In the winter of 2017, when Israel was stricken with a scourge of brush fires – some the result of Mother Nature but more the work of evil men – I wrote: Israel is ablaze. It began with brushfires, a natural occurrence in an unusually dry, windy season, and was magnified a thousand-fold by the malicious, premeditated deeds of men. The hand of Nature leads us to prayer and supplication; man’s evil produces feelings of rage and revenge. And much pain.
Chazal told us long ago: Eretz Yisrael nikneit b’yissurim… the Land of Israel is acquired through struggle. When, in the past, I would attempt to explain why the Jewish Nation is so much more secure in Israel than in the Diaspora, the rejoinder was always: But it’s so dangerous to live in Israel!
I no longer need to explain so energetically because, unfortunately, the general feeling of security Jews felt in many western countries is slowly being replaced by a feeling of malaise and discomfort. Nonetheless, Israel is definitely not in a “good” neighborhood as far as “neighbors” are concerned. What exactly to do about it is a topic of great concern and complex considerations and there are no simple solutions. As we say in Hebrew slang, Z’bang v’gamarnu – just shoot ‘n spray and the pests will go away – isn’t a very helpful slogan in real life. (Although I do have a few sagacious, well thought out suggestions I could offer the government, but alas, no one has asked for them yet!)
And so together with my fellow Israelis I live in a sort of Anxiety Cloud (fog?). I am compelled to keep up with the news because as the Shunamit Woman so famously said, B’toch ami anochi yoshevet…. I dwell in the midst of my people. I care about what happens to all Jews, no matter where they are, and I care even more about what happens to the Jews here, my people, in the Land of Israel. B’toch ami anochi yoshevet….
I would like to wipe out all our enemies in one fell swoop and be done with them once and for all so we can build a better world, a world of peace, a world where the nations will come up to Har Habayit in recognition of the True Creator. (In other words, I want Mashiach.) But then I’m left to wonder… what would actually happen if we somehow managed to abolish all our enemies? Would we then have to deal with the rest of the world – the UN, the EU, the NYT, the Mondials and the Eurovisions? Personally, I don’t care. I would ignore them all. They may rate headlines, but they do not create reality. Reality is in God’s hands. But again, no one is asking me.
So we plow along as best we can, attempting to protect ourselves, responding when necessary, but rarely vigorously enough to start a full fledged war. After all, who wants war? Who wants to kill? To send their children to kill? Not us! Not if we can help it. That kind of mindset belongs to our enemies. Of course if we are pushed to the breaking point, all hell may indeed break loose, but the thought makes us shudder. It is something we will do if we must, but we pray that something else will “turn up.”
Which brings us to “something else.” I am a firm believer that the three greatest forms of ammunition in our arsenal are truth, tefillah and emunah.
We must speak our truth loudly, clearly, publicly, without fear – both to the world and to ourselves – even though it is not “politically correct” and is difficult to hear. Kol Yaakov, the Voice of Jacob, should ring out with God’s message. The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People. Jerusalem is the Jewish capital. Other peoples may live amongst us, but no other nation has the right to claim our God given heritage. The world may not accept our truth, but they will respect our right to claim it.
And tefillah – prayer… Everyone prays, especially when things get bumpy. But the challenge is to understand that when we do what God demands of us, God will fulfill the promises He has made. It says so clearly in the Shema. He has given us all the necessary tools and provisions, including an arsenal of fancy weapons. Unfortunately, we get so involved with the tools that we sometimes forget their source. And we get so busy worrying about the World, that we forget its Creator.
So where does all this philosophizing leave me? It leaves me with emunah – faith. Jewish history is about reaching for the sky. It is a story of woe, valor and victory. Here and there, we have experienced a quiet, secure era but never one where we lived “happily ever after” (that ending is for Mashiach). At the moment, here in Israel we are in the midst of fiery kites and explosive helium balloons, surrounded by enemies frothing with hatred. Despite unceasing attempts to find friends for our beleaguered country, we are seemingly abandoned by most of the “civilized” world. Yet we are not despairing or dejected. We are of course involved in searching for partial, practical solutions while knowing that none of these are a true and final remedy. They are our necessary hishtadlut but they are, at best, temporary band aids. We know we still have a long road ahead.
Yet unexplainably, we feel privileged, loved, secure in the knowledge that we are the right people, in the right time, in the right place. After all, this is where God has put us! There is no safer place in today’s world. The noxious fumes of anti-Semitism hover in the air and poison the environment across the globe. No place is more secure than our own home. The feeling that “it can never happen here” no longer holds true. The walls protecting civilization are cracking before our eyes. We can choose to see and believe, or to see and deny.
So sometimes we are a bit anxious, yes. But despondent? Not at all. Grateful? Very. For the opportunity to do God’s work in His Land. If we could only get our act together and do it properly, everything would move along more smoothly.
With true emunah and bitachon, even if our efforts fall short, our Father in Heaven will pull us through. He has promised. And His promises, unlike human pacts, are eternal. Swords shall indeed become plowshares and kites and balloons shall once again become, not weapons of mass destruction, but a way for children to look upwards and reach for the sky.