If you listen to the media, pundits, and frankly, most people, Governor Mike Huckabee has “no chance” of becoming the next President of the United States.
If, however, the reaction that he evinced at last night’s gala Bet El Dinner is any indication, I would caution anyone from writing his political epitaph. Looking around the room, one could not help but be struck by the prevalent longing that this, wise, good and decent man would assume exactly that role. His combination of passion, humor, strength, confidence, and humility, coupled with an extraordinary love of the United States, Israel, and their peoples, was simply breathtaking.
Frankly, I do not know why it seems “self-evident” that Mr. Huckabee is not a viable candidate. Watching his performance at the various debates (at those rare moments that he was given a chance to speak), listening to him speak on the issues, and having had the chance to converse with him in person, I have been flummoxed that the opinion makers have concluded that this articulate, and deeply perceptive man is no longer in the running, despite his excellent performance at all of the above. One thing, however, is certain. Governor Huckabee was the perfect choice as the headline speaker at this wonderful event, an annual celebration of those who are unreservedly passionate about the State of Israel, committed to its safety and security, deeply devoted to positively inculcating Torah values in society, and unabashedly proud of exercising not only our right, but our obligation to live in all of the blessed land that the Almighty has given us in our time.
Beginning by noting that it was the first night of Chanukah – a night in which the Jewish people remind themselves of their task to bring greater light into the world – Mr. Huckabee noted that far from being a campaign stop, it was his great honor to speak on behalf of Israel, a country that he has developed a deep and abiding love for. He hearkened back to his first trip at age 17, when he immediately sensed that coming to Israel felt like he was coming home, though he had never been there before. Upon reflection, he realized that in part this is because the relationship between the United States and Israel is “not merely organizational, based on mutual interests. It is an organic relationship, because both countries were founded by people who had the vision to give their children the gift of liberty and freedom, including religious freedom, so that their voices would not be trampled out by forces of tyranny”.
Furthermore, neither the amazing and blessed history of the United States, nor the unbelievable history – not only of Ancient Israel and the Jewish people – but of the modern State of Israel can be understood without seeing the providence of the Hand of G-d, directing otherwise impossible events. It is impossible not to see that the ancient promise of G-d to Abraham that “I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you shall be accursed”, has been coming true, and will continue to be true, since unlike us, G-d always keeps His promises.
I was particularly mesmerized as Mr. Huckabee described the progress of Israel since 1972, the year that both he and I came to Israel for the first time. It has been a time that we have literally seen the “Dry Bones” come back to life in Israel’s multidimensional and vital multicultural society. We have witnessed how, from places that we both remember as nothing but rocky wasteland, the desert has bloomed and developed into beautiful homes, cities and farms. How the Hi-Tech industry of Israel has risen to be the second most dominant worldwide, (a fact elaborated on later in the evening by the Modi Rosen, one of Israel’s most successful venture capitalists.) A wonderful country has sprouted that seeks to live by a higher moral and ethical standard, doing its best to protect its citizens in a very tough neighborhood, despite the criticism of the world.
Speaking of world criticism, Mr. Huckabee had harsh words for the current American Administration, saying that it was not the president's job to prioritize protecting "the reputation of Islam."
"I believe that the next president should never believe somehow that it is the job of the United States president as commander-in-chief to protect the reputation of Islam more than it is to protect the people of the United States of America from radical Islam," he said to thunderous applause.
He outlined some of the tragic errors of the current administration, from the terrible nuclear deal with Iran, to the way that Mr. Netanyahu has been treated, and the moral equivalence too often drawn between what are the vicious attacks by Israel’s armies and the heroic and proper efforts of Israel to defend its citizens. Israel, after all, has to be clear headed about the threats it faces. “If you have a malignant tumor in your body, and you do nothing to eradicate that tumor, it begins to metastasize, grow, and eventually kill you”, Mr. Huckabee noted. “ISIS is just like that tumor. If you allow it to grow unchecked, if you don't kill it and destroy it, not just contain it, it will eventually kill you”.
Describing the pain he witnessed first had while visiting with the family of Naftali Frankel, HY”D, a day before the teen’s body was found murdered by Arab thugs, he spoke of our duty to protect the innocent and to stand up clearly and forcefully against evil.
Finally, Mr. Huckabee described the pain and shock that he felt when seeing the cover of the Daily News last week, in which the local rag criticized those who prayed for the victims of the San Bernardino massacre, blaring “God Isn’t Fixing This” on its front page headline. “How dare they mock the power of prayer?” Gov. Huckabee asked. “They obviously know nothing of the miraculous Hand of G-d, who listens to prayer and does wonder in our world. One need look no farther than to Bet El, where, most improbably, an amazing and beautiful community is thriving and providing such light to the world, a very short distance from the center of hatred that is Ramallah.
One need see only the story of Jean and Eugene Gluck. Each of them the sole survivors of their respective families, each of them suffering the worst horrors of the concentration camps, they have come to this country and built an amazing family including many children and grandchildren standing up for the best values of Judaism and of humanity. (He asked that the lights be momentarily turned on so that the large Gluck family could stand up and be noted, to much applause.) They have become towers of strength and support to so many wonderful caused in the United States and Israel, most notably in their monumental work in helping to build Bet El into the vibrant center of Jewish life and Education that is for Judea, Samaria, and the entire country.
“Jean & Eugene Gluck, whose prayers to G-d from the unimaginable depths, have been answered in such spectacular fashion, show what G-d is capable of as He answers our prayers. The problems facing our country come not because we pray too much, instead of acting on the liberal agenda of the Daily News. The problems inhere when we do not pay enough attention to what G-d has asked of us, and do not sufficiently recognize His presence in our lives”.
I do not know if the United States will have the privilege of having Mr. Huckabee as our President. (In speaking at the Dinner to Dr. Joseph Frager, well known political activist, he reminded me that the majority of Republican voters have not yet declared their absolute preference for any candidate, and anything is still possible.) I do know, however, that if more Americans, and certainly more Jews, had the deep faith and sense of G-d’s presence that Gov. Huckabee has, the world would be a far better place.
I feel very blessed to have had the privilege of being in the presence of greatness, as Gov. Huckabee and the very worthy honorees joined Eugene Gluck in celebration of Bet El, andindeed all of the Yishuvim in Yehuda and Shomron, and in appreciation of G-d’s gift that is the State of Israel.