Several years back, I spent Yom Ha’Atzma’ut with my relatives from a charming moshav in the Negev. They live a stone’s throw from Gaza. Translated in concrete terms relating to life and limb, these are the kinds of people who have approximately 15 seconds-or less-to find cover before rockets rain down upon them. During Round 1 of the unfinished debacle of “Operation Cast Lead,” one side of the family sustained a direct hit to their house from a Grad rocket. Thank G-d, no one was harmed.
As I held the remains of two Kassam rockets, (the Grad was quickly confiscated by the IDF, and probably given to some leftist who went on to create metal peace doves out of the remains) I considered what the modern day Amalek is getting away with in our times. I was standing in the sovereign State of Israel, and yet I might as well have been standing in blood-soaked Europe. It doesn’t matter what Israel could theoretically do to these sub-humans. The unwillingness of our leadership to destroy our enemies, and their willingness to tolerate murdered Jews is unforgivable. This is the “shtetl syndrome” personified. But there is a critical difference. There were few choices in the shtetl. In Eretz Yisrael, G-d gifted us a country and a powerful army.
It is unwillingness, rather than inability to fight, which prevents our timid leaders from destroying these savages. This is not independence. This is a denial of our ability to be free from Arabs in our own country. This is Jewish weakness. This is a modern re-enactment of the sin of the spies. Our own leadership views us as grasshoppers, and often treat our lives with similar regard.
My relative’s house has long been repaired, yet the tool shed remains a testament to Arab destruction. Hundreds of holes, large and small, litter the shed, in addition to an adjoining stone wall, courtesy of shrapnel shards that pierced their walls. Some holes are at neck, skull, and torso level, and if a person was in the vicinity, they would be dead or wounded unimaginably from the shards alone.
Alone in My Head
I often feel alone on Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Don’t misunderstand me— I don’t grill burgers by myself in the backyard. The better part of Yom Ha’atzmaut is spent in the company of family and friends. We grill together, and even if the hot-dogs leave me wanting some American “Abel & Heyman” dogs, the company and camaraderie are always good. I speak of an ideological loneliness. An inability to relate to the world-view of those around me. The religious in my corner of the desert are overwhelmingly from that camp of religious mamlachtim (loyalists) whose views on Jewish governance are far from my own. My vision is that of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s teachings, a fusion of rational, action based obligations based upon Torah, and so I cannot relate to those well-intended Jews whose fervor for the day is so different from my own. Nor can I abide those who see the question of Hallel with or without a bracha as an expression or barometer of one’s Zionism, such as it is.
Their version of “Religious-Zionism” (As a halachic Jew, I hate the term) is too parve for my liking. Too positive and “pie-in-the sky,” when glaring problems demand rectification. I accept the obligation to recognize and celebrate our victory over the Arabs, yemach sh’mam. But not with blind loyalism, orchestrated ceremony, and compromising on the halachic laws of warfare and gentiles in the land. The religious do not see the problems as I see them. They have magical solutions from Rabbis I respect (some of them) but cannot follow. Many distort Jewish sources to apply the category of B’nai Noach to undeserving Arabs, as many normative yeshiva daati leumi are wont to do. So the Religious-Zionism that is popular leave me wanting a Yom Haatzmaut with more edge. With a spine. With a desire and a resolve to want true torah independence–and a willingness to fight for it.
I cannot dance when killers are freed, and when Jewish innocents are tortured and imprisoned. I cannot truly celebrate when an IDF general compares us to Germany in the 1930’s on Yom Hashoah! Or when elderly women are stabbed by Arabs in Jerusalem. I cannot endure that Har Habayit prohibits Jewish prayer, and that the Arab losers are the victors atop our sacred site. I cannot abide the unfinished work. Perhaps the greatest personal difficulty is the desire to want to fight, and the limited means at my disposal at the moment.
Nor do the secular celebrations have any connection to me, save for the loud Mizrachi music and karaoke which will wake my baby up throughout the night. The contemporary secular celebration of Yom Ha’atzma’ut is a spectacle of fireworks, party favors, and naked nationalism that blinds the eyes. Sometimes simplicity and nonsense give way to perversion. Several years back our former notorious mayor, had a noted Israeli transsexual musician perform for the town on Yom Haatzmaut. Fortunately, I never attend these things, and so my disgust at this humiliation was second-hand. And fortunately that wicked little mayor is gone, and in her stead, we have a thoroughly decent man.
I don’t blame secular Jews. Secular Jews have a better excuse. They have no reference for a Torah perspective. The religious have much more to explain. And I speak of all different groups. Those who deny the miracles, as well as those who accept and celebrate them, but tolerate corrupt government because they view government per say as a sacred institution. Sacred in its inherent form, and not something which requires sanctification. There are of course other groups of religious Jews throughout the country whose views are equally anathema to me. For example, the religious pluralists who think that Torah and liberal democracy can be fused.
Perhaps so much of my feelings of isolation is that I am geographically far from like-minded Jews, who understand that we have unfinished business. This in a sense is why I always spend the day with certain relatives, whose views on just about everything relating to Israel are foreign to my own. They are the warmest people I know, and they embraced my transplanted family with true ahavat yisroel. If I cannot enjoy ideological commonality, I will substitute it with celebrations with the those I love who don’t even share my perspective. So I celebrate with them, and in my heart I burn for a day when true Jewish happiness fuels all Yom Haatzmaut celebrations. A Yom Haatzmaut free of Arabs murdering Jews because there will be no Arabs in Israel.
As Jews we have an obligation to thank G-d for the many undeserved miracles He performed (and continues to perform) on our behalf when the Arabs rose up to annihilate us. We are required to thank him despite the fact that some Jews spit at the heavens and scorn the gift. But I’ll celebrate Independence Day with a little more fervor when the Jewish people returns to the Torah. I’ll rejoice fully when laws of biblical warfare are resurrected in the war with the Arabs (may we see them destroyed in total). Because there is no authentic independence in Israel. We are still at war with the Arabs.
Nor would mere freedom from man be an ends in itself. Kedoshim Tihiyu. As I noted in a recent article, the only free man is the G-d fearing one concerned with the Torah. May we become free in the near future, so that the next time the chag comes around, we can refer to ourselves as being truly independent of man and men, and as genuine Servants of the Almighty.
One final point. The haunting sirens of this season do indeed resonate with me, and I have no cynicism for the custom, only for the failure of leadership to learn the lessons. It evokes all kinds of emotions. The simplicity of the blaring shriek is somewhat akin to the shofar. It is blaring. It evokes fear, the unknown, introspection, and so many others. It demands that we recall the heroism and sacrifice of sacred martyrs who died Al Kiddush Hashem. It reminds me of our accursed enemies and the mandate to obliterate evil. Thoughts of teshuva, both personal and national come to mind. I hope that our leaders will truly listen to the siren.
I am thankful to Hashem for the tremendous miracles He performed from us, and the salvation from modern day Amalekites. I acknowledge and appreciate that despite the myriad problems with our clueless and G-dless leaders, we are back in Eretz Yisrael, and we could bring Moshiach tomorrow if the Nation had the inclination to do so. Even in the muck of the negative, of the indifference, and the frustrating manifestations of Jewish weakness which stains the Nation, there are historically unprecedented positives. We are one step closer.
And so I await the day when we see true Jewish fireworks, and merit the authentic Jewish independence of the Messiah, may we see him in our times. Perhaps someday soon, the IDF will have a real man of Torah at the helm who will unshackle our soldiers and allow them to fight the enemy, in the manner that the Torah demands we fight wars. Tikkun Olam with an M-16, if you will. And on that day, perhaps there won’t be any question at all about the Halachic requirement of reciting Hallel with a brachah.
*I refrained from addressing the perverse ideology of Neturei Karta, and various off-shoots (some of them trying to be a more palpable Neturei Karta lite) who are as far from Judaism as man is from the moon. Any doctrine which permits alliances with people committed to murdering Jews, is contrary to everything Jewish, and the adherents of such a diseased way of thinking are wicked. The sins of Israeli governments (both real and imagined) do not justify their own vile actions which endanger the Am and constitute a chillul Hashem on the world’s stage. They must not be lumped with more normative chareidi approaches which reject Zionism based on their interpretation (wrong as I may see them) of Jewish sources. Those religious post-Zionist types who apologize for the NK by calling them “misguided” betray their ignorance of Torah, and speak little of themselves. The same can be said for those vulgarians who reject the moniker of “Neturei Karta” but have adopted their grotesque language with terms such as lsraHELL, Zionazis, etc., and equally un-Jewish worldviews. May Hashem open the eyes of all decent Jews to find Torah expressions to sanctify the Nation and bring Moshiach.