NEWPORT BEACH -- On a clear, crisp Tuesday night, lightning struck at
Temple Bat Yam.Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak -- whose last
name means lightning in Hebrew -- enlightened a captive audience with his
views on security against terrorism and the state of affairs in the
Middle East. More than 600 people gave their undivided attention to the
former military hero turned world leader.
Israel's 10th prime minister led the country from 1999 to 2001. During
that time, he worked toward peace with the Palestinians -- a
controversial decision heralded as heroic by some and misguided by
others, said Rabbi Mark Miller, who coordinated the lecture.
Barak, 59, spent most of his life battling terrorism in his native
country, he said. He was a 22-year-old soldier when he was first sent to
command a raid against terrorism.
"If someone were to have told me 37 years later that terror would
still be a major challenge -- on a global scale -- I would not have
believed them. But this is reality, and we have to face it," Barak said.
He warned of a long battle ahead and said people should realize that
our sophisticated and complex civilization is highly exposed to terrorist
threats. Those responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in the
East Coast attacks were capable of far worse offenses, and therefore the
struggle to end terrorism worldwide is urgent.
"We must destroy world terror or be destroyed," Barak said.
He called for cooperation of intelligence agencies, as well as
military and economic powers. Unyielding leadership and spirit are also
required to wage -- and win -- the war over terrorism, he said.
People must be willing to sacrifice during the fighting of this
lengthy war, Barak urged. Some personal liberties will have to be
abandoned to allow law enforcement officials the ability to penetrate
terrorist groups, and immigration and money laundering laws must also be
tightened and heavily enforced, he said.
Poised confidently at the lectern, Barak congratulated the U.S.
government on its actions since Sept. 11.
"The U.S. is doing an impressive job," he said.
His comment was met with thunderous applause.
While addressing weighty world issues, Barak interjected his charm and
wit, telling personal stories and jokes to illustrate his points. He
spoke for nearly two hours and was thanked with a standing ovation when
it was done.
He connected with the audience, drawing on the connection that all
Jews have to the holy land of Israel.
Barak said he was optimistic about peace in the Middle East. Strong
leaders, who are inevitably willing to make "the painful decisions," are
the key to a solution in the historical conflict between Israelis and
Palestinians, he said.
"It might take a long time before there is a real change in attitudes
on the most profound levels," Barak said, adding that people must be
realistic. "It will change only through education, which will take
Israel can be made stronger even if it controls slightly less land, as
long as the country becomes "more Jewish," Barak said. Leaning toward the
crowd in his conservative dark suit and crimson and blue striped tie,
Barak called for "his fellow Jews" to support a strong Israel.
"Within your own societies, make Israel strong and make the backbone
of every Jew around the world strong," Barak said.
* Lolita Harper covers Costa Mesa. She may be reached at (949)
574-4275 or by e-mail at o7 email@example.com .