Speaking from the dias at the Terrace On the Park hall in Flushing, New York, Mr. Danon’s remarks were enthusiastically received by his audience of over 500. Addressing the most egregious forms of terrorism, MK Danon said that “President Obama is ignoring reality when he attempts to make a distinction between the objectives of Hamas and al-Qaeda. They are one and the same and we in Israel know very well that you cannot appease terrorists, but rather, you must fight terrorists.”
Exhorting the US president to focus his foreign policy agenda towards a concrete plan of action that will confront “Iran’s nuclear capability” instead of pressuring Israel into making suicidal territorial concessions, Mr. Danon praised the US for undertaking the Navy SEAL mission that resulted in the killing of al-Qaeda mastermind, Osama bin Laden. “Israel should be doing as the US has done in terms of fighting terror and we can learn an excellent lesson from this dramatic and courageous mission.”
Proffering a bold alternative to the Palestinian Authority proposed world vote at the United Nations in September that would ostensibly result in the establishment of a Fatah-Hamas run state, Mr. Danon said, “I am not afraid of what will happen in September. By using the UN to push for a state, the Palestinians are in violation of the Oslo accords. When the UN will decide unilaterally to vote for the creation of a Palestinian state, we will immediately declare independence throughout Judea and Samaria.”
As the prospect of the division of Jerusalem looms large in a US-initiated negotiated settlement, Mr. Danon spoke of the historic tradition that represented a common denominator amongst previous Israeli Prime Ministers as it pertained to maintaining the holy city as the eternal capital of the Jewish people. “David Ben Gurion moved the Knesset from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Levi Eshkol did not differentiate between East and West Jerusalem or who lived there before 1967 and who lived there after that,” he said, adding that, “80% of Israelis polled are against compromise of any form on the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
Quoting former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir, Mr. Danon offered a sanguine perspective on Israel’s future. “Mr. Shamir has often said that we need three things to win this war. The first is ‘ideology’ and that is represented through our belief in and adherence to the precepts of the Torah. The second thing is ‘organization’ and we have that here in Ateret Cohanim. The third thing is a steadfast commitment to overcome all adversity and to prevail against those who seek out destruction and, thank G-d, we possess this magnificent trait.”
Founded by Matityahu HaCohen Dan, a young, idealistic veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, Ateret Cohanim’s mission is predicated upon the fulfillment of a generations-old dream of rebuilding and securing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. Bringing this inspiring vision to fruition through a unique program of strengthening Jewish roots, Ateret Cohanim/Jerusalem Chai has succeeded in re-establishing vibrant Jewish communities that are centered around yeshivot and other educational institution in the Kotel Quarter, also known as the Muslim and Christian quarters of the holy city.
Representing the Jewish residents of the Old City of Jerusalem at this year’s dinner was Chaya Shira (Frimer) Tanami who lives in the Yemenite Village. A shining paradigm of exceptional courage, Mrs. Tanami and others like her exemplify a pioneering spirit that serves as a beacon of light and hope for the future of Jerusalem. The recipients of the auspicious Bonei Yerushalayim award included Shlomo and Naomi Min-Ha Har Gottfried of Maalot Dafna, Jerusalem, Henoch and Tova Messner of Monsey, New York and Nessem and Lynne Tammam of Great Neck, New York.
Always reluctant to accept public honors, Nessim and Lynne were kind enough to present their views on the vital work of Ateret Cohanim and the future of Jerusalem. “Jerusalem holds a special significance for me because I was born in Libya and grew up in a neighborhood that was very similar to the Old City of Jerusalem but needless to say, things were very different. The Arabs controlled every facet of our lives and we accepted subjugation in order to avoid suffering their wrath,” intoned Mr. Tammam.
Explaining the etymological basis of the word Jerusalem, Mr. Tammam said, “The first part of the word in Hebrew is ‘yerusha,’ meaning inheritance, and the last part of the word is ‘shalom.’ We have come to the city of our inheritance in peace and by claiming our inheritance, given to us by G-d, we will earn the respect of the world and the Arabs and in the end, peace will follow.”
Addressing the ever present need for security in the Old City, Mr. Tammam ruefully observed, “The 70 or more Jewish families in the Old City must live with 24 hour heavy security. What kind of life is that? They risk their lives every single day in order to make it possible for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live there, one day, please G-d, in peace.” With a sense of optimism and hope, Mr. Tammam added, “Ateret Cohanim has stepped in and sponsored the installation and maintenance of state-of-the-art security systems and has initiated educational programs so that people can live in safety, both physically and emotionally, and for that we should all be deeply indebted.”
Having purchased a property in the Old City called Beit Schechter, Henoch and Tova Messner, also recipients of the Bonei Yerushalayim award, recalled its glorious past. “This property was named after its original owners who lived there from the 1880s until the 1930s when they were driven out by Arab rioters during the infamous pogroms.” said Mr. Messner.
Prior to making the purchase they sought the counsel of HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, shlita.
“When we asked Rav Elyashiv if he thought this cause was important enough for us to become involved with, he was surprised that a Jew could even ask this question. He felt that it was such an imperative thing to do that he gave us his full endorsement and encouraged us to get others involved,” said Mr. Messner, adding that, “there is nothing more natural than a Jew buying a house in Jerusalem. The students of the Vilna Gaon did the same 200 years ago and Ateret Cohanim is at the forefront of continuing this special work today.”
Mr. Messner said that, “The designation of ‘East’ and ‘West’ Jerusalem was created for the purpose of removing Jews from half of the city which they once owned and inhabited before they were forcefully removed. In fact, when the Schechter family lived in their home which we redeemed, the Jews were the predominant majority in that part of the city.” Describing the Torah obligation of every Jew to reclaim Jerusalem, he said, “The halacha is that one is allowed to acquire a non-Jewish owned house in Jerusalem on Shabbos if it becomes available and should not wait until after Shabbos because the deal may no longer be available then. This demonstrates the importance of this mitzvah.”