access to an enormous amount of information about top-secret intelligence-gathering systems and methods. He claims that having been witness to enormous and illegal acts by the U.S. government, he had a “moral duty” to act. (That small fact is problematic: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said only a couple of days ago that the NSA’s “metadata” gathering was legal.)

Which echoes people such as Bill Ayers and the rest of the radicals for whom cocktail parties were thrown on the Lower East Side in the ’60s and ’70s.



Uncertainty and struggle are what we most often associate with poverty. Not knowing if you can still afford to pay next month’s bills and worrying over how much more you can cut back when you’re already barely getting by. This way of life has become more associated with the middle class than with those at the very bottom.

The statistic that shows that average black household worth is at $4,955 while average white household worth is at $110,729 is often quoted, but these numbers are not comparing similar things. Comparing the naked numbers is as misleading as comparing the average salaries in Tokyo and Bombay. What matters is not how much money you have, but how you live.

The $110,729 and $4,955 don’t reflect different standards of living; but different ways of living. Much of that $110,729 is home equity. But why do you need to shoulder the burden of a mortgage, when the government will just give you housing for free?

It’s misleading to think of the $110,729 families as privileged and of the $4,955 families as oppressed.

The $110,729 and $4,955 families both have large flat screen televisions, smartphones and the usual baseline consumer toys. They could both eat equally well, except that the $4,955 family doesn’t bother watching its food budget. It just takes whatever it wants off the shelf and worries about prices later.

In terms of personal satisfaction, the $4,955 family is happier than the $110,729 family.