|11 May 2005 @ 16:46, by Bruce Kodish|
Today is Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for the fallen defenders of Israel.
I've known some of the fallen. I'm privileged to know some defenders who are still alive. And for what it's worth I've done my own rather minescule part in defense, as well.
Tomorrow, we celebrate Israeli Independence day. In the Arab world and among the bien pensants of the Israel-hating left (including some Jewish and Israeli intellectuals), this is a day of disaster for which Israelis and the Jewish people at large should apologize. Our original sin--of surviving.
If the present Arab neurosis is the unreasoning blame of others for their problems, a long-standing Jewish neurosis is unreasoning acceptance of blame for their persecution by others. This is not a good combination. After years of studying the Arab-Israeli conflict, including living in Israel at one time, I conclude that Jewish existence in the Middle East is nothing to apologize for. Palestinian Arabs (who have been 'screwed' by their leaders and Arab 'brothers') will only continue to fail by blaming the Palestinian Jews for their problems.
Apropos of this, I'd like to share with you Rabbi Dov Greenberg's beautifully moving piece (to me) on Jewish survival below.
No Holocaust Possible With Israel Around
by Rabbi Dov Greenberg
IsraelNationalNews.com - May 08, 2005
"Elie Wiesel was once asked whether the world had learned anything from the Holocaust. Wiesel, who lost most of his family in Auschwitz, responded, 'Yes, that you can get away with it.'
If Wiesel is right — and the international fury released against the Jewish state in recent years seems to confirm his words — then for us Jews the lesson must be the exact opposite: Never again will we allow a holocaust to happen!
First and foremost, Israel must be strong.
A home and a power"
"Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazi regime, with help from millions of other Europeans, murdered almost every Jew on that continent. Had there been an Israel in the 1930s, the Holocaust as we know it, could not have taken place.
When the nations of the world gathered in Evian, France in 1938, fully aware of the danger facing European Jewry, one country after another declared, "We have no room for the Jews."
From the beginning of World War II, the world was divided into two types of countries: those that expelled or murdered Jews and those that rejected Jewish refugees.
On the whole vast earth, there was not an inch on which Jews could call home. Had there been an Israel, there at least would have been one place on the planet that welcomed Jews.
A second reason a holocaust would not have taken place had Israel existed is that unlike the Allies, who could not find it in their power to spare a few airplanes to bomb the tracks to Auschwitz and other death camps, Israel would have bombed them, saving untold numbers of Jews.
In his book A Durable Peace, Benjamin Netanyahu describes how easily the gas chambers could have been destroyed. "Until I stood there at Birkenau, I never realized how tiny and mundane the whole thing was. The factory of death could have been put out of operation by one pass of a bomber. Indeed the Allies had been bombing strategic targets a few miles away. Had the order been given, it would have taken but a slight shift of the bomber pilot's stick to interdict the slaughter. Yet the order was never given."
The lesson from Entebbe
On July 4, 1946, 42 Jewish Holocaust survivors who had returned to their home village of Kielce, Poland were murdered in a brutal pogrom by their Polish Christian neighbors.
Thirty years later to the day, on July 4, 1976, more than 100 Jews who were about to be murdered in Entebbe, Uganda were saved by the Israeli Defense Force in one of the most daring rescue missions in history. More than anything else, Entebbe demonstrated the importance of a competent Israeli defense machine. When Jews had no military of their own, they were killed with impunity. With armed forces, for the first time in 2,000 years, Jews standing at the threshold of death did not need to rely on the goodwill of others.
When Pope Paul VI criticized Israel's "fierceness" during a private audience with Golda Meir, she replied: "Do you know what my earliest memory is? A pogrom in Kiev. When we were merciful and when we had no homeland and when we were weak, we were led to the gas chambers (1)."
One day, while strolling with my child on the Stanford University campus, a student began badgering me with questions and hostile remarks about Israel. Finally he asked me, "Why does Israel possess nuclear weapons? What is it that you Jews really want?"
I responded with the following story:
At Stolpce, Poland, on September 23, 1942, the ghetto was surrounded by German soldiers. Pits had been prepared outside a nearby village where the Jews would be led and then shot. The Germans entered the ghetto, searching for the Jews. A survivor by the name of Eliezer Melamed later recalled how he and his girlfriend found a room where they hid behind sacks of flour. A mother and her three children had followed them into the house. The mother hid in one corner of the room, the three children in another.
The Germans entered the room and discovered the children. One of children, a young boy, began to scream, "Mama! Mama!" as the Germans dragged the three of them away. But another of them, only 4 years old, shouted to his brother in Yiddish, "Zog nit 'Mameh.' Men vet ir oich zunemen." ("Don't say 'Mama.' They'll take her, too.")
The boy stopped screaming. The mother remained silent. Her children were dragged away. The mother was saved.
"I will always hear that," Melamed recalled, "especially at night. 'Zog nit Mameh — 'Don't say Mama.' And I will always remember the sight of the mother. Her children were dragged away by the Germans. She was hitting her head against the wall, as if to punish herself for remaining silent, for wanting to live (2)."
After concluding the story I told the student, "What do we Jews really want? I'll tell you what we want. All we want is that our grandchildren should be able to call out 'Mama' without fear. All we want is that the world leave us alone."
In his inaugural address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy put it well: "We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt, can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed."
The same is even truer for tiny Israel. While military strength is not the only factor that guarantees national survival, weakness in the face of a strong and evil enemy has guaranteed national destruction. Ask the Tatars, Kurds, Tibetans, Bosnians, Tutsi Rwandans, Cambodians and the non-Muslim population in Darfur.
Of course, the political, military or economic arenas are not the only, or even the most important, factors that will guarantee Jewish continuity. Many more powerful nations long ago vanished. Our faith, our Torah and mitzvot are what have sustained us for close to four millennia. Yet to suggest that we don't need a strong military to secure a safe state is wrong. One of the basic tenets of Judaism is that we do not rely on miracles and that we must employ all of the natural means to protect and save human lives, occasionally even our own (3).
”Those who fail to remember”, said Santayana, “are destined to repeat.” The Torah is full of the command to remember. The word "zakhor," or "remember," occurs in its various forms in the Torah an astonishing 169 times! Memory is crucial to very existence.
Let us never forget Hitler's horrors by ensuring that Israel is forever strong."
1) Golda Meir's exceptionally interesting biography, My Life.
2) Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust, page 465.
3) There's actually an explicit ruling about this in the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, section 329.) The law describes the following scenario: A hostile neighbor threatens to attack you, and demands a piece of territory. The enemy says, "Give us this piece of land, and we'll leave you alone." Do we go to war to prevent the enemy's occupation of the territory, or do we relinquish the territory in return for a promise of future non aggression? The Torah rules not to yield the territory that makes you more vulnerable to attack, even if you must go to war on Shabbat to prevent that.
A question could be posed. Since we are a small nation, we certainly need G-d's help in our battle. If so, why should we take up arms and desecrate the Shabbat? Should we not instead recite psalms for our deliverance, or engage in Torah study? Yet the unequivocal ruling in Jewish law in this case is that G-d desires that we go forth against our enemy well armed and, if necessary, to desecrate the Shabbat for this purpose. The course of action mandated by the Torah is also an act of serving G-d. Just as one must study Torah and fulfill the mitzvot, so must one perform one's duty with regard to the saving of lives.