Last night we hosted Naftali Bennett at Beth Tfiloh Congregation.  It was an extraordinary evening. 

Over 1,000 people from our community came to Beth Tfiloh to hear this leader of Israel and the Jewish people.  The crowd had many young faces, including 250 students from all over North America and Israel who are currently being hosted by Beth Tfiloh for the 29th annual Weiner Memorial Basketball Tournament. 

Beth Tfiloh partnered with One Israel Fund to make the event possible, and the night was sponsored by Eli Burman in memory of his father David Burman, a man who was truly passionate about Israel and the Jewish people.  One Israel Fund is dedicated to supporting the welfare and safety of the men, women and children of Judea and Samaria as well as rebuilding the lives of the Jewish people impacted by the Gaza evacuation. 
The even began with a short video about One Israel Fund’s initiative to purchase lifesaving equipment for civilian volunteers who risk their lives every day to guard and protect the residents of Israeli border series that are constantly under attack.  One Israel Fund Executive Vice President Scott Feltman told us how we can learn more about helping to support this very worthy cause.
Two student athletes, Gal I. representing our Israeli athletes and Alyse M. ‘17 representing Beth Tfiloh, lead us in a recitation of Tehilim on behalf of victims of terror in Israel, America, and around the world. Students Andrew A. ‘17 (BT), Alex R. ‘16 (BT) and Tamar B. (Israel) introduced Naftali Bennett.  
The event format was a conversation with Rabbi Wohlberg, who is not shy about his own political views and would probably describe himself on the political spectrum as being right of center, but left of Naftali Bennett. This made for a very interesting conversation.  While Rabbi Wohlberg was not hostile like BBC, Al Jazeera, or some of the other news networks that he has appeared on, he did not throw any softballs; he asked hard, challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable questions. 
The topics included American and Israeli politics, the Israel/Palestinian conflict, terror in Israel, and global terror. Minister Bennett has offered his plan for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that does not involve a two state solution. He firmly believes and has said many times that creating another Muslim state in the region, especially one that would be so close to Israel, is a terrible idea and should not be considered. He believes that certain areas in Judea and Samaria should allow for Arab autonomy, but he believes that the entire land that was liberated in 1967 should be annexed and brought under full Israeli sovereignty.
On terror, he says that the popular belief is that terror comes from despair. He disagrees. He says the truth is exactly the opposite. Terror comes from hope. So long as the Arabs can hope to destroy Israel they will continue to engage in terror with the hope that one day they will be victorious. He says that the only way to defeat terror is to send a message to the terrorists and to any future terrorist that their actions will never bring about the change that they want and if they engage in terror Israel will use force and crush them. He referenced his recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal where he said that he only way to defeat ISIS is with real force to destroy their hope.
Naftali Bennett is also the minister of education and the minister of Diaspora affairs. In the educational area he spoke about different sectors of Israeli society, including the secular, the Hareidim, and Israeli Arabs.  As education minister he said that he has worked to make sure that Jewish children learn about Judaism.  For Hareidim, he says that force does not work. Statistics have shown that Hareidim do not want to be poor. If Israeli society is welcoming to them, young Hareidim will and are working to integrate into higher education, the work force, and even the military. However, the number of Hareidim who are making these efforts goes down when the government or Israeli society tries to coerce them to do so.  Minister Bennett feels that they should be nudged and encouraged, but not coerced or compelled.  He says that under these conditions the problems with Hareidi unemployment and alienation will take care of themselves. 
As for Israeli Arabs, as education minister he says that he has a zero tolerance policy for incitement of any kind in Arab textbooks or classrooms. He says that it has been illegal for a long time for Arabs inside Israel proper to incite against Israel. However, since Oslo he says that Arab schools in East Jerusalem have indoctrinated Arab children with hatred for Jews and Israel, and the Israeli government has been funding it. He says that he put an end to this, and for the first time ever, under his administration he fired an Arab principal who was found to be inciting Arab students against Israel.
As minister of diaspora affairs he spoke about how he believes that Israel is responsible for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of all Jews, whatever they believe and wherever they are in the world. It was clear that he takes this role very seriously, perhaps because he grew up in America. He told a personal story about his wife who comes from a secular background. He says that she would never walk into a synagogue in Israel, but when they came to live in New York for a few years they went to a beginners Torah study class at a synagogue on the East Side of Manhattan where they lived. They went together every week and now, back in Israel, his wife is more connected to Judaism. He pointed out how ironic it was that she had to come to America to experience that type of welcoming Judaism. He praised Beth Tfiloh for being a prime example of a synagogue and a school where every Jew is welcome regardless of background or observance.  Beth Tfiloh is truly unique and he said that Israel has a great deal to learn from us.
The event ended with questions and answers from the crowd, followed by a very moving Hatikva lead by our beloved Hazzan Avi Albrecht.
Thank you to One Israel Fund and Eli Burman for a truly incredible evening that brought our community together to hear from an inspiring leader, and to direct our thoughts and prayers to our brothers and sisters in Israel.