These notes are being written on my laptop in my sukkah, having had a nice shot glass in honor of the sweetest holiday in our calendar, so I encourage the reader to take it with a few grains of salt. On the other hand, don’t dismiss it out of hand, and please, check out Zechariah 14, possibly the most exciting passage in the Bible for sci fi fans.
I am not the first to point out that a global epidemic that has already killed millions, an intensification of the forces of nature that manifests itself in stronger storms than we have experienced to date and fires that are consuming forests throughout the planet, a war between East and West that has already caused the death of tens of thousands, a growing global shortage of fuel, disruption of supply routes, a famine that, according to international agencies, has already affected nearly 150 million people, and rampant inflation that threatens the savings of millions of people who until a moment ago were convinced they were part of the first world, safe and sound –– are bringing the human race ever closer to a terrible epoch.
In these harrowing times, on this holiday of Sukkot, I am happy to be sitting in my balcony sukkah in the safest place on earth and to be able to offer the many Jews of the world a refuge and an opportunity to rehabilitate and rebuild. I see the 24,000 immigrants from Russia and Ukraine this year as the first swallows heralding an unprecedented wave of Aliyah from anywhere in the world where Jews live today. I am convinced that sooner or later every Jew will realize the magnitude of the danger in their current places of residence, sell their real estate and furniture while they still can, and get on a plane to Ben Gurion. Not necessarily because of the waves of antisemitism in the US and Europe, but because Israel is an island of stability and security in a world that’s sinking into madness.
I’m aware that I am giving this optimistic speech in the midst of the third intifada when armed terrorists are shooting at us on the roads of Judea and Samaria and sometimes on the other side of the green line. But I believe that at some point Israel’s security establishment will be wise enough to take control of the problem because, between us, the IDF is simply much stronger than the enemy, and when it exercises its sound judgment it will repeat the success of Operation Defensive Shield.
On March 27, 2002, the Seder night of 5772, 19 people were massacred and 160 injured at the Park Hotel in Netanya. This massacre was the 53rd suicide attack of the second intifada, in a month in which more than 135 Israelis were murdered in similar attacks. Following the attack, the Israeli government declared the emergency mobilization of 20,000 reserve soldiers and the launch of Operation Defensive Shield to destroy the terrorist infrastructure in Judea and Samaria. Unfortunately, the IDF is led today by Defense Minister Benny Gantz who clings to the misguided idea of a two-state solution and therefore continues to hesitate to undertake a large-scale operation to eradicate Arab terrorism that harms the future of Arabs more than it does Israel’s. But I am certain that, at some point, Gantz will succumb to pressure from below or be replaced. It’s only a matter of time. And despite the laxity of the defense minister of the transitional government, I continue to believe that Israel is the safest place in the world for me and my Jewish brothers and sisters wherever they are.
The Festival of Sukkot is the international holiday of the people of Israel, in which we used to sacrifice 70 bulls in the Temple, for the benefit of the 70 nations of the world. According to tradition, in Sukkot the world is judged on the year’s provision of water – the whole planet depends on the heavenly decision of whether the next year will be rainy or dry. And on the first day of Sukkot, we read the passage about the war of Gog and Magog (Zechariah 14), where the prophet says that after God will defeat the nations that will come up against Jerusalem, all the nations will come to celebrate the festival of Sukkot in Jerusalem:
All who survive among all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make an annual pilgrimage to bow low to the King, Lord of Hosts, and to observe the Feast of Booths. And the earth’s communities that do not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bow low to the King Lord of Hosts shall receive no rain.
I really recommend reading Zechariah 14, it’s one of the most exciting chapters of the Bible, full of descriptions of epidemics and nuclear radiation and earthquakes––don’t ask. We don’t need science fiction when we have Zechariah 14. And it anchors the war of Gog and Magog––Armageddon, or whatever name you prefer, to this week when millions of Jews build a small hut on the porch, with thatch and decorations, and enjoy the smells and tastes of our multiple cuisines.