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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776
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It’s My Opinion: Pogroms


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The news is not good. Another cease-fire has been violated. Another attempt at peace has been thwarted. Hamas has assaulted Israel with a barrage of rockets. Red alert sirens are blaring. Molotov cocktails thrown by Arab terrorists have hit an Israeli bus and a Jewish home. Jews are seeking refuge in safe rooms and shelters.

The sickening feeling of déjà vu hangs heavy in the air. The age-old phenomenon of violence directed against Jews continues. It seems nothing has changed.

My family came to America in the early 1900s. They were escaping the pogroms and brutal attacks on the Jews of Poland. The story of great-uncle Yishuah was particularly poignant. Yishuah stood guard as his wife hid in a shallow potato cellar. The villagers were coming to rape and pillage. Cries of “Kill the Jews” rang out.

The reemergence of the Jewish homeland in 1948 gave hope to Jews around the world. A state with its own police force and army created the expectation that Jews could finally be safe, at least within Israel’s national borders. The reality, however, was that the calls of “Itbah al-Yahud” – “Murder the Jews” – rang out with impunity. It seems the old European shtetl was not the only unsafe place for Jews.

Israel’s neighbors engaged in hostilities from the onset. The War of Independence was a hard-won battle. Aggression and enmity has followed for 66 years.

Before the Six-Day War of 1967, Syria fired a constant barrage of missiles directed at civilians in settlements and towns throughout the Golan Heights. The terror and dread took a terrible toll. Children who were born and raised during this period were referred to as “children of the shelters.” They spent much of their time underground, seeking refuge from the onslaught.

Unfortunately, Israel is still a favorite target for terrorists. Over 11,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since the withdrawal in 2005. Sderot has been a favorite, but Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and many other cities in Israel are currently affected.

Many Israeli parents have started putting their children in the family’s bomb shelter at night. They feel this is better than rousing little ones from a deep sleep and running with them as the warning sirens blare. However, despite all good intentions to minimize the dilemma, the message is clear. One’s home and school and shul are vulnerable. No place is safe.

During their long and bloody exile, the Jewish people were at the mercy of other nations. They are now the recipients of abuse in their own homeland. It was not acceptable in the past to have Jews cowering in the potato cellars of the shtetl and it certainly is not acceptable now to have Jews holed up in bunkers in the state of Israel.

The IDF’s ground incursion into Gaza exposed an incredibly sophisticated system of underground terror tunnels. The tunnels extend into cities in Israel. They were huge, well built, and filled with weaponry and equipment for invasion.

The IDF made another startling revelation. The tunnels were slated to be used to facilitate a massive pogrom. The slaughter was scheduled to start this coming September 25 – Rosh Hashanah. The casualty count could have been in the thousands.

The time has come for Israel to take a zero tolerance approach to unprovoked attacks on its population. It’s not good enough to block rockets and hide in shelters. No other country would allow such a situation to go on. The Iron Dome has been effective in deflecting missiles. An Iron Fist is needed to assure that the bombardment will end.

Shelley Benveniste

About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.


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