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My Trip From Bahrain to Israel

When we landed in Israel, I joined the foreign minister, and together we walked off the plane.

THE BACKSTORY // Avi Berkowitz


My Trip from Bahrain to Israel

Thanks to President Trump and Jared Kushner, I’ve had the privilege of being on four first flights between Israel and Gulf Arab states since August.

Most recently, last Wednesday, I had the honor of traveling with the Bahraini delegation, led by Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani, on the first commercial flight from Bahrain to Israel. This, of course, was their first time in Israel, and the first time a Gulf Arab delegation visited Jerusalem.

Before taking off from the capital, Manama, I met with the foreign minister and gave him a signed photo from President Trump. The photo was taken in the Oval Office on September 15, the day the Abraham Accords were signed at the White House. It was a great reminder of the progress we’ve made in just two months.

When we boarded the plane, I was initially slated to sit in 1A, a window seat. The foreign minister, seated in 1D, an aisle, turned to me and with a warm smile said, “You are lucky.”

I quickly realized what he meant and offered him to switch seats. And so we did. I was excited for him to see Israel from above. As the minister thanked me, I was reminded of a question I’m often asked: “Do I expect Israel and Bahrain to have a warm peace?”

Yes, I do.

When we landed in Israel, I joined the foreign minister, and together we walked off the plane. As we did, I said, “Welcome to beautiful Israel.”

We were wearing face masks, and I was nervous as the people and cameras came into view, but in that split moment he turned to me, and I’m pretty sure he smiled.

—As told to Omri Nahmias



Jeremy Corbyn 1, Keir Starmer 1.

Three weeks after former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from Britain’s main opposition party for his role in its anti-Semitism crisis, his replacement Keir Starmer is in danger of justifying a recent Boris Johnson jab that the current Labour leader has “more flip-flops than Bournemouth Beach.”

A decision last week by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to readmit Corbyn drew a stinging rebuke from Britain’s Jewish community and Labour moderates, and the next day Starmer announced that Corbyn wouldn’t be readmitted as an MP.

A Labour source confirmed that Starmer’s zigzag was indeed a response to the backlash. Had Starmer not acted, Corbyn may well have returned to Parliament — a fact that confirms how compromised the Labour Party remains.

The first post-Corbyn elections to the NEC — a five-member panel of which reinstated the former leader — also showed the far left’s tenacious grip on the party’s institutions. The Labour source summed up the resulting balance of power in the governing body as “21 good, two swing, 16 Corbynite.”

Corbynism, it seems, is down, but a long way from out.

—Gedalia Guttentag




De Blasio Needs a Schooling

Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled the dreidel in the summer when teachers’ unions were opposing his plan to open schools, and it came out at 3 percent. That is, when the COVID-19 test positivity rates for students reached 3 percent, he assured the unions — against the advice of science — he would close all schools.

The mayor’s announcement last Wednesday that the city has reached that threshold, albeit only according to one metric, put its 1.1 million children out on the streets effective immediately. Well, not exactly out on the streets — there’s telephone and Zoom and dedicated teachers and make-it-work principals — but that’s essentially the outcome.

Now, I’m not personally affected by the move, since private schools may stay open. But if it sounds like I’m opposed to closing schools in this way, that’s because I am.

Not because it goes against science — although it does. The surgeon general, who as the highest-ranking doctor in the country knows a thing or two about medicine, tweeted, “Our review of data over the past several months suggests that kids are as safe or safer in school vs. not.” Keeping schools open was credited for New York City’s success in combating the Spanish Flu in 1918.

Not because 3 percent is a made-up number with no scientific value — although it is. (One of de Blasio’s advisors admitted it was “arbitrary.”) Other states and districts are at 10 percent test positivity rates and have schools open. And even in New York state, the rate in schools is 0.93 percent.

Not because it creates a generation of uneducated kids more likely to turn toward crime and government assistance — although it does. Not because it creates social media resentment against yeshivos — although it does. Not because school closures are cited as a prime reason that a tenth of city households have left the city since March — although it is.

The reason it irks me is because it shows where de Blasio’s loyalties lie. Not with the kids, but with the teachers’ union, and their money and campaign volunteers.

This is the ugliest face of city and state leadership.

Did I say leadership?



is Trump’s share of the vote in New York, which is the best a Republican has done in the state since 1988, leading to euphoric post-election talk of a GOP “red wave” in the deep-blue state. A Democratic congressman lost reelection on Staten Island, and three others had unexpectedly tight races. Instead of going up from 40 to a veto-proof 42 seats in the state senate, Democrats seemed to have lost a half dozen races. A round of finger-pointing began, with Governor Andrew Cuomo blaming Mayor Bill de Blasio, and moderates upbraiding progressives for their bail law that sent crime levels rocketing.

But, as Yogi Berra once said, it ain’t over till it’s over. The counting of absentee ballots, a novelty of Covid voting, began last week, and resuscitated Democratic hopes. While they still lost Rep. Max Rose on Staten Island and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee in Rockland County, the Democrats managed an impressive turnaround elsewhere.

To roll back Republican Vito Bruno’s election night victory declaration, State Sen. Andrew Gounardes needed to win the uncounted 20,000 absentee ballots by about 65 percent — and he did so, holding his seat in the Midwood district with a large Orthodox population. Democrats have taken the lead in similar races, and now appear certain to hold their current 40-seat majority, and perhaps even extend it to 42. That would allow them to seize full control over the redistricting process without consulting minority Republicans.

Can this still change? Probably not. But, you know, 2020.

—Yochonon Donn


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 837)

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