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France in Flames; Jenin a Jungle

Two war zones appeared on our television screens this week, one in France, the other in Jenin in northern Samaria. It may have seemed like a coincidence, but it wasn’t. France is burning in what seems like an uprising against its very existence. Riots like those we saw in France await Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Scandinavian countries. This war is no surprise; it is the fruit of a centuries-long process in which Europe gave up on two important institutions for its existence as a civilization: religion and nationalism.

The process of secularization that began in the Renaissance and continued through the French Revolution and the revolutions of 1848 – the “Springtime of the Peoples” – was important for the development of Europe. It separated the church and the state and released science from religious doctrine that slowed down its advance. Minorities received civil rights – among them the Jews who for the first time in centuries left their physical and social ghettos and went on to contribute the finest minds to Europe in every possible field. At the same time, however, the process of secularization emptied the churches and expelled God from the public sphere.


In the middle of the previous century, when the intellectual elite looked on in horror at the two world wars, it diagnosed the roots of the catastrophe in the idea of nationalism, even the liberal nationalism of Giuseppe Mazzini. For this intellectual elite, nationalism led inescapably to ultra-nationalism and xenophobia and from there to fascism, Nazism, and other ills. The counter-reaction was the establishment of the European Union which aspired to annul the differences between its member states and at the same time to systematically dismantle and destroy nationalism and to delegitimize it in philosophical discourse and political science.

These ideas were also promoted by the Soviet Union and its agents, whose interest in dismantling Western solidarity was clear. Today, more than a century since the Soviet Revolution, one can see how much it exalted ideas and thought less about people. Tens of millions were sacrificed on the altar of the communist idea, and entire peoples were oppressed behind the Iron Curtain. In its haste to get rid of the bad, the European elite also threw away the good things about nationalism: the human need to belong to a national collective that not only provides security and improves economic and social conditions but gives its members a unique identity and connects them on a historical continuum with an ethos and language that explains their connection with the particular country in which they live.

It’s all very well to be individualistic, cosmopolitan, and universalist, but the human soul seeks meaning within a family, a people, and a nation. As we said above, the social elites saw no need for the religious dimension and rejected it with contempt, but this left the masses without the organizing element in their lives, which made sense of their suffering and their lives in general – if we are to use the narrow definition of religion.

As Europe let down its defenses and anesthetized its survival instincts, tens of millions of immigrants entered the Union. Unlike their predecessors, they refused to integrate into society and maintained traditional hostility to the West. Unlike Europeans, they have religious tradition and nationalism; they belong to the Muslim nation (“Ummat al Islam”) that unites its followers across the world. At mosques throughout the continent, there is talk about the end of Christian Europe. Two decades ago, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, declared: “Constantinople was conquered in 1453 (and became Istanbul) …  now what remains is the conquest of the other city – Rome, and this is what we hope for and believe in. The meaning of this is that Islam will return to Europe once again as conqueror and a victor after twice being expelled from it.”  Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Rome was the capital of the western empire, and today it is the capital of Christianity. The symbolism is explicit and overt, and has a chilling practical aspect, as we have seen over the past week.

In conversations with European intellectuals, I have said that it is indeed a historical irony that a Jew from Israel should tell them that in order to survive as a civilization, they should return to being good Christians and strengthen their national uniqueness in place of the failed policy of multiculturalism. For many of them, Israel is a beacon and a hope for their continued existence, because as we develop as a modern advanced state, we are nurturing the great shields that Europe has abandoned: an ancient tradition with religious and moral ideas and a healthy nationalism whose roots go back to our beginnings as a people in biblical times. There is good reason that Israel is the only place in the Western world where demography is on the rise; not only among the religious public, but also in the secular community, and even in the LGBT community, which has far more children than any similar community in the West.

While the riots were going on in France, Israel launched an operation to root out terrorist infrastructures in the city of Jenin in northern Samaria. In biblical times, Jenin was a Levite city known as Ein Ganim that was part of the territory of Issachar on the border with Menashe (See Joshua 19:21) . It was at Beth Haggan, another name for the city, (House of the Garden) where Jehu, son of Nimshi, who had risen up against the House of Ahab clashed with Ahaziah King of Judah. “On seeing this, (what had happened to his father, Joram, son of Ahab, who Jehu had shot dead with an arrow) King Ahaziah of Judah fled along the road to Beth Haggan. Jehu pursued him and said, “Shoot him down too!” [And they shot him] in his chariot at the ascent of Gur, which is near Ibleam. He fled to Megiddo and died there.” (II Kings 9:27). The above are names of places in northern Samaria.

During the Second Temple period, a flourishing Jewish community by the name of Ginae existed there, and after the destruction in year 70, and later, despite the Muslim occupation (which began in 638), the Jewish community there continued to exist. In the 20th century, the Jews there disappeared completely; and where there is no Jewish settlement there is no security. Back in the 1930s, Jenin became a hotbed for Arab gangs that operated against Jews and the British.

In the summer of 2005, the Jewish communities of northern Samaria were uprooted, and their residents were expelled. The historic connection between the absence of Jewish settlement and a deterioration in security has returned to strike us once again. The whole area, and Jenin in particular, has become a dangerous hothouse of terrorism.  Shortly before it became a ‘little Lebanon’ the IDF launched its operation. The test of our determination will be a permanent presence in the area and constant pounding of the terror infrastructures there.

With the return of security, it is important that we rebuild the Jewish communities that were uprooted. That is the traditional Zionist response: Where the plough toils and Jews have a hold on the soil of the Land, another brick is built in the Iron Wall planted in the consciousness of those who seek to harm us. This Zionist response receives further validation when one looks at how radical Islam is dismantling Europe. Israel today is the forward outpost of the defense of European civilization, and the Jewish communities on the Samarian hills are at the forefront of this existential battle. This is how things should be presented in the capitals of the West.

As Europe burns and Israel fights terrorism and works to deepen its roots in its ancient homeland, what are the Jews of Europe – and in particular, France – doing? They find it difficult to return home to Zion. As in previous occasions in history, they are still grabbing hold of the horns of the altar, and they continue to do so until they will no longer be able to maintain a Jewish life in the shadow of the pogroms. When that happens, they will pack their bags and seek other pastures, not always in Israel. It is difficult to remove the genes of the wandering rootless Jew.

Back in the 18th century, the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah Ben Solomon Zalman, called on his pupils to settle the Land of Israel and gather the exiles from the Diaspora. In the book Kol HaTor, Rabbi Hillel Rivlin of Shklov, a disciple of the Vilna Gaon, writes: “Almost every day our rabbi said to us excitedly that ‘on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance’ and that we must not be late.” The Vilna Gaon saw the danger and even back then pointed to the solution. Will we listen this time?

{Reposted from Israel Hayom}

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