Last Wednesday, residents of the tranquil town of Monsey, New York 30 kilometers northwest of Manhattan, saw an unusual sight. A convoy of black official cars, escorted by police, crossed the town and stopped next to the Jewish cemetery. A bearded, elderly man stepped out of one of the cars accompanied by a ring of security guards, that walked to the grave of the Ribnitzer Rebbe – Chaim Zanvil Abramowitz.
The man surrounded by bodyguards was none other than Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Leiberman, who arrived in New York a few hours earlier after a visit to Washington during which he met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and briefed ambassadors of UN Security Council member states a short time later.
Yossi Gestetner, an ultra-Orthodox blogger from New York, wrote about the visit on his website. Gestetner wrote that local police prepared for the visit a few days in advance, and that the area of the grave became a sterile zone. Lieberman, who got to walk on the the grave of the Tzadik, stayed at the site for 12 minutes and left.
Those close to Lieberman confirmed that the foreign minister visited the plot of the grave of the Rebbe, and even added that this was not his first visit to the site.
“This is a Rebbe that in the past lived in the same place that the foreign minister was born in, in Moldova,” Lieberman’s advisor said.
“The family of the foreign minister was close to the Rabbi, and he even blessed him at his Bar Mitzvah.”
According to the Chabad Moldova website, Rabbi Chaim Zanvil Abramowitz was born in Romania at the beginning of the last century, but lived in Ribnitzer, Moldova, for almost 30 years. During the Second World War, Jews made up 40 percent of the population of the town, and the majority were murdered in the Holocaust. The Rabbi survived the Holocaust, and remained the only Rebbi in the area of the Soviet Union.
According to the official website set up in his memory, the Rebbe was known as a miracle worker. Jews from all over the country would travel to visit him, and gain his blessing. Even KGB officials were scared of him and brought their children to him so that he would bless them. He lived in Moldova until the beginning of the seventies, and and that made aliyah to Israel, where he lived in Jerusalem. After a few years, he left for the U.S. He died there in 1995 when he was over 90 years old.
Clinton and Lieberman played nice
Lieberman’s visit to Washington was the first for almost three years. His stance on the Palestinians, and legislation proposed by his party stirred antagonism toward him amongst U.S. officials. When the Israeli embassy in Washington tried to organize a meeting between Lieberman and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the first response from her office was negative.
“She is out of town right now,” the Americans said.
Only a few days before he arrived did the opposite answer arrive. Clinton stayed in Washington in the end, and met Lieberman.
The meeting between the two lasted about 45 minutes. In contrast with various reports in the Israeli media, the two actually did shake hands. Not only did they shake hands, the atmosphere was good. Both Lieberman and two State Department officials who gave updates on the details of the visit said the atmosphere was good.
“They were both on their best behavior,” said on the Americans.
Lieberman refused to give too many details regarding the content of his conversation with Clinton, but it was important for him to emphasize that even the briefing with the State Department spokesperson was excellent, in his opinion.
“On the issue of Iran, there is more agreement than division,” he told me.
“There is agreement on the fact that Iran is a threat on world peace amd that in any case we must prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Even where there isn’t agreement there is understanding and we are still in discussions.”
Lieberman made great efforts to praise the U.S. government during the visit, even in the ears of the Jewish community. In an interview with the newspaper “Jewish Week” he praised the sanctions that the Obama administration instilled on Iran, and emphasized that “We agree on 90 percent of the issues, and there is a small differences in the remaining10 percent, but we understand one another.”
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