An Honourable Man Speaks

Today, President Zelensky’s addressed,  by video-link,  the community of  the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It was a bitter-sweet broadcast, contrasting the support the Ukraine has received from around the world, from small nations like Luxembourg to powerful states such as the USA,  with how little Israel has done in providing material support. He mentioned the Jewish heritage of the Ukraine, personalities such as Golda Meir, Shalom Aleichem and others, and historical sites that are indelible etched in the memory of the Jewish People: Babi Yar, where 33,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis, and where to Russia’s eternal shame the Holocaust Memorial has been damaged by Russian bombardment; and by contrast, Uman, the site of pilgrimage to the tomb of the great mystic Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Zelensky’s delivery was unimpassioned, factual and an unambiguous appeal to the Israeli Government to stand up and be counted! Needless-to-say, he was given a standing ovation by those present at the University, and there is little doubt Israel’s government is out of step with general support for the Ukraine among ordinary Israelis. 

I have asked myself many times why Naftali Bennett has not been more robust in his condemnation of Russian aggression. In March this year Bennett visited Putin. There has not been a press release as to the nature of their talks. Was it a noble gesture to persuade Putin to pull back and enter negotiations with Zelensky, or was it to get a pledge from Putin to put the breaks on Iran’s development of nuclear weapons? Israel’s security is of paramount importance but would a reasonable person trust any assurances given by a despot like Putin? That is the question Naftali Bennett has to ask himself. Is there ever a right time to fall out with a tyrant? 

Zelensky gave credit to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem for giving sanctuary to students fleeing the war; he also brought to the attention of the audience the huge number of Ukrainian institutions of learning that have been destroyed by the Russians. It is now for the Israeli Government  to go beyond welcomed gestures to decisive action in support of a sovereign state that has an historic and cultural link to the Jewish homeland.

About the Author
Peter John Beyfus is an historian, published author, poet, and a person who prides himself on “thinking outside the box”. I have written many essays on Jewish themes, published in various journals, including ‘Wessex Jewish News’ and ‘Westminster Quarterly’, the magazine of Westminster Synagogue, London.

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