Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Theodore Herzl convened a series of World Zionist Congresses. Each convention contemplated the plight of the Jewish people and the need for a Jewish homeland. But it was the Kishinev pogrom of April 1903 that sharply brought into focus the burning issue of establishing a refuge for the Jewish people from the ravages of pogroms and anti-Semitism.
At the Sixth Zionist Congress, held in that fateful year of 1903, Herzl brought to the attention of the assembly an offer by the British government to grant the Jewish people a home in Uganda. He presented it to the floor and was greeted with boos and jeers. Though Herzl knew that the place for the Jews was Eretz Yisrael, he believed the Uganda idea had merit as a stop-gap measure. But it was clear that most Zionists were adamantly opposed. Herzl closed his speech to the Sixth Zionist National congress by quoting from Tehillim (Psalms), “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.”
Herzl was dead within a year, but his prophetic vision established him as the Father of modern Zionism. In his speech to the First Zionist Congress, in 1897, he’d predicted the establishment of a Jewish state in at most 50 years. He was off by just one year. One is left to wonder whether the Uganda idea, had it come to fruition, would have saved European Jewry during the Second World War.
One thing is certain. The United Nations’ affirmative vote for a Jewish state in 1947, the creation of Israel in 1948, and the sympathy of much of the international community during those momentous months came at a terrible price in Jewish suffering. Six million Jews had been ruthlessly murdered by the Germans, and six thousand more would be killed in Israel’s War of Independence. Many of the great sages of the time declared the birth of the first Jewish commonwealth in 2,000 years a historically and religiously significant event – albeit one largely brought about by non-religious people – even the beginning of the redemption of the Jews and the time of the coming of the Messiah.
I just returned from a two-week visit to Israel on which I lead a tour of the eighth-grade class of the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy of West Hartford, Connecticut. This was the twentieth such tour I’ve led, introducing children to the beauty and splendor of Eretz Yisrael.
One of the most moving segments of the trip was our time at the new Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Visiting Yad Vashem with students had always been meaningful, but I hadn’t been there since the new construction was completed.
When you enter the museum, perhaps the most poignant scene is the showing of a continuous movie depicting the lives of the Jews in pre-war Europe. The individuals portrayed constituted essentially the same makeup of the Jewish people today. They looked normal. They represented a wide spectrum of Jewish observance, each making up the whole of the diversity of our people. These are the people whom Hitler strove to portray as subhuman, deserving of death in the most barbaric ways imaginable.
The most powerful message I derived from my visit, however, was the reality that without the State of Israel today we would once again have no homeland to turn to, no place of ultimate refuge. Israel is a haven for the Jewish people. The government, corrupt as it is, oversees a vibrant state that is the center of Torah learning in the world today and that boasts the largest concentration of Jews – anywhere. If not for that secular government we all love to criticize, we would not have these centers of learning in Israel nor would we have a haven of refuge should another mass persecution of Jews take place.
About the Author: Rabbi Mordechai Weiss is principal of the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford. Any comments can be e-mailed to him at Ravmordechai@aol.com.
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Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.
The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.
Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.
Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.
Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”
Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?
Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.
The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.
Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!
Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.
A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.
Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent
Warsaw Ghetto: At its height, the Nazis walled in some 500,000 Jews within the1.3 square mile area.
While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.
When the Jewish people crossed the Red Sea, successfully escaping the clutches of the Egyptians, Moses gathered the Israelites together and they sang the famous “Az Yashir.” Miriam, Moses’s sister, also assembled the women as they danced with tambourines and sang “shiru lahashem ki gao gaa sus vrochbo rama bayam” – let us sing to Hashem for he is great, horse and chariot he drowned in the sea.”
As an educator, I was always intrigued with the trip on which my high school students would embark in their junior or senior year. The “March of the Living” allows a student to experience in a small way the immense tragedy our people endured during the Holocaust.
The first reference to Mount Sinai in the Torah occurs when our teacher Moses witnessed a strange phenomenon there. As he was shepherding his sheep he glanced up at the mountain and saw a thorn bush that was burning without being consumed by the fire.
Diversity in Judaism is common in our history and liturgy. One can visit many synagogues and observe that the order of davening and the text of siddur vary from shul to shul. When I’m in Israel I often attend the services in a Sephardi shul where the prayers and the sequence of taking the Torah from the ark and replacing it are vastly different from what I’m accustomed to.
Herzl was dead within a year, but his prophetic vision established him as the Father of modern Zionism.
Though the worship of God and our underlying relationship with Him are implicit in this text, the stress is on our relationship with people.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-meaning-of-israel/2006/06/28/
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