The world has again become a barbaric jungle. Ferocious beasts are ready to pounce on Israel. As a survivor of the Holocaust, I have for a long time now smelled the same noxious fumes that engulfed pre-Holocaust Europe, but no one wants to pay heed. It is always easier to dismiss such warnings as unfounded paranoia or products of the scarred minds of those who survived that hell on earth.
Yes, I am one of those survivors, and it is true that my heart and mind are forever scarred. But despite those very deep scars my soul soars upward, imbued with faith – faith in our G-d and in His guiding Hand; faith in our people and our ability to reinvent ourselves and recreate the bastions of Torah that once dotted the shtetlach and cities of eastern Europe.
Not long after our liberation from Bergen Belsen, my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, received the unspeakable news that with the exception of his sister, his entire family had been murdered at Auschwitz. My Zeide, my Bubba, my aunts and uncles and their innocent babes who never had a chance to live, were all gone.
My father was the ben yachid, the only living son of the glorious rabbinic dynasty of my Zeide. And now the tears streamed down my father’s holy face – tears that could have filled rivers and oceans, but even in the midst of those tears my father’s voice rang out loud and clear: “Lichtige kinderlach – my precious lights, we will rebuild the Torah of our grandfathers.”
And from that moment, my father never rested. Wherever life’s journeys took him, he created new enclaves of Torah and Yiddishkeit, and he charged us, his children, with the same mission.
My vision of creating Hineni was not born in a vacuum. It had deep roots that spanned the centuries, roots that took me back to the ladder of Jacob. On a ladder you cannot rest but have to keep moving.
“Never stop,” my father charged. “Keep building Torah!”
People ask me where I find the energy to travel from country to country, to teach and speak without stop, often on three hours’ sleep.
But even as they ask, I hear my father’s voice: “Never stop!”
So, yes, while my mind and heart were scorched by the inferno of Hitler’s Europe, those flames could never penetrate my soul, which was illuminated by the light of Sinai.
When I say I smell the fumes of pre-Holocaust Europe, it is not my tortured memories that evoke the deadly fumes but rather my soul that cries out – a soul imbued with faith and the certainty that Hashem will never abandon us, that for all eternity our people will be here, but a soul that also knows that while we are here, we have paid a price no human mind can comprehend.
It is that knowledge which gives me no rest and prompts me to cry out.
Look at what is unfolding before our eyes. Israel is surrounded by enemies with one common aim – to wipe it off the map. And the world seems to have no problem with that.
I know there are those who will protest, “That’s ridiculous! Such statements have no basis or foundation in fact. It’s only Ahmadinejad, and he’s a madman.”
Those words have a familiar ring: “It’s only Hitler, and he’s a madman!”
Early on, I learned madmen have to be taken seriously. Precisely because they are mad, they carry out that which they threaten. When Ahmadinejad proclaims he will wipe Israel off the map, they are not empty words. Nor is he the only one with this obsession. All of Israel’s neighbors share with the same goal and are open about it. Not for a moment do they feel a need to hide their agenda – they shout it to the world and poison their children and children’s children with it.
“They too are madmen,” some will surely protest. “In the 21st century the world would never countenance such evil.”
I really would like to believe that, but the international climate has become so poisoned that in the present atmosphere it’s quite acceptable to demonize Israel and plot its end. Of course, “civilized, freedom-loving people” would never dare articulate any malevolent intent – and perhaps they dupe themselves into believing such an outcome is far from their thinking. They just want to bring peace to a war-torn neighborhood; it is the plight of the downtrodden Arabs that motivates their protest and compels them to again and again take Israel to task for “oppressive, Nazi-like tactics.”
What we are witnessing today is not an Arab Spring but an Arab Storm -a storm set to wash Israel off the planet. To cite just one of many recent examples: Even as the mobs in Egypt championed their cause in the streets, shouts of “Jews! Jews! – kill all the Jews!” reverberated. Not surprisingly, the world turned a deaf ear. (The ominous silence prevailed even when the mobs, those “lovers of freedom,” attacked Christian Egyptians and their churches.)
During the war in Lebanon, I had gone to that country with a film crew. We came to a Christian village the Muslims had ransacked while slaughtering all its residents. The skulls of Christians who had been decapitated were being used by Muslims as footballs, and still the world – and the Vatican – remained silent. Try to imagine what would have happened if Israel had perpetrated such satanic evil. The world would have been on fire. The UN would have convened a special session demanding the condemnation and probably the ousting of Israel.
Now Israel is once again called upon to return to its suicidal pre-Six Day War borders. Of course, the call comes with assurances that Israel will never be abandoned, that America will always stand behind the Jewish state. These promises have a hollow ring. Our tortured history of the past 2,000 years has taught us well, though only some of us choose to remember.
It is of no avail for Israel to cite the sacrifices it has made for peace, only to be rewarded by bloodshed. In vain would Israel remind the world that when it gave up the land on the Lebanese border, peacekeeping forces that were supposed to help secure that very border closed their eyes while wild hordes attacked our people, forcing them from their homes and rendering them refugees in their own land.
In vain would Israel point to Gaza and its environs, reminding the world that Israeli leaders had ordered their soldiers to forcibly evacuate their brethren from the homes they’d built, the gardens they’d planted, the wasteland they’d redeemed through blood and sacrifice. The beauty of Gush Katif is no more, replaced by launching pads of terror.
All of Israel’s sacrifices have been for naught; the Arabs have made it clear they will not rest until every Jew is killed and the tiny Jewish state is theirs.
As it was in the past, so it is today. The nations of the world gave the green light to Hitler. As the French say, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
(To Be Continued)