As I write these words, I am enjoying the wonderful Chag of Chanukah, and hope that it will remain as it ought to be, consisting of warm, fun-filled evenings in front of the Menorah, armed with our dreidels and feasting on latkes, enjoying spending quality time with our family and friends. Lonni & I are enjoying it this year in a very special way – we traveled to Israel and are spending Chanukah with our children. It should be a completely joyous and wonderful time.
But, unfortunately, just under the surface, it is not so. In fact, first among the gifts that I brought for each of my children is a can of mace/pepper spray.
Much like it was many years ago, בימים ההם בזמן הזה, Yerushalyim Ir Hakodesh has become a battlefield of late. We, the Jewish people, are under attack. We are being run over at bus stations, stabbed while waiting for rides, having our children kidnapped and killed, knifed while shopping in supermarkets, shot at with thousands of missile, narrowly avoiding a horrendous Rosh Hashanah tunnel attack, attacked with axes and guns while davening in shuls . . . all while there is supposedly a cease fire. And not just in Israel. There are bombings and killings and rapes in London, Paris, Mumbai, Sydney, and smaller cities . . . and here in the USA. Just before we left for Israel we heard of the stabbing of a yeshiva student at 770 Eastern Parkway . . . and on it goes.
And the world – the same world who sees and condemns the brutal horrific killers of ISIS – ignores the fact that ISIS and HAMAS and Hezbollah and Fatah and Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, are actually all the one and the same, differing in name and location only. These same savages, who contaminate our holy Har HaBayis and then hypocritically call us the violent aggressors, want one thing only – to eradicate not only the State of Israel but Jews everywhere – from the face of the Earth. And yet, the world sees their brutality and inhumanity when they attack anyone, except the Jews.
And what is our response to all this? Predictably, there are those on the left who blame Israel for not accommodating the “Palestinians” enough, as we have caused so much of the problems in the first place. There are those on the “extreme” political right who say that we need to respond much more firmly, and adopt an approach that takes no prisoners. (My esteemed colleague Rabbi Steven Pruzansky recently wrote a column – which he was subsequently pressured to retract – in which he offered some suggestions of what might be done, most of which were right on the money in my view, even if one could quibble about some of the others.) Those in the political center, are outraged about what is happening, but basically clueless about what can be done about it, save trying to heighten defensive security measures. Here in Israel, elections are once again in process, in no small part due to the frustrations that arise with the government’s limited options in dealing with implacable enemies in the face of hostile diplomatic world.
Of course, the religious response that is mostly heard – the frum papers are full of reports of speeches given this week at the sheloshim for the four martyrs killed at prayer in Har Nof – is to increase our Torah and Tefillah and Teshuvah, and pray that Hashem finally have mercy on us. And while, of course, this is necessary, I wonder if that really ought to be the entirety of our response. To quote the esteemed Rav Berel Wein, “Redoubled efforts at greater acts of charity and more meaningful prayer services are undoubtedly noble goals but are hardly words and actions of comfort, consolation or explanation.” It seems to me that the time has come that we must think more boldly and meta-historically.