Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.
Israeli generals probably don’t cry very often. These are men of steel nerves, professional soldiers toughened by the rigors of battle and a lifetime devoted to strict military discipline.
But there was a moment during his recent swearing-in ceremony when the new chief of staff of the Israeli army, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, could not hold back his tears.
That moment came when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned from the familiar generalities about army service to a very personal subject: the contrast between the suffering Gantz’s mother endured during the Holocaust and the national triumph her son’s career symbolizes.
What the audience did not know, however, was that there was also a personal element on Netanyahu’s side. Seventy years ago, his father, the scholar and Zionist activist professor Benzion Netanyahu, authored a stirring Passover eve proclamation likewise anchored in the themes of Jewish victory in the face of unbearable persecution and the ability of the Jews to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Prof. Netanyahu’s words offer one last lesson to take with us from this year’s Passover holiday.
“When your mother was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, she weighed just 28 kilograms [62 lbs.],” the prime minister noted. “I am certain that at the time, she never dreamed that 66 years later her son, yet to be born, would be the 20th chief of staff of the army of the State of Israel, the Jewish state. Perhaps she did not dream of such a thing, but it has come true before our eyes.”
Lt.-Gen. Gantz made it clear, in his remarks at the ceremony, that he appreciated the historical significance of the journey from Bergen-Belsen to Jerusalem, from Jewish weakness and homelessness to sovereignty and independence.
“I am the son of the Jewish people’s chain of generations,” he declared.
The Israeli army, after all, is not just any army, and its chief of staff is not just another general. They are intrinsically connected to the Jews’ unique national experience, both in exile and in their homeland.
Which is exactly the point Prof. Benzion Netanyahu made in his Passover 1941 message. At the time, Netanyahu served as executive director of the New Zionist Organization of America, the U.S. wing of the militant Revisionist Zionist movement. He was also editor of its biweekly publication, Zionews.
His lead editorial in each issue of Zionews typically dealt with the latest Palestine-related political developments and controversies, not something from the Jewish calendar. In fact, Netanyahu’s April 21, 1941 editorial was the only occasion in the journal’s five year-history that he devoted that premier space to a reflection on a Jewish holiday.
“For ages and generations we have assembled in our homes on the first and second evenings of Passover to commemorate the liberation of our forefathers from the slavery of Egypt,” he began.
“Thousands of years have passed since; new slavery, hatreds and persecutions followed our race into every corner of the world.”
He cited a number of examples of such persecutions, including, of course, the Jews being “burned on the fires of the Spanish Inquisition,” which was the subject of the Ph.D. dissertation he was then writing.
Netanyahu also recalled how the Jews were “uprooted [by the Romans] from free and independent Judea to be slaves.” They were “beaten and killed by the Cossacks of the Ukraine.” The “Russian pogromists shed our blood like water.” “The Arab effendis have proclaimed a holy war on us.” And “Hitler and Mussolini have started a march of extermination against us.”
Yet the suffering of the Jews could never separate them from their faith or extinguish their hopes:
“Through oceans of blood, our blood, through oceans of tears, our tears, hated, persecuted, beaten, wandering and homeless, we assemble at the Passover Seder to thank God for our liberation from Egypt, and to express once again the hope of the [Haggadah]: ‘This year we are still slaves – next year we shall be free men.’”
“It is a great hope,” Prof. Netanyahu concluded. “It is a great spirit of a great nation. Only a nation of our spiritual caliber could come through the ages of unparalleled sufferings with its spirit unbroken; still alive; still striving for liberty. Next year we shall be free men.”
It would, of course, take longer than he hoped, and many innocent Jews, including Benny Gantz’s mother, would endure unimaginable suffering.
But in the end, the Jewish nation would survive to see the dream fulfilled, so that one day the son of Prof. Netanyahu would appoint the son of Mrs. Gantz to lead the army of their nation.
Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies (www.WymanInstitute.org).
About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.
I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”
His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.
At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel
“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”
Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning
Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.
He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.
Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.
Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.
Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed
Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.
Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.
Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”
With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.
While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.
These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.
Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-history-lession-from-netanyahu-senior/2011/05/04/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: