With Our Brothers in Distress
(March 7) It is 5:45 on Shabbat afternoon, and I'm scheduled to speak in just a few minutes to a large suburban congregation in the US. Before the rabbi introduces me, however, he announces that there has been another suicide bomber in Jerusalem, near the Mirrer yeshiva, and at least nine Jews are dead.
(It is amazing how fast news from Israel reaches Jews in America, even on Shabbat when Orthodox Jews do not listen to radio or answer the phone.)
I have an immediate flashback to a conversation over the Shabbat table a few hours earlier. I started to ask a fellow guest with experience in Israeli security issues whether he had ever thought about the extreme vulnerability of Jerusalem's religious neighborhoods.
Before I completed the question, however, I stopped. "Don't open your mouth before the Angel of Death," goes the traditional wisdom. With so many existing horror stories to discuss, there seemed no point talking about potential new ones.
Little did we know then that the theoretical had already become real.
There are approximately 1,500 Americans studying in Mirrer Yeshiva. Many of the congregants undoubtedly have children or close relatives studying in the yeshiva. By the time we finish the evening prayer service and recite special Psalms for the injured, it will be too late to call Israel. We will have to wait many hours before contacting loved ones.
After havdala (the prayer denoting the end of Shabbat), my hostess is full of questions: How do your children deal with this? Are they scared? Do they have nightmares?
But I'm barely listening. In her questions, I hear only an accusation: You deserted your family. I should be home with my wife trying to provide the younger children at least with some sense of security, even though I know (and they probably do as well) that there is little I can do to protect them.
Saturday night, I face another grim-faced audience. Every person in the room has a deep personal connection to Israel - many live there much of the year, or have children living there. But for now, we are all "over here" contemplating what is going on "over there" with a gnawing sense of dread.
(It never ceases to amaze me how quickly Israel becomes "over there." No matter how many times an hour one checks the news, as soon as you are off the plane a certain distance sets in. A friend who was in America when the Sbarro suicide bombing took place told me how embarrassed she was to hear herself asking her daughter to turn off CNN and find something more entertaining.)
It's not hard to tell what is on everybody's mind. The feeling that Israel's existence ensures Jews will never again be defenseless - that Holocaust and exile are things of the past - has infiltrated even those Orthodox circles that do not invest the state with theological significance.
But doubts are beginning to set in: Can we really be so sure that we will never again have to flee?
I see on my listeners' faces the question: Is this how it was for the Jews of Europe in the Thirties? Did they gradually adjust to each new deterioration in their situation until they could no longer see the direction in which events were headed?
On each visit to Israel, American Jews are struck by how much worse things have gotten. The downtown of our capital is deserted, the airport virtually empty, a major new highway barely used due to fear of drive-by shootings, and proud "new Jews" have surrounded themselves with barbed wire and entered ghettos of their own making.
As Israel continues to respond in an ad hoc fashion, without any clear strategy, the sense of helplessness both among its citizens and among world Jewry grows. To act rashly is to risk a situation even worse than the present. But not to act at all creates a feeling of impotence and demoralization, which itself constitutes defeat.
To the implicit question "Why doesn't Sharon do something?" I try to explain how much more complicated matters appear from the prime minister's seat than over the Shabbat morning kiddush.
Israel does not manufacture F-16s, I note, and cannot afford over the long-run to alienate America. More important, the prime minister can act decisively only if he knows that nation is behind him.
If the Palestinians were to see 30% of Jewish soldiers refusing to serve in an "army of occupation," their aspirations will soar. Yet with opposition leader Yossi Sarid calmly explaining every new atrocity as the logical consequence of the "occupation," Sharon cannot be sure this will not happen.
Those who demanded the end of the "occupation" of Lebanon on the grounds that the situation there was intolerable have succeeded only in creating an even more intolerable situation. More Jews are now murdered in a day than were killed in a year in Lebanon.
One shudders to think what murderous Palestinian appetites would be whetted by another withdrawal under fire.
Still, despite all the concerns for the future, everywhere I go parents insist that they will send their sons and daughters to yeshiva or seminary next year. A very wealthy acquaintance tells me that his whole family is moving to Israel - where no amount of money can ensure safety - in time for the new school year.
And one of my closest friends has already sold his house in preparation for this summer's aliya.
They are coming because they recognize that in Israel it is still possible to live the most intensely Jewish life, and their resolve will strengthen all of us. But they are also coming because, in some crazy way, they do not want to witness Jews in danger from afar.
One Purim, the Klausenberger Rebbe spoke to his hassidim of the Holocaust. The Rebbe never saw his wife and 11 children after they arrived in Auschwitz. Yet he told his followers, "Thank G-d, that when Jews suffered so terribly that I suffered with them and was not spared."
A trace of that same identification with the suffering of Klal Yisrael still burns today.
Jonathan Rosenblum is the Israel Director of Am Echad Resources, and a weekly columnist for the Jerusalem Post. This article originally appeared on jpost.com.
|There are so many Yossi Sarids in Europe you may not even imagine, even among our fellow Jews. Listen to 90% of the News bulletins and hear of the wicked Israelis brutalizing and murdering poor and helpless palestinians. The solution? I personally do not have one except praying Hashem to help us find one. After what happened to 'Am Israel through the past 3000 years, having to flee again is not so blasphemus as it may seem.
- G. B. -0/4-/2002
|* * * * *|
|Tehillim 94:1-2, Jews the world over rise to the expectation of these verses.
The enemies of our nation will not always have the whip hand on us. Neither will will our sunshine friends. When all is said and done only Hashem and ourselves can be really trusted to save the people of Yackov. Do what is best for the safety and well being of the Jewish people. Do what will deiver comfort to Israel. And, remember that G-D awaits our efforts to bring the Messianic Era. May it speedily come. |
- M. T. -0/4-/2002
|* * * * *|
|I am a student who is currently studying in Israel for the year, and I was disturbed by your article. It seemed as if you were mainly worried about the safety of the Orthodox neighborhoods. Yes-when the suicide bomber went off by the Yeshiva, it disturbed all of us, because we had considered that area to be safe. However, your article seemed to imply that you were not worried about the Jewish people as a whole, or the more secular areas. ALL of our people are in danger here, the religious and the secular, and one is not more important than the other. When a bomb goes off on a Friday night at a club, it is just as sad, and just as threatening to ALL of us. Please keep in mind that is the non-Charedi Jews who are keeping this country going, and defending it. Thank you. |
|* * * * *|
|American Jews are still strangers in a strange land. When will we wake up and smell the hate. Why isn't there rallys for Israel?! Because Jews don't want to rock the boat! We don't have a plan for survival. Where is the community leaders
saying if and so so goes on, here's what we'll do. There is no plan, its up to you and your family. The rich we'll flee, the middle class and poor have to stay and either surrender or fight. I bet 99.9% don't even have shotgun for the house. What are you going to do JEW when they come for you!!|
- Y. M. -0/4-/2002
|* * * * *|
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden - 5764
Shlomo Katz - 5766
A Generation Repents
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5761
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5766
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5763
Bilaam Lost His Shock Value
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5764
Was G-d Bilaam's Agent?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761
The Sin of "Not Getting It"
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5767
If It Can Happen To Bilaam, It Can Happen to Any of Us
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765
In Order for Nothing to Happen
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763
Building With Failure
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760
Why was Balak Worried?
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5757
Straight From The Heart
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760
It's All Free Will
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5763