Dr. Joseph Frager, long-time head of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, took advantage of the special occasion of the 30th annual dinner of Ateret Cohanim to discuss the challenges facing pro-Israel American Jewry.
In the few minutes in which he spoke with Arutz Sheva on Tuesday night, he related to the expulsion from Gush Katif, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the Oslo process, Iran – and even his sentiments about why he has not yet made Aliyah.
Dr. Frager, a practicing physician and Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine (Gastroenterology & Liver Diseases) at the Einstein School of Medicine, said, "it has now been ten years since the expulsion from Gush Katif, and we have been dedicating many activities in the United States to try to prevent something like this from ever happening again."
"We've been helping the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem, and we dedicated the Central Park concert in 2005 to this cause…I think that we have to learn valuable lessons and work to ensure that such a traumatic and terrible event in Jewish history does not happen again."
Frager explained that the struggle was truly an uphill battle, because "Ariel Sharon was like a speeding tank, almost impossible to stop."
This does not detract from the tremendous efforts made against the expulsion, both in Israel and the United States, he said: "In Israel, for instance, they held hands for 60 miles! – all the way from Gush Katif to Jerusalem. This is embedded in my mind as one of the greatest acts of activism anywhere. We didn't succeed there, but I do believe that our efforts in America prevented the [actualization of the] Oslo Accords and losing the large amount of land – most of Yehuda and Shomron [Judea and Samaria] – that potentially would have been given to the Arabs."
The value of American Jewish efforts
The efforts of Frager and other pro-Israel groups and individuals are important vis-à-vis Iran as well: "We're now seeing the efforts of the Senate and Congress [to ensure that the deal with Iran is not a bad one], all reflecting the opinions of American Jewry that are much more aligned with those of Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu. The American Jewish people's voice is being heard, as is that of the American people in general. Our opinion is being heard very strong."
In short, he said, "our efforts here in America are enormous and extremely valuable for Israel, and I believe that this is my tafkid, my job here in America; that's why I'm still here, and not living in Israel where I should be. I find that I have to do a lot, every day of my life, to offset much of what's happening from America vis-a-vis Israel."
Frager's main topic was Ateret Cohanim and its accomplishments in restoring thriving Jewish life in what is now called the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. "It really should be named the Old Jewish Quarter," Dr. Frager said, "because it was populated by Jews [in the modern period – ed.] as far back as the 1880's."
"In Ateret Cohanim, we are trying to bring Jerusalem back to life in all its glory as it once was. The entire Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People eternally, G-d has given it to us, but we have to make sure it happens – and Mati Dan, the head of Ateret Cohanim, is one of those people who make it happen. We need more people like him, because we just cannot stop. Our enemies are not stopping, and we have to work even harder."