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Milei Makes a Splash 

President Milei will undoubtedly require any Divine favor earned during his Israel visit to help him calm Argentina’s simmering political cauldron

Argentina’s President Javier Milei made his first official state trip abroad last week to Israel, in a visit that blended geopolitical and spiritual interests.

The South American leader reaffirmed his strong support for Israel in meetings with President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and doubled down on his pledge to move Argentina’s embassy to Jerusalem. (That move, which requires approval by Argentina’s Senate, will be overseen by the likely ambassador, Rabbi Shimon Axel Wahnish, profiled in Mishpacha three weeks ago.)

Milei made the requisite stop at Yad Vashem, but also went with Herzog to kibbutz Nir Oz, which had been home to many Argentinean citizens before the Hamas massacre of October 7. Many of them, like the Bibas family, were either killed or abducted (although on Sunday night the IDF managed to rescue Argentine nationals Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70). With Herzog at his side, Milei declared, “Israel has every right to defend itself,” labeling Hamas the “21st-century incarnation of Nazism,” and demanding the release of all Hamas’s remaining hostages.

The non-Jewish head of state’s visit also took a uniquely religious turn. After his plane touched down in Israel, he made a pilgrimage directly to the Western Wall. Images of the president shedding tears of joy while embracing Rabbi Wahnish went viral, setting the stage for the ensuing 72 hours.

Milei’s suite at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel became a hub for meetings between the president and such rabbinical figures as Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzchak Yosef — although the most extensive and emotive gatherings took place with other Torah luminaries. As exclusively reported in these pages, Rav Asher Weiss and Rav David Abuchatzeira endorsed Rabbi Wahnish’s appointment as ambassador, and President Milei welcomed them both. That move particularly surprised Chacham Abuchatzeira’s inner circle, who assumed that the heir of the Baba Sali would never leave his residence in Nahariya. “Kavod l’malchut” was given as the explanation.

The meeting between Milei and Rabi David, as he is popularly known, was initially scheduled to last only about 15 minutes — but the two remained behind closed doors for over 50 minutes. Anyone familiar with Abuchatzeira household protocol knows this was highly unusual. Inside sources tell Mishpacha that Milei was captivated by this encounter, which included Rabi David’s blessings and advice to always remember that it is Hashem Who governs the world. Rabi David clarified that his brachah was not intended to be for Milei personally, but for his role as the elected representative of all Argentineans; interestingly, only days later, the IDF freed the Argentinean hostages.

Milei not only paid his respects at the Wall upon his arrival but made it his parting gesture as well. Throngs of admirers clamored for selfies, hoisting him in jubilant dances to the tune of “Am Israel Chai.”

After Israel, Milei headed to Rome. It was there that he learned of the rescue of Simon and Har. Shortly after, Milei’s office tweeted in appreciation: “The Office of the President extends its gratitude to the Israeli Defense Forces, the Shabak, and the Israeli Police for successfully concluding the rescue operation of Argentinian citizens Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Louis Har (70), who were held captive by the terrorist group Hamas since October 7th.”

President Milei will undoubtedly require any Divine favor earned during his Israel visit to help him calm Argentina’s simmering political cauldron. In his absence, Congress shot down a slew of government-proposed bills, which drew a heated tweet in response from Milei, branding opposition lawmakers “traitors.”

But perhaps, if Milei is truly set on embracing Judaism after he leaves office, he’d best get used to the trials and tribulations ahead...


Guess Who’s Back?

In the same week Russian president Vladimir Putin held an interview with Tucker Carlson and basically accused Washington of facilitating the outbreak of war, the Biden administration moved forward with a new multibillion-dollar international aid package with Ukraine as the primary beneficiary.

While the proposal allocates $14 billion to Israel for its conflict with Hamas, around $5 billion to bolster Taiwan against potential Chinese aggression, and some $9 billion for humanitarian aid in Gaza, it’s Ukraine that stands to receive the lion’s share — a staggering $61 billion.

In his interview with Carlson, Putin delivered a lengthy diatribe, asserting a millennium-old claim to sovereignty over Ukrainian lands, and insisting that his country is merely “defending itself” against a NATO incursion. He urged the United States to cease military support for Ukraine and enter dialogue with Moscow.

The Kremlin chief ruled out any plans to invade Poland or Latvia, despite historical claims to those lands by “Mother Russia” — although Eastern European leaders are disinclined to take Putin at his word.

The Putin interview drew both praise and criticism, but the only response it elicited from the Biden administration was a rejection of any call for negotiations. It will take more than two hours with Tucker Carlson to change the course of international policy. Getting Old

Justice Department special counsel Robert Hur, the attorney tasked with investigating Joe Biden for mishandling classified documents as vice president, triggered a political firestorm last week when he said the president had likely willfully violated the law — but that he was not pressing charges, because Biden is an “elderly man with poor memory.”

That statement reignited doubts about the mental acuity of the current Oval Office occupant, and brought Vice President Kamala Harris to Biden’s defense, dismissing the remarks as “politically motivated.”

Democrats, following the maxim that the best defense is a strong offense, chose not to elevate the discourse. T.J. Ducklo, a Biden campaign spokesman, quipped, “Every single time Donald Trump opens his mouth, he’s confused, deranged, lying, or worse.”

The special counsel’s report comes as the latest ABC News/Ipsos poll reveals that a staggering 86 percent of Americans believe 81-year-old Joe Biden is “too old” for another term. Interestingly, the poll also found that 59 percent believed the same about 77-year-old Donald Trump.

The poll did not ask Americans how their political system could have presented them with a choice between two octogenarians for the most mentally demanding job on the planet.


History Desk

Israeli special forces’ rescue of the two hostages this week gladdened the hearts of Jews everywhere, sorely deprived of good news over the last few months. It also highlighted the city of Rafah — where the pair had been held hostage — which the IDF has now earmarked for assault, to the vociferous disapproval of the Biden administration.

Known as Rafiach in Hebrew, the town on the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt has a notable Jewish history. In 217 BCE, the Battle of Raphia was fought between the victorious Ptolemy IV and Antiochus III, whose son Antiochus Epiphanes was the villain of the Chanukah story. The clash was apparently one of the largest battles ever fought in the region, with over 100,000 soldiers and hundreds of elephants.

The town was later conquered by Alexander Yannai and held by the Chashmonaim, which presaged Rafiach’s return to Jewish hands in 1967. The return of Israeli forces — who left the area in the 2005 Disengagement — is another closing of a circle — just this time riding Merkava tanks, not war elephants and chariots.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 999)

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