Monday, August 14, 2006

Israeli historian's talk marked by loss

By John Mitchell,
August 14, 2006

Israeli physicist and historian Zeev Rav-Noy preceded his Sunday lecture on the history of Israel with the announcement that he had received news of a tragic personal loss.

He told the 50 or so people who filled the small main room at Chabad of Oxnard that his nephew had been one of five soldiers killed Saturday when a Hezbollah missile destroyed an Israeli helicopter in Lebanon.

At the conclusion of his lecture and a brief question-and-answer period, the speaker rushed out of the room to head to Los Angeles International Airport so he could fly home for his nephew's funeral.

Rav-Noy's grief was shared by Racheli Muchnik, his daughter and the wife of the chabad director, Rabbi Dov Muchnik. The dead soldier was Racheli's first cousin.

As her father was leaving the building, she stood in front of the assemblage, her infant cradled in her arms, and emotionally expressed her feelings of loss.

The title of Rav-Noy's lecture was "Israel: Past, Present (Future?)" He illustrated his comments with a series of maps projected on a screen that tracked the changing geography of the region from Abraham to the present day.

Rav-Noy, who fought in many of Israel's wars and was injured during a terrorist attack in the summer of 2005, made it clear that he wanted to explain the conflict between Jews and Arabs through religious and historical facts. He refrained from discussing the current fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

However, at the end of his presentation, several people queried him about the conflict.

"We live in a dangerous neighborhood. People are trying to kill us," he said to one questioner.

To another, he said: "I want to stop the bloodshed and go back to the drawing board. I don't think it is necessary to win this war. But it has shown clearly we have a problem with the military."

When asked about securing the release of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah before the fighting, he said, "We can go back to haggling. Maybe we didn't need this war."

During the lecture, he portrayed the land of Israel as much more closely linked with Jews than Arabs. Jerusalem is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible more than 700 times, he said, and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem has been the Jews' main place of worship for more than 800 years.

Rav-Noy also said Israel's cause is right.

"Our most important ally is not George Bush," Rav-Noy said. "It is justice. And even with all our troubles we've had, Israel loves justice because it is on our side."

Copyright 2006, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.

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