During Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Ukraine this week, he met with a 70-year-old Ukrainian Jew who was inspired by Netanyahu’s visit to undergo circumcision and even adopted the name Yonatan after the late Prime Minister’s brother, Lt. Col. Yoni Netanyahu.
Arutz Sheva spoke with Rabbi Dovid Nachshon, Chairman of Chabad’s Mitzvah Tanks and of Tzivos Hashem, a friend of Netanyahu who accompanied him on his visit to Ukraine
Rabbi Nachshon said that prior to Netanyahu’s visit, “there was a great deal of excitement in Ukraine. It raised the spirits of many Jews here. This Jew heard about Netanyahu’s visit and excitedly expressed his desire to be circumcised [in honor of the visit] to Rabbi Azman, the rabbi of Ukraine.”
Rabbi Nachshon said that a rabbi had spoken previously with the man about being circumcised but he pushed it off. His excitement about Netanyahu’s visit to Ukraine caused him to reconsider. “And he wanted to call himself by the name of Israeli hero Yoni Netanyahu [Netanyahu’s late brother]. He wanted to express his Judaism and his enthusiasm and excitement,” Rabbi Nachshon said.
A message was sent to Netanyahu requesting that he meet with the Jew who decided to be circumcised in honor of his visit. Due to security considerations, it wasn’t possible for Netanyahu to be present at the circumcision ceremony itself but Netanyahu met the man around two hours after the ceremony.
Since Netanyahu himself could not be the sandak (a ceremonial role during a circumcision), as the man had requested, Rabbi Nachshon acted as Netanyahu’s emissary and served as the sandak instead. The circumcision took place early in the morning and the man was then brought to the meeting between Netanyahu and the leaders of the Jewish communities in Ukraine.
Obtaining permission for the man to enter the meeting was not a simple task, but Rabbi Nachshon ultimately managed to arrange it, and he and the newly renamed Yonatan, sat in the second row in front of the stage.
At the meeting, which was also attended by all of Ukraine’s Chabad emissaries, the Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine spoke and at the end of his remarks, he mentioned the circumcision that morning which was inspired by Netanyahu’s visit.
“We were sitting near Netanyahu,” Rabbi Nachshon said. “I motioned to Netanyahu that [the man] is sitting next to me and Netanyahu called him to the stage. They were both very excited. Netanyahu asked if he spoke Hebrew; I told him no. They shook hands and embraced with great excitement. Netanyahu was surprised that we succeeded in bringing him. It was spontaneous.”
Rabbi Nachshon added that the event made waves in the Jewish community in Ukraine and raised awareness of circumcision in the country. “Thanks to Bibi, who knows how many Jews will be circumcised.”
Rabbi Nachshon said that the way that Netanyahu was welcomed during the visit, with the president of Ukraine accompanying him, aroused a special sense of Jewish pride. “It’s hard to believe how things have changed. Just 70 years ago – we know what was going on [in Ukraine].”
“The pride of Israel is being elevated ahead of the upcoming redemption. We’re getting a taste of it. As a friend of Netanyahu, I feel moved – time after time – from what he’s done, how he’s raised the pride of Israel among the nations – in the United States, in Russia and in all the countries. Success like this is a G-dly success. There’s something here which is way beyond the normal,” Rabbi Nachshon said, mentioning the late Lubavitcher Rebbe’s blessing to Netanyahu many years ago.
“I stood with him when the Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson] told him that ‘you’ll have to fight with 119 [Knesset members] but if you go in the path of G-d, you’ll succeed over everyone.’ This a miraculous blessing which adds to his special powers. The honor shown to him is honor for all Jews. All the streets were full of Israeli flags. There was a caricature in the newspapers showing the Ukrainian army marching for two Jews: Netanyahu and the Ukrainian president. We see how much they can and want to help us, and we can be a light unto the nations in spirituality and material matters,” Rabbi Nachshon concluded.