Did U.S. use lessons from Israel’s Entebbe raid to prep for bin Laden killing?


In the mid-1990s, William McRaven, then a U.S. Navy SEAL, wrote a book about commando operations. Entitled “Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice” (Presidio Press), the book featured six case studies. One chapter was devoted to Entebbe, beginning with the lessons learned in the Israel Defense Forces as a whole, and in the Sayeret Matkal special operations unit in particular, after the failure to save the lives of 25 hostages in Ma’alot two years earlier. It included a discussion of Israeli intelligence gathering, decision-making processes, creation of the command and control system, personnel conflicts and the actual rescue operation in Entebbe Airport in Uganda, on July 4, 1976.

One of the slides McRaven subsequently used in lectures was a drawing of the old terminal building there, a sort of elderly relative of the intricate mock-up that McRaven – who is now relinquishing control of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in order to be promoted – used for preparing for last week’s targeted raid on Osama bin Laden.

The earliest document in Osama bin Laden’s FBI file, connected to Interpol case 1998/20232, contains an international arrest warrant issued, surprisingly, by the government of Libya. Muammar Gadhafi’s Justice Ministry declared that bin Laden and four of his associates were wanted for the murder of two German citizens in the Libyan city of Sirte in 1994, and for “illegal possession of firearms.” At the bottom of the page, Interpol has prominently added, whether at its own initiative or at Libya’s request, a declaration: The request for extradition of the suspects is relevant to all countries – excluding Israel. The FBI file notes that Theodore Katz, a federal judge in New York, signed an American arrest warrant, should bin Laden show his face (described in the document as having full beard and mustache, olive skin and no scars) in Manhattan. Back in 2000 the bounty offered for him was $5 million. Only after September 11, 2001, was the reward upped to $25 million, with another $2 million thrown into the pot by the American Airline Pilots Association.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Al-Qaida confirms death of Osama bin Laden


Al-Qaida has issued its first confirmation of Osama bin Laden’s death in an Internet statement posted on militant websites, dispelling doubts and conspiracy theories that the Islamist leader did not actually die.

Friday’s statement by the terror network says “holy warrior” bin Laden’s blood “will not be wasted” and it will continue attacking Americans and their allies.

Al-Qaida said in the online statement that bin Laden’s blood is “is more precious to us and to every Muslim than to be wasted in vain”.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

How should Jews respond to bin Laden's death?


When the news of Osama bin Laden’s death at U.S. hands hit the airwaves Sunday, America breathed a collective sigh of relief. Spontaneous celebrations broke out in front of the White House, as crowds gathered to wave the Stars and Stripes and chant their delight.

But how should Jews respond when an evil-doer meets his end?

There is no easy answer, leading rabbis say.

Even asking the question is very Jewish, writes Rabbi Tzvi Freeman on Chabad.org.

“It’s so typically Jewish to feel guilty about rejoicing,” he opined.

A number of prominent rabbis spoke to JTA on the subject, sharing their conflicted reactions borne of a tension within Jewish teaching itself.

“As the president said, justice was done,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “Bin Laden was an evil man. He preyed on the weak. He killed in the name of God.”

“But,” the rabbi continued, “I was not comfortable with the celebrations. Thoughtful discussion and thoughtful remembrance of recent events are to be preferred to dancing in the streets.”

There are examples within Jewish tradition of celebrating an enemy’s death, of asking God for their destruction.

Consider the Purim story, where the Jews feasted after slaying those who were, admittedly, arming to slay them. Or God’s command to King Saul to obliterate the entire house of Amalek for its wicked ways: “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (I Sam. 15: 2-3).

Conversely, one of the best-known rituals of the Passover seder is spilling 10 drops of wine when mentioning the Ten Plagues to symbolize a lessening of our own joy in the face of Egyptian suffering. In Sanhedrin 39b, God admonishes the angels for rejoicing when the Egyptian soldiers drown in the Red Sea, saying “The work of My hands is drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?”

“I don’t think we ‘celebrate’ a death,” explained Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional association of Conservative clergy.

In the case of bin Laden there is, she said, “a sense of relief, an affirmation of God’s justice has been carried out.” Such an event, however, “is a time for sobriety, not celebration.”

Nevertheless, Schonfeld added, one needs to distinguish between an ideal, religiously inspired response and the reality of human nature.

“Sept. 11 was a day of tremendous trauma,” she said, and the raucous street celebrations can be viewed as a kind of catharsis. “What we’re seeing is a reminder of how personally people were affected. It’s an understandable human response that we as Jews are blessed to elevate to a Jewish response.”

Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, the professional association for Orthodox clergy, also distinguished between the ideal and the real.

“In an ideal world, we serve God because we want to do His will, not because he rewards us or we fear punishment,” he said. “But we’re human, we’re not angels. We live in a world where people need reinforcement, need a sense that it’s all worth it in the end.”

The Jewish way is not to gloat, Herring said. It is appropriate to rejoice when evil doers get their just reward, but the rejoicing should be because we are witnessing God’s power and justice. It shouldn’t come, he said, from “a self-satisfied smug sense of ‘Yes, I’ve been proven right.’

“It’s an affirmation that God is not just an abstract idea, a Creator, but part of our lives,” Herring continued. “God cares. God loves us. That’s an essential article of our faith, that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. We rejoice because our faith is borne out.”

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a Jewish Renewal rabbi and director of Philadelphia’s Shalom Center, said he would have preferred that the Navy SEALS had brought bin Laden back to the United States to stand trial.

Just as Israeli agents didn’t kill Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann when they found him in Argentina a half-century ago, but tried him in Jerusalem to expose the true horror of the Holocaust and give its victims a chance to speak their truth, so would putting bin Laden on trial have been an opportunity to uncover the real face of al-Qaida, he said.

“That would have been an extraordinary act in support of upholding the values we claim make us different,” Waskow said.

Pointing to the story of Moses, Waskow quotes the Midrash as saying that one reason Moses was not permitted to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land was because in his youth he killed an Egyptian overseer without permitting him a trial.

Trying bin Laden “would have been messy,” Waskow acknowledged, “but in the long run I’m sure it would have been better.”

Senior Pakistan official: U.S. shot bin Laden in cold blood


A senior Pakistani security official said U.S. troops killed Osama bin Laden in “cold blood,” fuelling a global controversy and straining a vital relationship Washington was trying to repair on Thursday.

And Pakistan’s army, in its first comment since Monday’s raid, threatened to halt cooperation with its military sponsor if it repeated what it called a violation of sovereignty.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was still anxious to maintain its alliance with Islamabad.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Jon Stewart on the bin Laden photo debate


Video courtesy of Comedy Central.

The Osama postmortem


Evaluating the responses to the US action against Osama bin Laden is an important element in understanding who the West’s true enemies really are.

There have been four significant voices speaking out against the killing of bin Laden.

The most obvious voice is that of the Taliban. The most vociferous belongs to Hamas, followed by a very significant group of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and finally, as one would expect, Iran.

All four groups are united in their claim that the United States overstepped its role and violated international law. They describe the action as a premeditated cold blooded murder. They call the attack on bin Laden an attack on all believing Muslims.

The skepticism that the Taliban are displaying over whether or not bin Laden is in fact and truly even dead is sincere. The Taliban want more evidence and on Wednesday they issued a statement saying that there is no real evidence of his death. But honestly, even had the entire event been broadcast live these ‘believers’ would not acknowledge what was being shown. The Taliban are true believers. They believe that Osama bin Laden was their great leader and they believe that the West, especially the United States, is the devil.

For Hamas and Islamists in East Jerusalem, the logic of their outcry makes sense. Bin Laden was their hero. Bin Laden challenged the US and the West. Bin Laden fought for the Muslim cause. For Hamas the demise of Bin Laden is a vehicle to garner supporters. For Hamas, the death of bin Laden is an opportunity. The murder of their hero at the hands of infidels is an opportunity to teach and to draw passive supporters and donors and fighters from al Qaeda into their stable. Now the leaders of Hamas can thrust themselves into the limelight as the center of Muslim activism challenging the established Western norm.

But why has Iran been critical of the demise of bin Laden?

Iran was a target of bin Laden. Iran and Osama bin Laden were sworn enemies. For bin Laden Iran represented religious heresy. Iranians were worse than non-believers, they believed in and follow the tenets of a misreading of the Prophet Mohamed.

So why is Iran upset by the demise of Osama bin Laden?

They are upset for the same reason that the Taliban, Hamas and segments of Palestinian East Jerusalem are upset. It is the reason that unites Muslim radicals around the world who wish to usurp the role of the United States as the preeminent cultural and economic and military power in the world.

The Machiavelli dictum is correct, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

These terrorists and terrorist supporters and terrorist wannabes have one thing in common. They despise US dominance and US values. They particularly resent the Western value of equality which includes equal rights for women and religious pluralism. They cannot comprehend the principle that suggests that you can agree to disagree and then leave it at that—and not take the further step and kill the person you disagree with.

Like Osama bin Laden, Iran, Hamas and other Islamists are united in their hatred of the West. What unites them is stronger than what separates them. We must be stronger than them all.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson).

Obama decides not to release photos of bin Laden’s body


U.S. President Barack Obama has decided not to release photos of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden dead, U.S. television networks said on Wednesday.

“We discussed this internally, did DNA sampling. It was important for us the photos won’t become a propaganda tool,” Obama said, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.

“We don’t use this staff as a trophy that’s not who we are. Given the graphic nature of these pictures, it could be used for incitement members of my national security team agreed,” he said.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Complete video footage from Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death [VIDEO]


U.S. believes it can now destroy al-Qaida after killing bin Laden


The United States will aim to destroy al-Qaida’s central organization now that its leader Osama bin Laden has been killed and its capabilities degraded by U.S. operations, a top White House adviser said on Tuesday.

Since the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, al-Qaida has spawned affiliated groups in the Middle East and North Africa and inspired attacks by so-called home-grown militants in Europe and the United States.

But White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said bin Laden’s death was the latest in a series of U.S. operations that have delivered “severe body blows” to al-Qaida’s central network in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past year.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

CIA director: U.S. was concerned Pakistan may ‘alert targets’ before bin Laden operation


U.S. officials were concerned that Pakistan could jeopardize the Osama bin Laden operation and “might alert the targets,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s president denied on Tuesday that his government may have sheltered a bin Laden but admitted that his security forces were left out of a U.S. operation to kill the al Qaida chief.

The revelation that bin Laden had holed up in a luxury compound in the military garrison town of Abbottabad, possibly for five to six years, prompted many U.S. lawmakers to demand a review of the billions of dollars in aid Washington gives to nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

U.S.: Bin Laden was not armed during assault on compound


Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was not armed when U.S. special forces stormed his compound in Pakistan but he did resist before he was shot, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday.

Carney said also that the White House is evaluating the possibility of releasing photos of the al-Qaida leader’s body. He said there are concerns that publication of the photos could be inflammatory in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

“It could be inflammatory, we take this into account”, Carney said about the pictures, which he described as “gruesome.”

Read more at Haaretz.com.

State slams Hamas mourning of bin Laden


The Obama administration slammed as “outrageous” Hamas’ condemnation of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“It goes without saying bin Laden was a murderer and a terrorist,” Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman told reporters. “He ordered the killings of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and many of whom were Muslim.”

Hamas had lauded the terrorist leader as a martyr in the wake of this weekend’s U.S. operation in Pakistan that killed him.

The Obama administration has expressed its dismay about last week’s reconciliation between Hamas, the terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority, but has stopped short of saying it will cut off the P.A.

Mahmoud Abbas, the P.A. president, welcomed the action against bin Laden.

Hideout of Osama bin Laden



Hideout of Osama bin Laden, the location of his death, in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Rabbis measure response to Bin Laden’s death


As details of the special operation that took out Osama bin Laden continue to unfold, rabbis in Los Angeles are pulling from biblical verses, Jewish traditions and their own gut reactions to help formulate an appropriate Jewish response to the news.

Early Monday morning, Rabbi David Wolpe posted this on Facebook:

“Yesterday, Yom HaShoah, bin Laden was killed. The proper reaction is sobriety, not revelry. This is a time to remember those who died, pray for those who fight, meditate anew on wickedness and redouble our dedication to justice.”

Within hours, more than 350 people “liked” his post, and more than 60 commented, most of them in support of Wolpe’s call for a more measured reaction.

He said he was motivated to write the post when he saw the circus atmosphere in front of the White House and in Times Square after the news broke late Sunday night.

“It felt like people were celebrating a football victory, and it seemed to be, while understandable, not something you cheer about, any more than people would cheer when a killer is executed. A grim satisfaction is understandable, but cheering not so much,” Wolpe said.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, disagrees.

“This is a time to say ‘mazal tov.’ It’s a time of great jubilation,” Hier said, noting God’s sense of humor in bin Laden’s death occurring on the same date that Hitler’s death was announced in 1945.

Hier sees precedent in the Jewish holiday of Purim for celebrating — drinking, eating, merrymaking — the death of a sworn enemy.

“Haman and his ilk wanted to destroy the Jewish people and are, themselves, destroyed, and that is the only time during the year where Jews must become merry. There’s no way of interpreting your way out of that,” he said.

Rabbi Sharon Brous at IKAR praised U.S. intelligence and affirmed the necessity to eliminate bin Laden but encouraged her congregants to use this as a moment for reflection, not gloating.

“We have to move beyond an impulsive reaction to his death. It might feel really good in the moment to have caught the bad guy, but that is not the best of us. There is a side of our tradition that calls for us to react with deep humility to the news of any death,” she said. “Bin Laden’s work was to destroy and undermine the sanctity of human life — he was a horrible human being. But rather than take to the streets and cheer, our work now is to start to put the pieces back together — to work toward more healing and understanding in the world, to honor the victims of his violence and to reaffirm the sanctity of human life.”

Brous quoted a rabbinic midrash in which God rebuked the angels for rejoicing when the Egyptian army was caught in the receding waters after the splitting of the Red Sea. “ ‘How dare you dance and sing as my children drown in the Sea?’ God rebukes them (Megillah 10b),” Brous wrote in a letter to congregants. The drop of wine spilled at the seder reflects this idea as well.

Brous turns to another midrash for deeper meaning. As the Egyptians drowned, an archangel challenges God, “How dare you drown my children in the Sea?” God convenes a heavenly court and finds the acts of the Egyptians so heinous that justice outweighs mercy, and Pharaoh and his army are killed.

“But in those moments, even when dealing with the worst of the worst, we recognize that there is justice but no joy,” Brous wrote.

Rabbi Jonathan Klein, executive director of CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice), quoted the same midrash about the angels at the Red Sea to make a different point. God rebuked the angels but didn’t rebuke the Jewish people for rejoicing, because they were celebrating their newfound freedom and the complete removal of any threat.

Klein believes that the continuing threat of al-Qaeda should temper celebrations of bin Laden’s death, as multiple war fronts remain active and the specter of terror continues to drag America through a torrent of violence.

“We have a responsibility to move on and say, ‘OK, now what? Now what are we going to do?’ Are we going to be aggressive about peace in America now that we can say, ‘Ding-dong the witch is dead,’ or are we going to go back to a place of maintaining a violence paradigm that leads to more Iraqis, Afghanis and Americans dead?”

Look to the Israelis for a balanced response to such acts, suggests Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, director of the Sephardic Educational Center in Los Angeles. “In all of the years that Israel has had to engage in hunting down and killing terrorists, have we ever once seen Israelis take to the streets with flags shouting ‘Go Israel’ as a reaction to any one terrorist being killed?” he asked. “As we painfully observe another Yom Hazikaron this coming week, when families who lost loved ones in wars and acts of terror gather to mourn by singing songs and reading poems that speak of peace — not of glorifying war or taking revenge — Israeli society models how to respectfully deal with downing terrorists while confronting the pain they created.”

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of Congregation B’nai David-Judea believes that while gloating is inappropriate, there is room for appreciating the moment.

“The fall of the wicked is regarded in our tradition as reason to praise God in the sense that God is a God of justice,” he said.

He believes the public celebrations were visceral, temporary reactions that will give way to a more sober acknowledgment that, while momentous, bin Laden’s death was mostly symbolic.

“I think ultimately the real perspective we should have on this is that we are engaged in a battle against an ideology that is morally inverted and hateful and heinous and believes that the killing of innocent people is a legitimate political tactic. What we need to do as the ideological opponent of that view is to make the statement that human life really does matter and is sacred … and that this world isn’t a place where we can tolerate moral chaos.”

Kanefsky said he spent less time Monday morning thinking about bin Laden than trying to work out logistics to send congregants to Alabama to help with the cleanup following last week’s storms.

“In the end, that’s what this struggle is about,” he said. “This is about our values and our ideology that understands that human life matters, that love for one another matters, that mutual concern matters.”

Eric Cantor thanks Bush for Bin Laden killing


House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) tonight issued the following statement regarding the news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed:

“Nearly a decade ago, in the days after 9/11, President Bush said, ‘Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.’ Tonight, we’ve learned that justice has been done. The man with the blood of more than 3,000 Americans on his hands, the man who forced us to begin to think the unthinkable – is now dead.

“Families who lost loved ones at the hands of Bin Laden and his terrorist organization have grieved for far too long and this sends a signal that America will not tolerate terrorism in any form. The men and women of our armed forces and intelligence community have fought valiantly for the last decade and this is a major victory and testament to their dedication. I commend President Obama who has followed the vigilance of President Bush in bringing Bin Laden to justice. While this is no doubt a major event in our battle against terrorism, we will not relent in our fight against terror and our efforts to keep America safe and secure.”

Bin Laden's killing raises immediate questions of security


For years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans waited in fear for the next strike by al-Qaida on U.S. soil. But the ensuing decade has seen no more major terrorist attacks in the United States.

Now, with the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan by U.S. forces, the question many American Jews are considering is whether the liquidation of al-Qaida’s leader makes a follow-up attack more or less likely, and whether Jews could be a target.

“More likely,” said Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, the American Jewish community’s security organ known by the acronym SCAN.

“We know of no imminent threat as of today as a direct result of the death of bin Laden,” Goldenberg told JTA on Monday morning, when much of the world woke up to the news of bin Laden’s death. “However, the community should remain extremely vigilant because there are lone wolves, and other terrorist groups have used incidents like this to launch revenge attacks.”

Last October, a pair of mail bombs from Yemen were sent to Chicago synagogues but were intercepted by law enforcement officials before they reached their targets. A year ago, on May 1, 2010, a Pakistani-born man tried and failed to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square. Neither event was linked to a specific American action, but both resulted in raised states of alert at many Jewish institutions. Security experts have credited better U.S. intelligence and law enforcement in preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil after 9/11.

In Israel’s experience, assassinations of senior terrorist figures have been followed up months or even years later by revenge attacks. Hamas and Hezbollah often have ascribed their terrorist attacks on Israel to Israeli military actions.

But some security experts are warning against interpreting terrorist attacks as acts of revenge, saying it fuels the mistaken notion that somehow the actions of the West are to blame for terrorism.

“When you focus on this sort of causality, we accept the terrorists’ framing,” Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, told The Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg a year ago.

“They see themselves as reluctant fighters, always retaliating, never initiating,” Hoffman said. “The media can make it look as if the terror groups are simply defending themselves from some provocation. The question is one of original provocation.”

More concerning now, say security experts, is the possibility that a lone wolf will be motivated by bin Laden’s killing to attack a U.S. target. While intelligence and law enforcement officials are adept at tracking terrorist activity and planning—just last week, German officials arrested three suspected al-Qaida members for planning an imminent terrorist attack—it’s much harder to stop a lone person acting spontaneously or with little coordination.

“The concern is that a lone wolf that sits in front of his or her television screen sees this, becomes furious at what occurred and with no real planning, on their own or in a small group, will make an effort to go out and execute an attack,” Goldenberg said. “Those in law enforcement have a very tough time keeping track of the lone wolf.”

That’s the scenario that took place in March 1994, when a Lebanese cab driver in New York, incensed at the massacre of 29 Arabs in Hebron by Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on a van full of Chasidic youths on the Brooklyn Bridge, killing 16-year-old Ari Halberstam.

When it comes to al-Qaida, the question is whether removing the movement’s leader will deal al-Qaida a critical blow or whether the movement is diffuse enough to thrive even without bin Laden’s leadership.

“What is this great victory? What is the great thing that they achieved?” a Sunni Muslim preacher in Lebanon, Bilal al-Baroudi, was quoted in The New York Times as saying. “Bin Laden is not the end, and the door remains shut between us and the United States. We dislike the reactions and the celebrations in the United States.”

The response to bin Laden’s death elsewhere in the Muslim world has been mixed. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh condemned the killing, calling bin Laden a Muslim and Arab warrior and saying that “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”

A Palestinian Authority spokesman, however, said bin Laden’s demise was “good for the cause of peace.”

Israel and Jewish groups concurred, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailing it as a triumph in the fight against terrorists.

“The State of Israel joins the American people on this historic day in celebrating the elimination of Osama bin Laden,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “This is a resounding victory for justice, freedom and the common values of all democracies that are resolutely fighting shoulder to shoulder against terrorism.”

U.S. officials: DNA evidence proves Osama bin Laden is dead


DNA evidence has proven with 99.9 percent confidence that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is dead, two officials in U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration said Monday.

The officials did not immediately say where or how the testing was done but the test explains why Obama was confident to announce to the world on Sunday night that the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 had been killed in a U.S. helicopter raid on a mansion near the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

The initial DNA results show a “very confident match” to bin Laden, giving “high confirmation” that it was bin Laden killed in the raid in Pakistan, one of the officials said.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Hamas slams killing of ‘holy warrior’ Osama bin Laden


The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Monday condemned the killing by U.S. forces of Osama bin Laden and mourned him as an “Arab holy warrior.”

“We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, told reporters.

Though he noted doctrinal differences between bin Laden’s al-Qaida and Hamas, Haniyeh said: “We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Standing at the White House following news that Osama bin Laden was killed


Back at the hotel after a moving video celebrating 50 years of the Religious Action Center and an inspiring speech by Vice President Al Gore, news broke that U.S. Forces had killed Osama bin Laden. We paused briefly to digest the information and to watch CNN. Suddenly our congregants grabbed us to go to the White House, where people were gathering to celebrate.

The mood outside the White House was exuberant.  As we watched the crowd swell from a few hundred to thousands, people belted out “God Bless America,” waved American flags from perches up in trees, and chanted “USA, USA” with passion usually reserved for sports games. Some wrapped themselves in red, white, and blue; one character dressed like Spiderman climbed a lamppost.  Unlike the organized rallies we have attended on the Mall, this gathering was spontaneous in nature, organic in its explosive expansion, and compelling in the outbursts of youthful patriotism.  Cars honked, people cheered loudly, and the streets filled with a sense of unity.  Kindness permeated the packed crowds; people said, “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry,” as they squeezed past one another.

In the midst of the celebration, we were struck by many emotions. Grateful to be American. Pride in our Armed Forces. Relief that Osama bin Laden, the purveyor of murder and his cynically murderous twisting of religion, will no longer be able to spread his deadly ideology.  But we wondered, should we have been standing in silence, holding candles, reflecting upon the terrible loss of life – at 9/11, in the wars in Afganistan and Iraq, and in other battles to defend American lives?

We wondered how our friends in New York City were reacting. More specifically, our hearts turned to our friend, whose husband died in the Twin Towers, leaving her with young children.  Would this give her solace? A sense of justice? Some closure?  Or would this renew her emptiness and bitterness? 

All told, this was a unique, inspiring outpouring of patriotism and unity.  We felt fortunate to be in our nation’s capitol witnessing this historic gathering. As we turned to leave, we noticed a man standing near the White House fence, waving a framed picture and a U.S. flag folded into a triangle.  From the distance, the picture appeared to be of his loved one killed on 9/11; the flag, a cherished reminder of his service to our country. And cheers went up everywhere.

Posted on rabbipaul.blogspot.com.

U.S. had no choice but to kill bin Laden, says U.S. defense official


The United States has no choice but to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden during the raid on his hideout in Pakistan, President Barack Obama’s top counter terrorism adviser said Monday.

“We certainly were preparing to the possibility to capture him. If we had an opportunity to take him alive we would have done it‬,” John Brennan said. The minutes passed like days and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel. It was very intense. And finally we were informed about the results there was a sigh of relief‬.”

Bin Laden was killed in a U.S. helicopter raid on a mansion compound near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, ending a long worldwide hunt for the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Read more at Haaretz.com.