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September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
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The Last Secular Jew in Israel

Operation Hallel

“Are you sure,” the Hasid asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Yehuda answered.

“You needn’t feel embarrassed,” the Hasid persisted.

“Leave him alone,” the Chief Rabbi ordered.

The Chabadnik withdrew. Of all the battles which Yehuda had faced, the battle he was fighting right now in his heart was the fiercest. How could he change a whole lifetime of belief? Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t. He was that kind of man. Principles were sacred, whether right or wrong. If he had championed misguided ideals, he would stand up to the punishment. Wasn’t his presence enough for them? He was there, just like the rest of them, standing in the war room beside the Chief Rabbi. He had devoted his life to his people – with all of his heart, with all of his soul, with all of his might. That was the religion he knew. If that wasn’t enough for them, or for God, so be it.

“We can still knock out Moscow and Berlin with our A-bombs,” the air force commander insisted.

“No,” the Rabbi answered.

“We can’t just do nothing,” Yehuda protested.

“Pray with the others,” the soft voice replied.

“I can’t,” Yehuda said.

“Try. Hashem wants to hear. It’s your voice that’s missing.”

Yehuda felt faint. In all of his sixty-five years, he hadn’t prayed once. He didn’t know how. He didn’t know even to whom. Up on the Temple Mount, ashes from the slaughtered red cow were being sprinkled over the crowds of Kohanim. The sight was too much for the man called the Lion. Feeling his legs weaken, he collapsed into the chair beside the Rabbi. The world’s stockpile of nuclear warheads was approaching the borders of Israel, and the leaders of the Jewish nation were sacrificing a cow on the Temple Mount altar! Camera crews rushed in for close-ups. Yehuda felt dizzy. Was the innocent slaughter of animals the enlightenment that the Jewish people were supposed to project to the world?

“Perhaps we should respond more conventionally,” Yehuda suggested.

“No,” came the quiet reply.

“As a back-up.”

The Rabbi didn’t answer.

On the Temple Mount, the smoke of incense rose in a column up to the sky. Before all of this witchcraft began, Yehuda was beginning to believe. He had felt himself wanting to believe. The faith of the men in the room was so powerful, Yehuda had started to feel it too. But sacrificing animals was simply too much. His reasoning mind said no – these maniacs had to be stopped. There was nothing else he could do. He reached into his belt to draw out his gun. He would hold the Chief Rabbi hostage and activate the nuclear devices which the Israelis had secretly built in Moscow and Berlin. But before he could grab the old man, a hand clutched his arm and dragged him into a circle of dancing that had spontaneously began in the war room. The generals, commanders, and army chiefs of staff were all holding hands in a circle and singing: “All the nations surround me. In God’s name I cut them down. They surrounded me like bees. They were extinguished like a thorn fire.”

Once, in his youth, Yehuda had danced like this. On the kibbutz, around an Israeli-night campfire, with his strong, robust comrades, he had sung songs of Zion. Their youthful faith had seemed invincible too, like the faith of the men in the war room. Now, as he danced in a circle, clutching hands imbued with belief, a transfusion of faith charged through him, cleansing him of his doubts. Before the dancers had completed their first circle, Yehuda was singing along with them. “I shall not die, for I shall live and relate the deeds of the Lord. God has chastised me, but unto death, He has not handed me.” The words of their song formed on his lips as if he had been chanting it in synagogue for years. A great elation washed over him. “Open for me the gates of righteousness. I will enter them,” he sang. “I will give thanks unto God.”

Everyone sang and stared up at the screen. As the first wave of bombers reached the shores of Tel Aviv, a wall of rain clouds appeared in the sky. Jerusalem vanished in an impenetrable fog. In the lead French bomber, the dials on the instrument panel were spinning wildly in circles. The mysterious fog darkened the cockpit. An unworldly thunder shook the plane like a toy. The terrified pilot tried to swing the giant bomber around, but the steering was jammed. Screams of Russian and German pilots crackled over the speakers in the star-shaped war room. The clock clicked down to zero. The dancing ended. Eyes stared up at the map. When the lights on the screen overshot Israel and continued on toward Cairo, Damascus, and Amman, pandemonium broke out in the war room.

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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2 Responses to “The Last Secular Jew in Israel”

  1. chavazlotkin says:

    Wow! B’karov b’yameinu!

  2. chavazlotkin says:

    Tzvi, I’m glad you didn’t really go back to Hollywood!

Comments are closed.

Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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