Point of View
There is an ancient Rabbinic legend which speaks of three gifts given by God to the Jewish people. Each brought with it sacrifice, suffering and travail. Without them, however, Judaism would have been unable to fulfill its mission as a light among the nations. What are they? They are Torah, Eretz Yisroel and Olam Habah (immortality).
The gift of Torah has brought with it an unending struggle throughout the centuries of Jewish life and even in our day in the repressive atmosphere of Soviet Russia generations ago under Stalin when our brethren were prohibited from importing matzoh and from opening religious schools. We gave the world the greatest ethical code, the Torah and Ten Commandments, and mothered western religion. And we have been punished ever since for being a living witness to the nations of the world of how little has been accomplished by them in humanizing life and society.
The gift of immortality which is the faith that somehow something lasts; and that the immortal message of Israel will outlive all demands great reserves of faith. It has been no mean task for our generation, eyewitness to genocide and unspeakable terror, to retain its faith in the immortality of the Jewish people. Nonetheless, the “Ani Maamin” – stubborn resistance of Jewish life has prevailed even in this post-Auschwitz era, and normative Judaism retains its faith in God and humankind.
Finally, the gift of Eretz Yisroel has been a terribly costly one – a few hundred years of independence, 2,000 years of exile, a miraculous restoration, and now five wars during sixty three years of existence. Truly one can say with Chaim Weizmann, first President of Israel, that the fate of Israel has not been handed to our people on a “silver platter.” Every dunam has been purchased with blood and sacrifice. It is a miraculous thing to behold a modern, throbbing, dynamic State built up in 100 years out of sands of the desert. Only true peace with security has been denied.
This year, which marks the 43rd year since the unification of Jerusalem, has seen an incredible advance in the life style, health and status of Arabs who are citizens of Israel (one million). For centuries, the plight of their brethren has been one of poverty and despair, while their leadership lives in unimaginable splendor. The living standards of the Arab citizens of Israel as that of Jewish citizens have gone up dramatically during these past years.
The young and old of Israel know well, better than any of us, the high cost of the precious homeland. They are brave, they are determined, they have created a miracle in time and space, they also know well “Sheayn Breira” – that there is no alternative, there is nowhere else for Jews to flee. Anti-Semitism has risen throughout Europe. Attempts to make Israel a Pariah for all the mistakes the Arabs committed in the Middle East is steadily gaining ground. Israel must fight for peace, and they, and they alone, can determine their security, their borders and their future.
This past month I visited Yad Vashem, the memorial to the six million Jews in Jerusalem, to explain our exciting, “Adopt A Kaddush Program” in which forty families have adopted and pledged to say Kaddush for martyred children of the Holocaust. During my time in Israel I stood in the highest place atop the Western Wall in the Brigade Headquarters guarding the sacred sights. On one side I saw the Temple Mount where once stood the ancient Temple of Solomon revered by Moslems, Jews and Christians for centuries. On the other side down below was the Western Wall packed with Jews and Christian tourists from Europe, Asia and America all standing, conversing, socializing and praying at the sacred Wall. As I saw both sights the Wall and the Temple Mount and the plethora of visitors, my mind turned to the words of the Prophet Isaiah
“And all the peoples of the world shall gather in Jerusalem
And many shall go and say come let us go up to the mountain
of the Lord.
Where God will judge between the nations and decide
for many peoples.
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning forks.
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation
Neither shall they learn war any more.”
This monthly column continues with thanks to an anonymous donor.