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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Holocaust Mentality


The war started last July with Hizbullah’s cross-border attack on an Israeli patrol and the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers. The daring move, across the internationally recognized, UN-ratified border with Lebanon, gave rise to an immediate sense of purpose to most Israelis in uniform, both regular army personnel and your average citizen-soldier like me.

The conflict escalated as our government thought it would flex its muscles by launching a few air strikes and Hizbullah, tails between its legs, would return our soldiers. That didn’t happen. Instead of attacking the head of the snake in Syria and Iran, we aimed for the tail. But it seems that every time you cut off a piece of the tail, it just grows back.

Our government refused to attack Hizbullah with the strength needed to eradicate its threat to us and refused to destroy those who aid and abet them. In the end, it was we – the IDF and the State of Israel – who came home with our tails between our legs. Why and how did this happen? I think the root cause is more complicated than we think.

I recently took an exploratory trip with a few other tour guides through the Czech Republic. While in the Jewish Quarter of Prague, one of the guides suggested we put on the infamous yellow hat that Czech kings had made the Jews wear. We all had a good laugh at this suggestion.

Afterward, I took keen notice to our surroundings and realized the point he was trying to make: Jewish citizens of Prague are few and far between – Hitler’s dream of turning the Jewish Quarter of Prague into a “Jewish Museum” has been realized and most Jewish tourists here are soft-spoken about their identity.

Indeed, the most prominent landmarks of the Old Town in Prague are steeped in anti-Semitic events. All of Prague is physically centered on the Tyn Church, and there’s an interesting story to that.

Apparently, back in the 17th century a twelve-year-old Jewish boy tried to leave Judaism and, according to a Czech legend that grew ever more elaborate over the centuries, was beaten by his father. The boy died from his injuries and was quietly buried in the Jewish cemetery.

When the authorities learned about the incident they arrested the boy’s father and an accomplice, tortured them mercilessly, then tore the father’s heart out while he was still alive and stuffed it down his throat. After the accomplice witnessed this he converted to Christianity. The Czech authorities had mercy on him and merely chopped off his head. The boy’s body was exhumed and interred in the church cemetery. He remains a national Czech martyr to this day. There are many other examples of similar Czech-Jewish “relations” which usually begin with a blood libel.

We visited the Terezin concentration camp where we were greeted by a cemetery in which the first thing you see is a giant cross adorned with a crown of thorns. Only later a much smaller Star of David appears. There is a small memorial to all the Jews who died in the camps of Europe, and included are ashes from each of the camps. A giant statue of Mary, weeping for the victims, looms over the memorial. The message is clear: Christianity has superseded Judaism and the Jews have been persecuted for their rejection of Jesus.

The point the guide who mentioned the yellow hat was trying to make was this: Why must we Jews hide our Judaism? Why don’t we confront this anti-Semitism more vigorously? Why is it that Jews from around the world do not stand up to the blatant bias against Israel on the part of the United Nations and Europeans, which obviously has anti-Semitic undertones? How do we let other nations take control of our world heritage centers and turn them into a discourse against our nation? Why doesn’t the Israeli government combat this more intelligently and more forcefully?

I can only conclude that most of us Jews suffer from a Holocaust mentality. We are afraid of what the other nations think of us and we long for their approval after 2,000 years of suffering at their hands.

One way that some American Jews display their Holocaust mentality is by lashing out at the biggest Jewish target there is: Israel. I see this phenomenon when I serve as a tour guide for visiting Americans and when I do my army reserve duty in the West Bank.

The young Jewish “activists” I run into are champions of the Palestinian cause to a point where they violently confront other Jews trying to protect their own. Their views are essentially standard European-leftist ideology. Many even reject a two-state solution because they do not support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. They minimize our Jewish roots in the Land of Israel that date back at least 3,000 years, and they are incapable of even contemplating the fact that most Palestinians are in fact recent immigrants to this land.

I am often asked why I left America to live in Israel. One of my main reasons for making the move was that, at the time, I thought Jews living in Israel were free of this Holocaust mentality; that Israel was a place where I could hold my head up high as a Jew, proudly proclaim my Judaism and shout “If you don’t like it, just try to come and get me!” After all, our cause is just, our morality is unquestioned by any rational human being, and we have an army to protect ourselves.

Unfortunately, however, even Israel suffers from a Holocaust mentality. I reluctantly came to this realization during last summer’s war in Lebanon.

We did not start that war, just as we did not initiate the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. Missiles – think about it, missiles – were falling (as they continue to fall in Sderot) on Israel on a daily basis for more than a month. Our international border was crossed, soldiers were killed and others kidnapped.

When we responded to this act of war with strikes against military targets, our enemies rained more missiles down on civilians in our cities. No one disputes that the missile fire came from civilian areas and that the terrorists used (and continue to use) their own civilians as shields. But as Israeli civilians were being intentionally murdered, Israel carried on the war against bridges, buildings and infrastructure, taking pains not to hit the very areas where the terrorists were hiding in order to spare the lives of Lebanese civilians.

We were somewhat successful at shooting around civilians until the inevitable happened and many were killed in a retaliatory attack aimed at terrorists. So what did we do? We stopped. We sacrificed the lives of our own children so that Shiite children could live. We tiptoed around Lebanon like we were on eggshells as our own civilians absorbed the brunt of the attack. In short, we did hardly anything.

Israel’s government suffers from a Holocaust mentality. Any other government whose people suffered a barrage of thousands of missile aimed at their families would have launched an all-out defensive war, but because our government cares about what the other nations think of us, we held back. Each and every one of us who went into Lebanon expected to fight for his right to live as a Jew in a Jewish nation, but instead we sat on our rears.

Now Hizbullah is being rearmed by Iran through Syria under the watchful eyes of the Lebanese army and the French-led UN forces. France seems to be content that the terrorists are wearing civilian clothes and not waving their flags. Iran is building up its nuclear capabilities and everyone knows it. Just last month the Iranian president, for the umpteenth time, announced his intention to “wipe out” Israel at a conference aimed at studying the “validity of the Holocaust.” What are Israel and the Jewish people doing about it? Absolutely nothing.

I hope our collective Holocaust mentality will disappear before these barbarians get weapons of mass destruction, because if we don’t take their own words seriously – just as too many of us did not take Hitler’s words seriously – we are headed toward disaster.

Ariel Sharon once said that Israel would not be the 21st century’s Czechoslovakia, a reference to England’s sacrifice of that nation in an attempt to appease Hitler. I hope Sharon was right, but the only way to keep that from happening is to again stand tall with our backs to the wall and march forward without looking back. There simply is no other way.

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The war started last July with Hizbullah’s cross-border attack on an Israeli patrol and the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers. The daring move, across the internationally recognized, UN-ratified border with Lebanon, gave rise to an immediate sense of purpose to most Israelis in uniform, both regular army personnel and your average citizen-soldier like me.

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