For the past few weeks I have been writing about the crisis that has descended upon our world – a crisis that is nothing less than Chevlei Moshiach, the pain and suffering that has been predicted will occur in the pre-Messianic era. Events are transpiring so rapidly that we can’t quite absorb them. Even as I write these lines our brethren in Israel are in the throes of battle – may Hashem guard and protect each and every one of them. For the longest time now our people have been subjected to constant rocket barrages. These rockets are the “thank you’s” from the Islamic terrorists to Israel for having given up her land and uprooted her people so that the Palestinians might have their own state.
Amazingly or rather typically, no one protested these deadly attacks. As long as Jews were the targets, the nations and the UN were happy to look away, but now that Israel has finally retaliated, the good people of the world (with the exception of our president), have found their voices. The choruses of condemnation against Israel are heard everywhere. Israel is vilified and accused of Nazi tactics. This is despite the fact that Israel is the only nation at war that takes precautions not to attack civilians. Islamist terrorists aim to kill innocent men, women and children in their homes, their schools, wherever they are to be found, and are delighted when their own civilians are killed. That generates global hostility against Israel and incites Moslems to kill more Jews, the sole purpose and goal of Hamas.
The precautions that the IDF has taken to safeguard the civilians of Gaza is unparalleled in human history – taking meticulous care to target the terrorists and their huge arsenal of lethal weapons, missiles and rockets – an amazing feat in such a densely populated area where terrorists take cover among the civilian population. The IDF actually goes so far as to call civilians, warning of an imminent attack. They are told that if they are in proximity to terrorists, they should seek safety. For a nation at war to show such consideration for her foes borders on the ridiculous, yet Israel is doing just that.
But it is all to no avail. The entire world condemns her and even the few so-called friends she has in the West have joined the chorus and parrot the inane accusation that Israel’s response is disproportionate. Disproportionate! If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable. Thousands of rockets have been raining down on Israel, destroying homes and killing and maiming men, women and children, but no one ever labeled that “disproportionate.” Nor has the UN ever taken Hamas to task for continuously violating the cease-fire and terrorizing innocent Israeli citizens.
All this should not come as a surprise. From the genesis of our history we have tasted the bitter sting of the world’s hatred. Alas, Holocaust was not born in a vacuum…. nothing has changed. The same old anti-Semitism continues to plague us. The packaging may be different, but the contents remain the same.
I remember the early days of statehood, when Israel did not give much thought to world opinion. Her leaders knew that the very life of the nation was on the line, and they couldn’t afford to pay heed to the international community or the UN. Those were the days when the Holocaust was freshly engraved on Israel’s heart, when every Jew was able to recall the response of the nations to Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
Truth be told, however, Israel does not need reminders of the past to recognize that she is surrounded by those determined to annihilate her. From the day of her birth she has confronted the satanic terror wrought by Islamic extremists, and with the passage of time, that terror has become more savage and barbaric. Yesterday it was stone throwing, today it is Kassam rockets and suicide bombers, and it is terrifying to consider what else is in store.
So how, you might ask, did Israel allow Gaza to become a launching pad for terror? How could Israel have handed over Gaza, Gush Katif and its environs to Islamic extremists, sworn to her destruction? But then again, how did Israel hand over her Lebanese borders to Hizbullah? How did Israel allow them to build bunkers and tunnels filled with lethal weapons? Who can forget the terror inflicted upon our brethren in the North that rendered them refugees in their own land? And now the same story is being repeated in the South. Hamas has built a sophisticated system of underground tunnels right under Israel’s nose and never stopped attacking. Over 4,000 missiles have been fired from Gaza into Israel. Incredibly while all this carnage has been unfolding Israel has remained silent and prided herself on her restraint.
But the nations of the world did not interpret Israel’s passivity as valor. On the contrary, they saw Israel’s silence as the norm. After all, for the past 2,000 years they were beating up on Jews, so why change the status quo now? But now that Israel has retaliated they are outraged. How dare she defend herself?
Incredibly, even as rockets were falling on Sderot, the Israeli government freed the most vicious Islamic murderers and offered to place Judea, Samaria, the Golan, and parts of Jerusalem, on the negotiating table. So, you might ask, how could Israel have done this?
I read a telling testimony from a secular Israeli, Tzafrir Ronen, a”h, who just recently passed away. Ronen was a leftist kibbutznik and a senior advisor to Yitzchak Rabin who had a wake-up call after the Oslo accords. When he witnessed the expulsion of his brethren from Gush Katif, when he saw them uprooted from the land they had redeemed with their blood, sweat, and sacrifice, he cried out in protest against this rampant insanity.
How could the Israeli government have done this to its own people, he asked. He quoted a letter written over two millennia ago by Simon the Maccabee to King Antiochus: “This is not a foreign country that we took for ourselves,” Simon wrote, “nor do we rule over what belongs to others. No, this is the land of our forefathers that was conquered unjustly by our enemies some time ago, and when the opportunity came, we took back our fathers’ land.”
That letter, written so long ago, speaks to us today as it did yesterday. After 2,000 years of pogroms, persecution, Holocaust, with the help of G-d, we have returned to our ancient land of our forefathers. As in days of yore, we were witness to miracle after miracle. We saw the few triumph over the many, the weak over the strong. In battle after battle, Hashem’s miracles were manifested, and they reached their zenith in the Six- Day War. Who can forget those exhilarating days? Military leaders of the nations of the world studied Israel’s strategy and were astounded.
Just as in Biblical times, little David once again defeated Goliath. Conventional wisdom predicted that Israel would be wiped off the map – this war would bring about the end of the Jewish State. But through the miracles of G-d, in six lightning days, the valorous Israeli army reached the gates of the capitals of all the enemy nations that surrounded her and most wonderful of all, liberated her ancient land and came home to Jerusalem.
Those that can remember those heady days surely recall the electrifying moment when our sons reached the holy Wall, the only remnant of our sacred Temple. In the midst of prayer, tears, awe and thanksgiving, the shofar was sounded and its call reverberated throughout the world. At that moment every Jew felt something – despite himself, his eyes became moist and he yearned for Jerusalem.
So what happened with the passage of time? How did we lose our way? How could Israel have offered to give away her land? And how, despite the constant carnage, could she have continued to do so? How could Israel have failed to see that these Islamic terrorists do not seek a two-state solution? They do not desire to live side-by-side with Jews. They are intent on creating one state, an Islamic state, and in the process, totally eliminate Israel! Ronen identified the root of Israel’s problem: “While we, the Jewish people, may have returned home to our land,” he wrote, “many of us also lost our identity. We forgot our past. We forgot our calling.
“What does it mean to be part of a nation? What does it mean to be a Jew?” Ronen challenged. He answered his own question by citing the collective memory of our people. “If I am not religious and you are,” he asked, “what unites us? It is that collective memory. Whether you are from Ethiopia or Russia, you know that you come from Abraham and Moses, and that is what makes us a nation. That is the fabric of our collective memory symbolized by Yerushalayim, Bet Lechem and Chevron. But if our government signs an agreement to give away these symbols of our collective memory after 2,000 years of never having forgotten them, then we are inviting disaster. We are creating a terror state in our midst and that can spell tragedy for many generations to come.”
Ronen was interviewed by a CNN reporter who asked him, “So when will you end your occupation?”
To which Ronen responded, “Before you ask such a question first open up your Bible and then come back to me.
“Show me a British person,” Ronen went on to say, “who’d be willing to negotiate away parts of London for peace with Al Qaeda, or an American who would be willing to give away Washington, D.C. It is only we who are willing to give away our heritage. How can we act this way?” he asked.
I share with you the words of Ronen because very often, when we find ourselves in crises, we forget how we got there and we keep repeating the same tired, failed formulas and making the same mistakes. Every time we gave away our land we suffered dearly for it and peace was even further away. There are, of course, those who would argue that Israel was planning to negotiate a two-state solution with Abbas and Fatah, that Hamas was not part of the equation. But make no mistake about it, while Fatah and Hamas may hate each other, when it comes to Israel, they are united and equally determined to annihilate the Jewish State.
Add to all that, Ahmadinejad and the Syrians who keep feeding the terrorists more and more deadly weapons, and you will realize that no matter in which direction Israel turns, she is between a rock and a hard place from which only Hashem can extricate her. Consider for a moment what will happen if, after this operation in Gaza (and may G-d grant that all our sons return home safely) the political leaders of Israel will revert to their old ways, succumb to international pressure, return to the pre-1967 borders, and hand over Judea, Samaria, the Golan and Jerusalem to Islamic control.
If that, G-d forbid, should occur, Ahmadinejad will not need a nuclear arsenal – he will be able to achieve his satanic goal with the missiles and rockets that would hit the heart of Israel. Consider the catastrophe of a missile hitting Israel’s nuclear facility! G-d forbid, G-d forbid!
I realize that it is difficult for freedom loving people to accept this. They would like to believe that conflicts can be resolved through dialogue but, alas, the sad reality is that Islamic terrorists are only interested in exterminating Israel, and nothing short of that will satisfy them, and as you could not negotiate with Hitler, you cannot negotiate with them.
Ronen was a secular leftist who had an awakening and saw the suicidal course upon which Israel was embarking. He recognized that a nation that chooses to blot out its history has no future so he bemoaned the tragedy of a generation that has forgotten Abraham and Moses and was prepared to give away its promised land. But he failed to take his analysis one critical step further. Abraham and Moses are not just our forefathers – they are our teachers, who taught us to be ambassadors of G-d. They taught us to live by G-d’s Words – the Torah, and that is our true collective memory…. the glue that cements us. It is our Torah that renders the Jew from Ethiopia and the Jew from Russia one. It is the Torah that has engraved Jerusalem and the entire land of Israel upon our hearts, and it is the Torah that deeded the land of Israel to the Jewish people for all eternity.
So everything that is befalling us, be it on the battlefields of Israel, in the economic melt-down, or in the global escalation of anti-Semitism, is to be understood as wake-up calls to bring us to the realization “Ein Od Milvado,” there is no one but G-d who can help us.” Our situation is untenable. No matter which way we turn, there is no easy solution.
Our salvation is obvious. G-d is calling upon us to don our priestly garments and once again become the Torah nation that He destined us to be. “If only My people would heed Me – If Israel would walk in My way, in an instant, I would subdue their foes and turn My Hand against their tormentors (Psalm 81).
We are living in exceptional times. Let’s be worthy of it. May G-d grant that we behold our redemption speedily in our own day.