Photo Credit: David Vaaknin/ Flash 90
Names engraved on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

One of my Facebook friends posted a very stark and chilling message on her Facebook page this week. It read, “I don’t know a single Jewish person who hasn’t asked, “which one of my friends who aren’t Jewish would hide me.”

I posted an observation in reply to this ominous question, “Isn’t it interesting that the question uses ‘friends’ in the plural but ‘one’ in the singular.”

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The smallness of the number of those who would stand up for Jews is a matter of historical record. Like most things there are exceptions, like the King of Denmark who defied the Nazis who had ordered its Jews to wear the Yellow Star of David by wearing one too.

Someone I knew as a teenager in my native Glasgow (or at least in my adolescent mind I thought I did) was Rabbi Dr. Wolf Gottlieb, zt”l. I only recently discovered that he was personally responsible for evacuating and saving many hundreds of children from Nazi Vienna.

He was the Av Beth Din of Glasgow and the Rav of one of its most prestigious shuls.

I knew almost nothing of his escape with all those children nor of the fact that his beloved sister Anni was gassed in Auschwitz. I simply saw him as possessing an exceptionally brilliant mind evidenced in his shiurim and by his PhD. Frankly, he quite intimidated me as a youngster.

I recall him once observing that Yad Vashem has a tree planted for individuals who actively save Jews. They are honored in the Holocaust museum’s “Garden of the righteous among the nations.” The current number of trees is 28,217.

I do not know what the Yad Vashem number stood at in the 1970s when I heard Rabbi Gottlieb’s comment, but he said acerbically, “It is a Garden of trees, not a Grove nor a Wood and certainly not a forest.”

The singularity of my Facebook’s friends’ question “Which one” of her many non-Jewish friends, expresses a sad and pitiful reality; our true friends among the nations, the ones who will not desert us, are the rare exception and a tiny fraction of the rest. They are like a solitary tree, standing alone far from any other, refusing to bend in a harsh and bitter wind.

The realization of our ongoing Jewish solitude, or perhaps a more accurate word is isolation, is a hard one for many if not most Jews to accept. However true non-Jewish friendships, as those Yad Vashem figures make clear, are very rare. The more Jews are attacked and vilified, the more friendships we were sure of, melt away.

One of my old university students who went on to become a doctor and settle in Israel wrote to me after October 7.

Politically he stood on the Left of the spectrum and had always hoped and believed in a multi-cultural Israel with Arab and Jews living side by side. Most of the victims of October’s pogrom did too. My student counted Palestinian Arabs among his good friends. He had trained two of them as doctors. They too had expressed their hope for his vision for the Jewish state. Discovering that his two students had and do celebrate the Hamas mini-Holocaust and have declared themselves Hamas supporters has left him shocked and reeling.

I felt this pain and his confusion when he asked me how this could be. I realized that Rabbi Gottleib’s accurate observation about the size of Yad Vashem’s garden had simply never occurred to him.

All that Jews have done for their country and given to create its prosperity, often over centuries, is canceled and forgotten in a matter of weeks when history’s constant cancer wakes in a fury from its very light sleep.

On October 5, 1995, in a speech to the Knesset following the ratification of the Oslo accords, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin declared, “The Palestinians did not in the past and do not in the present constitute an existential threat to the state of Israel.”

I think the events that are taking place 29 years later, almost to that day show how wrong he was about that.

In another speech around the time of Oslo-induced optimism Prime Minister Rabin upset many when he contradicted the pasuk that states, “They are a nation that dwells alone.” declaring…

“Israel is no longer a people that dwells alone…”

I fear he was wrong about that too.

The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board wrote on May 9, “Biden Slaps an Arms Embargo on Israel.”

President Biden had just spoken on Holocaust Remembrance Day. “‘Never again,’ simply translated for me,” he said, “means never forget.”

He recalled Hamas’s crimes and blamed them for the war. He ended his speech declaring, “I have not forgotten.”

The Editorial Board of the WSJ wrote, “Has he really?”

The editorial explained that the Biden administration has frozen shipments of precision bombs, tank ammo and mortar rounds to deprive Israel of the means to defeat those responsible for October. 7.

It concluded with, “Words are cheap. What does it mean for Mr. Biden to say, ‘We must give hate no safe harbor,’ to polite applause for Holocaust Remembrance Day, while insisting that Israel give Hamas safe harbor in Rafah?…

Biden undermines (Israel) when he offers words of comfort while holding up the weapons Israel needs to defeat Hamas.”

Days after October 7, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke movingly to a Jewish congregation in a London Synagogue and pledged that his government’s support for Israel was “unequivocal.” Since then, his government has threatened to cut off arms supplies to Israel and his foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron has employed raw Hamas propaganda phraseology to do so.

The President of France, Emmanuel Macron in a perfidious and surreal volte-face has warned Israel against evacuating civilians from Rafah as it may constitute a “War Crime.”

The Torah says that Jews are a nation that do stand alone. If you doubt that, just count the trees at Yad Vashem…or ask Joe Biden.

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Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein is a popular international lecturer. He was a regular Broadcaster on BBC Radio and TV but resigned in 2022 over what he saw as its institutional anti-Semitism. He is the author of fourteen books including most recently, "Never Alone...The book for teens and young adults who've lost a parent."