Some years after the Six-Day War, I was invited to address the IDF as well as various communities in Israel. In the euphoria that followed the spectacular victory of the Six-Day War, gratitude to Hashem, proclaiming His guiding hand, was blatantly missing.
We deluded ourselves into believing “kochi v’otzem yadie – my strength, my might achieved this.” I was so terribly afraid of the consequences of this attitude that I called a press conference in the hope that someone might listen.
“The nations of the world begrudge us victory,” I said. “Yes, for a few moments after the Holocaust, their consciences bothered them But, alas, I knew that would soon pass and the hatred would resurface. There is only one way we can protect ourselves, and that is to have Israel’s representatives at the UN and throughout the world unabashedly proclaim that we returned to our G-d-given land- that our right to that land was granted by Almighty G-d Himself and we have a deed to prove it. And even as we make that declaration, we must point to our Torah and read the passages that state unequivocally that this land will belong to us, the Jewish people, for all eternity; that G-d Himself deeded it to us as an eternal inheritance; that the covenant sealed at Sinai proclaims that we the Jewish people, the Torah, and the land are one.”
My plea went unheeded. At best, people smiled at my naiveté, while others just dismissed it as “religious fanaticism.” And all these years later, nothing has changed. With the exception of Menachem Begin, not one of Israel’s leaders has mentioned Hashem or recognized it was His guiding hand that enabled Israel to triumph. This failure to recognize Hashem is evident in many areas. Israel’s beautiful, moving anthem, Hatikvah, would be so much more meaningful if G-d’s name were mentioned. I could cite other examples, but what is important is that we understand we are a holy nation that stood at Sinai and heard the voice of G-d, and that voice is embedded in our neshamas.
With every passing year, the demonization of the Jewish state escalates. Where once, for a very brief moment, Israeli soldiers were held in esteem, today they are regarded as oppressors of the downtrodden who occupy land that does not belong to them.
In vain does Israel reach out with compassion to those who attack it; in vain does Israel extend the hand of peace. From the very moment of Israel’s rebirth, Jewish blood has flowed freely in the land, but few were the voices raised on our behalf. Even so, we are witnessing today something we thought would never occur.
I write this not because, G-d forbid, I want to criticize our people, but precisely because I love our people and our land. We have undergone more than enough suffering already, and in this time of crisis, even as in pre-Holocaust Europe, doors are once again being shut against us. Before it’s too late, we have to recognize that our help, our salvation, will come not from Washington or any other capital on earth. But it can and will come from the greatest capital of all – the Heavenly Capital. It is only there that our destiny is shaped.
It is that Capital to which we must cry out – and if we do, our help will come.
President Obama last week called on Israel to return to its pre-Six-Day War borders, a suicidal course the Jewish state can never consider. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, delivered a powerful response, explaining how, throughout the centuries, the Jewish people suffered barbaric torture and persecution that saw millions slaughtered, but never renounced their right to the land of Israel or their hope of return. He spoke from the heart and you had to be a stone not to be moved by it. But with all that, there was one word that was blatantly missing, and the absence of that word renders Israel vulnerable to further attack. That one word was Hashem – Almighty G-d.
If only, I thought to myself, he had added to his powerful plea, “We have returned to ourG-d given land.” But that one sentence never surfaced.
The next time you see and hear mobs shouting that Israel and the Jews must be exterminated, consider what would happen if the word “blacks” were substituted for “Jews.” And ask yourself what country, other than Israel, is expected to hand over its land to a people who openly proclaim that they will never recognize that country’s right to exist.
What’s more, think about whether any other nation has given up a large chunk of territory, removing thousands of its own citizens by force, giving up homes, synagogues, and land they converted from a desert into beautiful gardens and orchards – only to see that place become a launching pad for deadly terrorist attacks.
And it wasn’t only these places. Remember Oslo, when Israel gave up land for the creation of a Palestinian state and then supplied weapons for a Palestinian police force, only to see those weapons turned against it? Why, having seen and experienced all this, would anyone believe the answer is to give away yet more territory to people who have shown time and again that their singular agenda is to wipe Israel off the map?
Prime Minister Netanyahu explained that Israel is a nation that suffered one Holocaust too many and cannot risk another slaughter. Instead of understanding his plea, he was chastised in the media for lecturing the president in the White House.
There is something here that does not make sense, something every rational mind can only wonder at. And yet there is an answer, a solution, an antidote: “If only My people would heed Me . If Israel would walk in My ways, in an instant I would subdue their foes, and against their tormentors turn my hand…” (Psalm 81)