Ron grew up in the South Bronx of New York, making Aliyah in 1980. Served for 25 years in the IDF as a Mental Health Field Officer in operational units. Prior to retiring was Commander of the Central Psychiatric Clinic for Reserve Solders at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring has been involved in strategic consultancy to NGO's and communities in the Gaza Envelope on resiliency projects to assist first responders and communities. Ron has written numerous articles for outlets in Israel and abroad focusing on Israel and the Jewish world.
Danny Lewin H'yd: The very first victim of 9/11
Danny Lewin first walked into Samson’s Gym in Jerusalem in 1985 accompanied by his best friend, Aviad, the son of Peace Now pioneer activist Janet Aviad. Despite Danny not yet being 15, came armed with a series of questions about Jerusalem’s legendary fitness facility, the first of its kind in Israel, and the much-talked-about new attraction in Israel’s capital. After asking about the equipment, the rates, the hours, and the type of workout program that he had hoped to get from one of the muscular instructors who seemed to epitomize the gym’s name, Danny asked a question that would seem haunting a decade and a half later. “Why are there no Arabs here and what are you afraid of?” His question seemed more a comment that stood to support the argument that would soon follow when his close friend brazenly challenged the gym’s unspoken policy.
The gym owner’s responded in his typically blunt manner: “Because we don’t want any trouble—”; yet, before he could further clarify, Danny Lewin boldly asked again: “What about the good Arabs?!” Less than a month into their initial three-month membership, Aviad dropped out. The sport was simply too demanding. Danny, on the other hand, became more and more committed, visiting Samson’s Gym even on the days he didn’t train. He saw it as his home away from home, convinced that it would serve as the vehicle by which he would transform his life, helping to develop a fine-tuned body that would complement his noticeably gifted mind. His friends marveled, and the mirror reflected evidence of the rapid development of a determined, motivated, and aspiring muscle man.
There was something special about Danny; he radiated a sense of independence more fitting of someone twice his age. Only weeks into his membership, he asked if he could get a job at the gym and join the small team of instructors who were already well recognized as they walked the streets of Jerusalem wearing the coveted Samson’s Gym trainer tee shirt. Not taking no for an answer, he asked again a few weeks later. And yet again, a few weeks later, offering to “do anything” to become part of the team. Anything! And so it was. Still new to the iron game, 15-year-old Danny Lewin rushed to Samson’s Gym from school every day—to sweep the floors, mop the showers, and, yes, to clean the toilets. He could finally call himself part of the Samson’s team. A year and a half later, the now-muscular Lewin was ready to be an instructor—training a cadre of Jews, young and old, to believe in themselves and the inner strength that they possess.
After breezing through high school and matriculation exams, Danny volunteered and served in Sayeret Matkal, the IDF’s most elite commando unit. He married at 21 and raised two young boys with his wife. He received his B.S. from the Technion, working long hours as a teaching assistant there and as a researcher for IBM in Haifa.
In 1996, Danny accepted a scholarship to study computer science and mathematics at MIT. Two years later, while working on his Ph.D., he founded Akamai Technologies which offered a new and revolutionary way to deliver content over the Internet. By 2001, Danny was widely recognized as one of the most influential technologists of his generation. One well-known trade publication ranked him as the seventh most important technologist in the world. His impact on people was so strong that, even today, battle-hardened CEOs and IDF sharpshooters get choked up when talking about him, in part, because his rise was so quick, so spectacular, and so tragically short. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Danny Lewin boarded American Airlines Flight No. 11 in Boston, expecting to reach Los Angeles. Instead, the flight was hijacked and commandeered by Arab terrorists, crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. On that fateful flight, Danny Lewin became the very first victim of the largest terrorist attack in history in which almost 3,000 Americans died. An internal memorandum of the Federal Aviation Administration says “that in the course of a struggle that took place between Lewin, a graduate of Israel’s elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, and the four hijackers who were assaulting that cockpit, Lewin was murdered by Satam Al Suqami, a 25-year-old Saudi.”
Sometime after the attack, the Lewin family in Jerusalem received a telephone call from the FBI offices in New York. On the line was the agent responsible for the investigation of the attack on Flight 11. He told Danny’s parents that there is a high degree of certainty that Danny tried to prevent the hijacking. The FBI relied, among other things, on the testimony of the stewardess Amy Sweeney. Sweeney succeeded in clandestinely getting a call out during the flight to a flight services supervisor in Boston, from the rear of the plane: “A hijacker slit the throat of a passenger in business class and the passenger appears to me to be dead.” To this day the American investigators are not convinced that Danny Lewin was murdered on the spot. An additional stewardess, Betty Ong, who succeeded in calling from a telephone by one of the passenger seats, said that the passenger who was attacked from business class seat 10B was seriously wounded. It turned out that 10B was the seat of Danny Lewin. The Lewin family, Danny’s parents and brothers, have no doubt that Danny battled the hijackers. And it is for them a tremendous consolation. “I wasn’t surprised to hear from the FBI that Danny fought. I was sure that this is what he would do,” Yonatan, his younger brother, said. “Danny didn’t sit quietly. From what we heard from the Americans, the hijackers attacked one of the stewardesses and Danny rose to protect her and prevent them from entering the cockpit. It is a consolation to us that Danny fought. We see it as an act of heroism that a person sacrifices his life in order to save others. That battle in the business section ended quickly. Lewin was overcome and bled to death on the floor. Two additional flight attendants were knifed and the captain was murdered. The hijackers were already inside the cockpit. They announced to the passengers to remain quiet in their seats.
As we fathom the tragic details of the incredible life journey of Danny Lewin, Hy’d, from mopping up the locker rooms of Samson’s Gym in Jerusalem to the pinnacle of the high tech industry in America, I am reminded of Danny’s question back in 1985, “What about the good Arabs?” Indeed, as we grasp the dimensions of 9/11 from a 20-year perspective, where were these “good Arabs” who rejected this compulsive need to murder one’s way to Islamic glory? Where are they today?
Danny Lewin H'yd –father, husband and son, a veteran of the Israel Defense Force’s elite commando team, the outstanding graduate of Israel’s Technion Institute, an accomplished PhD student at MIT and co-founder of the Internet giant Akamai Technologies will be forever remembered for his heroic attempt to prevent the hijacking of Flight 11 becoming the very first victim of 9/11.
*this article was prepared with the assistance of Mr. Meir Jolovitz. the legendary founder of Samson's Gym in Jerusalem
**this article was cited as a footnote in Wikipedia for being the first source ever to name by name the very first victim of 9/11
“Let them eat cake” vs the sanctity of life
The phrase was supposedly said by Marie Antoinette in 1789, during one of the famines in France during the reign of her husband, King Louis XVI. “Let them eat cake” is the most famous quote attributed to Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France during the French Revolution. As the story goes, it was the queen’s response upon being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread. Because cake was more expensive than bread, the anecdote has been cited as an example of Marie-Antoinette’s obliviousness to the conditions and daily lives of ordinary people. In 1792, the French monarchy was abolished, and King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were condemned for treason. Marie Antoinette suffered the same fate as her husband: execution by guillotine.
For the many in Israel, The Bennett-Lapid government is very much out of touch and indifferent to the national mood and public expectation that in the struggle against the coronavirus they are to take responsibility and act decisively. Instead we have witnessed over the past weeks and months, a lack of accountability, and a seeming indifference to the well-being of the public similar to the historical anecdote concerning Marie-Antoinette above.
The most blatant example of the Marie-Antoinette’s mentality in the Bennet-Lapid government was articulated by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaket who showed her apathy towards the Israeli public when she nonchalantly informed us all that we should just get used to dying from corona; " [Israel] needs to know how to accept severe cases and severe deaths because this is a pandemic, and in a pandemic, people die.” This, rather than taking responsibility for the government's negligence in its dealings with the pandemic when returning Israelis brought the new strain into the country; from bringing Israel’s almost 0 daily corona infection rate only three months ago to over 9000 daily infections and bringing Israel’s hospitals to a near-state of collapse.
As of today, seven of Israel’s public hospitals say they will refuse to accept corona admissions. The newly elected Bennett-Lapid government’s helplessness and inability to function when faced with health-related challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic is only the tip of the iceberg. Israel which was not too long ago seen as an example, a kind of perfect model of a country that managed to beat the coronavirus pandemic become in a matter of just a few weeks, just another red country that failed to contain the coronavirus.
The overwhelming national mood for many Israelis is as if the country is sitting on a ticking time bomb waiting for it to explode. Alongside the national sense of impending doom, the Israeli and Jewish value of the sanctity of life seems too have been lost on the Bennett government. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the sanctity of life has always been at the top of Israel’s moral compass. Over the years, the countries of the world have always been amazed to what lengths Israel was willing to negotiate prisoner exchanges, or negotiate the retrieval of fallen soldiers held by our enemies, or even rescue Israeli’s in distress in the far reaches of the world.
During the Syrian civil war, thousands of wounded Syrians were treated for medical conditions in northern Israel, despite the border being closed and declared a war zone. Let’s not ignore the thousands of Gazans that have received and continue to receive lifesaving medical treatment in the center of Israel despite the thousands of missiles, rockets, and arson balloons fired into Israel over the years by Hamas, the Palestinian Gaza based terror organization. This Israeli and Jewish value has allowed us to rise above the daily conflict between Israel and her neighbors only because the sanctity of life has been at the forefront of our value system and an integral part of what differentiated Israel from her neighbors.
With Prime Minister Bennett in charge, and corona virus cases soaring, it becomes increasingly frustrating not to be angry, even infuriated by the irresponsible behavior of our newly elected government and their abandonment of what was always an integral part of Israel’s national identity and a timeless Jewish value; the sanctity of life. The Bennett government has lost control in the war against the corona virus and is guilty for getting us to where we are today with one of the highest infection rates in the world despite the previous Netanyahu government bringing Israel to almost zero infections just three months ago.
However, what has emerged from the governments “new” approach to tackling the coronavirus is far more sinister, delegating the sanctity of life and the loss of life to become an acceptable norm in Israel while the economy takes first place. Justifying dead victims of the coronavirus and explaining away the normalcy of these deaths is reminiscent of a previous leftist government that propagated the equally sinister belittlement of dead Jews; known then as “victims of peace”.
Those of us here in Israel who went through the second intifada twenty years ago as the Oslo agreements fell apart, vividly remember the streets of Israel become killing fields with Palestinian suicide bombers blowing up packed buses at a rate of two a day. The leftist government led then by Yitzchak Rabin also had a dilemma concerning the thousands of Israeli’s that were murdered and wounded by Palestinian terrorists. How to explain and justify the Israeli lives lost to an ill-conceived and bogus peace agreement? The Palestinian Arab leadership at the time abrogated the Oslo Accords immediately after signing the agreement, leading to the second intifada, a Palestinian Arab terror campaign.
The media and the media influencers of that period devised a media campaign based on the notion of “victims of peace”. The thousands of Israeli’s killed and wounded by the Palestinian suicide bombers where not - according to this campaign - victims of terror, but “victims of peace”. This rebranding of unnecessary Jews deaths to be palatable and accepted by the Israeli public has been resurrected by the current Bennett-Lapid government to explain and justify the many unnecessary coronavirus deaths as a result of their negligence on a national scale.
I, like many others in Israel, have never had any real expectations from Israel’s current governing coalition. From its very inception, the Bennett-Lapid government has made a conscious and manipulative effort to project their daily failures in a positive light, with the media cooperating.
However, the far reaching consequences of their “let them eat cake” mindset and the dismissal of an eternal Jewish value such as the sanctity of life may very well have far reaching consequences for the fabric of trust between the people of Israel and their elected officials.
There are moments in the history of a nation in which governments lose their legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Are we approaching this critical junction? Hopefully and with God’s help, the ticking time bomb can be diffused. With Rosh Hashanah just around the corner, I would suggest that the cabinet members of the Bennett-Lapid government conduct a serious Chesbon Nefesh (soul searching) before it’s too late.
The “End of history” of anti-Semitism
It’s been two weeks since Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, spoke about anti-Semitism at the Global Conference on Combating Antisemitism gathered in Jerusalem, were he explained to the world and to the Jewish public here in Israel and abroad that anti-Semitism is not unique in the history of the world but rather is one of the many bigotries expressed in the annals of human hatred. In one swoop Lapid brought to an end the historical uniqueness of anti-Semitism culminating in the Holocaust. Unbelievably and without hesitancy or remorse, he continued and stated:” antisemitism, exists everywhere…. The anti-Semites weren’t just in the Budapest Ghetto”, “The anti-Semites were slave traders who threw chained slaves overboard into the ocean. The anti-Semites were the members of the Hutu tribe in Rwanda who massacred members of the Tutsi tribe. The anti-Semites are the Muslim extremists who killed 20 million fellow Muslims in the last decade. The anti-Semites are Islamic State and Boko Haram. The anti-Semites are people who beat to death young members of the LGBT community.”
Foreign Minister Lapid, a high school dropout and former journalist turned politician dismissed without the bat of an eye the across the broad conclusions of all major historians in the modern era; that anti-Semitism is a murderous ideology that aims to exterminate all the Jews, but instead is nothing more than just another phobia like Islamophobia, or even Homophobia. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Lapid’s comments as “scandalous and irresponsible, warping history and emptying the concept of antisemitism of all content.” Additional oppositional political leaders in Israel accused Lapid of seriously weakening Israel’s and the Jewish world’s ability to combat anti-Semitism.
The late Tommy Lapid, a Holocaust survivor, a former Justice Minister and a journalist turned politician was the father of Yair Lapid. I have no doubt that he is turning in his grave again and again. As Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council back in 2007, Lapid senior spoke on behalf of the survivors during the official state ceremony marking Holocaust Martyr’s' and Heroes' Remembrance Day: “The Holocaust, which we commemorate here today at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel; the Holocaust in which 6 million innocent Jews were murdered, was a unique event in history. This is because in the Holocaust, man used modern technology to annihilate a people [Jews] in a calculated, scientific manner – a death industry. The viruses of the fatal disease known as antisemitism have developed antibodies that are not impressed by the lessons of past events and do not accept today’s norms. Instead, they lie in wait for the day when evil will once again rear its head.” The Late Tommy Lapid had no doubt about the distinctive role that anti-Semitism has played against Jews throughout history, and it would never have crossed his mind to dilute and universalize what has been an exclusive and multi-generational hatred of Jews throughout history.
How are we to understand the sudden burst of revisionist history of anti-Semitism that Lapid junior has brought to the world from a leftist and progressive perspective? At the Global Conference on Combating Antisemitism Lapid insisted that “the cure could not be achieved by Jews changing their behavior” meaning that the Jews are to blame for the hatred expressed by anti-Semites. Sounds very similar to the current wave of Critical Race Theory that has swept America. In the same manner that Jews bring upon themselves the inter-generational hatred of anti-Semites, white Americans have brought upon themselves the violent insurrection by Black Americans that have turned Main St. into Mean Streets. Throughout America, Jews have been getting attacked in the streets: hunted, chased, beaten, burned, and stabbed. French courts have recognized inebriation as a legitimate alibi for murdering Jews and Holocaust survivors. In recent months, we’ve seen Jews assaulted in Los Angeles, New York, and Boston. Dozens of “pro-Palestine” rallies calling for the genocide of Israel’s Jews and the murder of Jews everywhere have swept through American streets from the Bay Area to Boca Raton. Jewish students and faculty are bullied, demonized, and terrorized on American college campuses. Corporate America and teachers’ unions are pushing new racialist narratives and curricula that single out Jews as a “white” identity group uniquely deserving of hostility. So what is Lapid getting wrong?
In the summer of 1989, the American magazine The National Interest published an essay entitled "The End of History?” Its author, political scientist Francis Fukuyama, announced that the great ideological battles between East and the West were over, and that Western liberal democracy had triumphed. The ascendancy of Western liberal democracy would not only end the cold war but would lead to a general calming in world affairs. Fukuyama claimed that humanity has reached "not just ... the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: That is, the end-point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."
The "end of history" thesis has been repeated so often over the years that it has acquired a ring of truth, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That is, until the current day anti-Semitic pandemic appeared seemingly out of nowhere in recent years to challenge this almost uncontested given in current modern intellectual thought. The notion that nations and anti-Semites of the world would all adopt a kind of liberal democratic model and join together in a fraternal bond of human society seems to have been largely overlooked by today’s torch bearers of Jew hatred. It seems that the expectation that “the end of history” would sway anti-Semites to succumb to the universalization of Western liberal democracy with its balance of liberty and equality has been proven false. So why does Lapid insist on preaching what clearly is a disproven understanding of history and anti-Semitic hatred?
Yair Lapid has joined the ranks of America’s Jewish progressive vanguard by accepting the new normal in the battle against anti-Semites. His new found progressive understanding of anti-Semitism in the battle against the surge in Jew hatred is based on a simple and dangerous misconception and at the end of the day will only fan the fire of anti-Semitism. Progressive Jews view today’s world exclusively through the prism of oppressors versus oppressed, privileged versus under privileged, black versus white. According to Lapid’s progressive mindset, Jews are guilty of being guilty on all three counts: oppressor, privileged, and white. Extending this condemnation of Jews onto Israeli’s and the State of Israel is the logical extension of this kind of warped thinking,
Yair Lapid is doing nothing more than promoting classical anti-Semitic stereotyping of Jews. These efforts by Lapid will only empower an indifference to anti-Semitic violence and behavior. Voicing concern over anti-Semitism will be treated as an insult to other minority groups. Raising concerns of anti-Semitism or expressing sympathy for Jews who are threatened by anti-Semites will become and has become an indefensible offense. This kind of dangerous thinking on the part of one of Israel’s leading politicians can only be understood as an existential threat for Jews everywhere and for the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
Diminishing our capability to distinguish and differentiate
The first blessing that observant Jews recite among the Morning Blessings is the following: “Blessed are You, HASHEM, our GOD, King of the universe, Who gave us the understanding to distinguish between day and night”.
Many of those who recite this blessing understand this blessing as referring to God creating day and night, however the underlying meaning of this blessing refers to our God-given ability to distinguish, to differentiate, between day and night, between good and evil, and between real and imaginary.
But what seems to be a basic given in life, what seems to make so much common sense, has in recent years been turned upside down. This past year with the eruption of anti-Semitic attacks literally everywhere, coupled with runaway crime on the streets of America’s major cities, with violent crime rates shooting up tenfold and hundreds of percentages; something has happened, a tectonic shift in society is upon us, and our God-given ability to distinguish between victim and offender is under attack.
Not surprisingly, those most responsible for expressing anti-Semitic hatred in America are the very same doing the utmost to facilitate the continuing breakdown of public order and safety on the streets of America. It starts with the Jews, but it never ends with the Jews. The first airplane that was hijacked was an Israeli airplane, and today at every airport at every country in the world, we now line up for security checks, so all Americans should be concerned.
Those that are at the forefront of leading the charge of blurring the distinction between criminals and victim, between police officers and offenders, between innocent bystanders and street criminals are members of the progressive Democratic Party namely: Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep Cory Bush and Rep. Ayanna Pressley .
Not surprisingly, these very same aggressive Democratic congresswomen are also at the forefront of empowering anti-Semites and the resulting upsurge in hard-core anti-Semitic sentiment and anti-Semitic attacks on the streets of America. The coordinated effort on the part of these Democratic congresswomen to link the status of Afro-Americans with the status of Palestinian Arabs as if they are two sides of the same coin has reinforced this trend of defending all those that claim to be oppressed while justifying their criminal, violent behavior and lack of accountability as a legitimate response to perceived oppression - whether it be on the streets of America or in the Gaza Strip.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Gaza) recently expressed her political agenda: “defund not only the police, but Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)."
Why? Because according to Tlaib, they engage in terrorism. According to Tlaib, organizations dedicated to defending the United States should be treated as if they were enemies of the state. “What they are doing to the Palestinian people is what they continue to do to our Black brothers and sisters here,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan shouted to applause at a rally earlier this month, “Until all our children are safe,” Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri told the House, “we will continue to fight for our rights in Palestine and in Ferguson.” Rep. Ayanna Pressley spoke recently at a rally in Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on March 12 and repeated the message during a speech on the House floor, Pressley compared Black Lives Matter and anti–police brutality protests in the U.S. to the Muslim violence in Israel.
-In response to the recent broad daylight shooting in Times Square, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., claimed over the weekend that concern from people over the spike in crime rates across the country amounted to "hysteria."
-Ocasio-Cortez casted doubt over the data showing crime rates rising in cities throughout the U.S., especially in New York, where shooting incidents and murders have risen 53% and 13% since the beginning of the year. According to Ocasio-Cortez’s logic, we must examine the “context”, that is, it’s never the crime itself that is the real issue, but the response by police and other first responders that need to be held accountable.
-On the unprovoked Hamas terror and on the Israeli response of self-defense she has stated “The lens through which I saw this incident, as an activist, as an organizer – [it is as] if 60 people were killed in Ferguson, Missouri, if 60 people were killed in the South Bronx, unarmed, if 60 people were killed in Puerto Rico – I just look at that [Gaza] incident more than just as an incident, and to me, it would just be completely unacceptable if that happened on our shores,” she said.
-Rep Ilhan Omar recently responded on CNN: 'I don’t ‘regret equating US and Israel with the Taliban. Rep. Ilhan Omar, continued and told CNN that she has no regrets over her recent comments comparing the United States and Israel to terrorist groups Hamas and the Taliban, and went so far as to blame her Jewish colleagues for taking issue with the remark.
This intertwining of the Black Lives Matter protests and the deadly street violence in America with Palestinian Arab violence, rocket launching and terror in the Gaza Strip by Rep Ilhan Omar and the other progressive Democratic congresswomen shows a clear goal of expropriating the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict as part and parcel of the current breakdown of order and safety on the streets of America.
Israeli’s have been falsely juxtaposed and casted as “white supremacists” (when over half the Jews in Israel are people of color) and Israel as a nation of “apartheid”. Black Lives Matter, and other Americans of color are automatically labeled as victims of oppression. This distortion and blurring of reality has made the streets of America that much less safe while empowering the Palestinian Arabs to continue with their never-ending terror war against the State of Israel.
Aiding and abetting is a legal doctrine related to the guilt of someone who aids or abets (encourages, incites) another person in the commission of a crime. It exists in a number of different countries and generally allows a court to pronounce someone guilty for aiding and abetting in a crime even if they are not the principal offender or even directly involved in the criminal act itself. The progressive Democratic Party as represented by Tliab, Pressley, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, and Bush will continue to blur the publics’ ability to distinguish and differentiate between police forces and criminals, between victims of violence and those responsible for the violence. These Congresswomen should all be held accountable for aiding and abetting this breakdown of order and safety on the streets of America.