The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
Born a few years prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, I still feel the thrill of its emergence on the stage of nations.
It was a time characterized by depression and sorrow in the Jewish world. The Holocaust was fresh in everyone’s mind. I can still hear the anguish in the tears and screams of the congregation at Yizkor on Yom Kippur at the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst when the chazzan would intone the memorial prayer for the Six Million.
The room was filled to overflowing; many in the congregation had lost brothers and sisters, cousins – even entire families – to the Nazis. As a child I could feel the pain that hung as a dark cloud over the congregation. I felt it pressing on my shoulders as I clung to my grandfather for comfort. When Yizkor was concluded, everyone appeared exhausted from the ordeal. I shall never forget this abyss of sorrow that swallowed up young and old alike.
Countering this was the ecstasy we all felt in the fledgling Jewish state. Though Israel’s existence was precarious – a little nation flanked then as now by enemies on every side – Jews nevertheless felt a joy we hadn’t felt for centuries. Our hearts burst with pride when we gazed upon the noble Israeli, tilling the soil with one hand and defending it with the other.
These proud, idealistic Jews gave us a sense of dignity and worth we desperately needed, specifically in the aftermath of World War II. While there was real concern regarding the viability of the state, it was overshadowed by the sense that Israel was founded on the bedrock of miracles. Even the most secular among us quoted from the Prophets.
But just as the frontier spirit faded in the United States in the late 1800’s, it soon began to ebb in Israel as well. Today a kibbutznik no longer tills the soil; he’s more likely involved in the production of microchips. Those who still cultivate the land do so from air-conditioned tractors. As was true in the U.S., once the frontier spirit was gone, all the negative elements of existence became more pronounced.
For Israel this meant the horrific reality of living in a hostile neighborhood with little possibility of crafting a peace with its neighbors. The initial joy of Israel’s rebirth steadily gave way to the melancholy of day-to-day life. And as Arab nationalism was replaced by Islamist fervor, the situation became ever more glum. Dar Al Islam, the territory of Islam, can never permit a sovereign Jewish state in its midst.
And so an Ain Breira syndrome manifested itself. We saw it at work in Prime Minister Barak’s attempt to extract a peace from Yasir Arafat by surrendering to him more than he’d requested. And yet no peace emerged.
A classic example of the malady afflicting many of our brothers and sisters in Israel and the galut is the about-face executed by Ariel Sharon in his stance on territory and settlements.
Not too long ago, when Sharon never dreamed he would be elected prime minister, he was dubbed the “father of the settlements.” Indeed, he’d had taken upon himself the responsibility of raising funds for the settlements. During his stay in Chicago I accompanied him on several occasions and heard him wax poetic in describing the settlers as modern-day kibbutzniks, the best of Israeli society, the greatest protectors of the Jewish state.
Every settlement was precious to him, and in his various governmental capacities he used every ounce of his strength to advance their number. Yet, as prime minister, he gave up Gaza, going so far as to forcibly remove the same Jewish settlers he had praised. What happened to him? The answer is the Ain Breira syndrome.
The standard-bearer of nineteenth century German Orthodoxy, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his classic work The Nineteen Letters, described human existence as having been reduced to “physical enjoyment” and explained the role of the Jews among the nations of the world:
“Therefore there would be introduced into the ranks of the nations one People which would demonstrate by its history and way of life that the sole foundation of life is God alone…”
About the Author: Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz is the rav of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation in Chicago. During his nearly five decades in the rabbinate he has led congregations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom and served as an officer, Executive Committee member and chair of the Legislative Committee of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
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Many books have supported the preferability- not to be confused with desirability- of the status quo
Consider the Pope’s desperation, reading daily reports of the slaughter of Christians by Muslims
The contrast between a Dem pretending to love Israel & a Dem who truly loves Israel is CRYSTAL CLEAR
U.S and European demands for the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank is world hypocrisy.
We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.
During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai
20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse
Connecting Bamidbar&Shavuot is simple-A world without Torah is midbar; with Torah a blessed paradise
Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting
She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes
Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times
Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program
“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me
Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.
The Roman Catholic Church places upon the head of its Pope the 2 crowns of government and religion
I stated with clarity in simple terms, “Jews don’t have gangs.”
The law protects businessman from participating in an activity against their religious beliefs.
A society comprised of many cultures & religions does itself a disservice legislating morality.
Islam and Christianity are “universal churches” believing THEIR truth to the exclusion of all faiths
Despite all evidence to the contrary you yet claim that “As a Jew, support for Israel is in my DNA.”
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/israels-ain-breira-syndrome/2007/07/25/
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