Don’t Fool Yourselves – It Can Happen
May 23, 2006
One of the paradigms of modern Israeli culture is the adjacency of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day, to Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day.
It stands to reason that prior to celebrating national liberation, those who made the supreme sacrifice leading to achievement of the goal of independence must be honored, remembered and shown gratitude.
Memorial day effects just about every citizen of Israel, as well as many Jews around the world. The proverbial ‘everybody knows somebody who…’ it all too real in a small state, not yet sixty years old. Putting it succinctly, memorial day really hits home. There’s no way to escape the imbued sense of national mourning which includes each and every Israeli citizen.
For this reason it is all the more difficult, and perhaps all the more touching, that Memorial Day is immediately followed, almost continued, by Independence Day. One minute you are mourning and the next minute, celebrating. Such a mixture and combination of emotions can be confusing, to say the least.
But this blending of sentiment clearly reflects Jewish history, and the return to the Homeland, Eretz Yisrael. What better an example than just sixty years ago, when the creation of the state of Israel was preceded by the wholesale slaughter of between six to seven million Jews, in what is called ‘the Holocaust.’ How is it possible to cheerfully observe Jewish independence on the footsteps of such atrocity? But this is the way it was, and this is the way it is.
So why bring this up now, when Memorial Day and Independence Day are behind us, having occurred just a few weeks ago? I cannot help but feel that we are on the brink of yet another parallel set of seeming opposites.
In a few days we will, supposedly, celebrate Jerusalem Day, observing the 58th anniversary of the liberation of the holiest city in the world. Jerusalem: Jews, with their last breath, screaming, “Next year in Jerusalem,” and then burning on the stake. And it wasn’t too many years ago that “Next year in Jerusalem” was a one-way ticket to Siberia. There was a Rabbi in Jerusalem, who, following the fall of the ‘Old City,’ including Temple Mount and the Western Wall during the 1948 War of Independence, refused to leave his home for 19 years, until liberation of the entire city, during the Six-day war in 1967! Jerusalem, in the hearts and souls of all Jews, in song and poetry, prayer and thought, finally, in 1967, after a two thousand year exile, Jews were back home.
Or were we? It is a well-known fact that then Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent Golda Meir and a few other Israeli politicians to Hussein of Jordan, pleading with him not to take part in the war. They were unequivocal: Israel will not attack the “Old City” and not move into Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem is yours. Just stay out of the war. Don’t open up another front from the east.
Hussein’s response was to sign a five year mutual defense pact with Egypt, establish a joint command with Nasser, and to begin shelling Jerusalem. Israel and Eshkol had no choice? Or did they?
Prior to being given the green light to enter the Old City during the war, the Israeli army waited outside the walls for many hours. Why? A proposal had been suggested to the Israeli cabinet: declare Jerusalem an ‘international city’ and don’t attack, refrain from making Jerusalem a part of the State of Israel.
Fortunately this proposal was rejected, due to the persuasive arguments of then Minister Menachem Begin and IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren. However, it is clear. The Israeli leadership of 1967 did not view Jerusalem as an integral element of Israel’s essence. It was ‘another place’ which could be ‘sacrificed’ for the ‘sake of peace.’
So too, it seems today. The Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Ehud Olmert, almost as these word are being written, is replaying pre-Jerusalem 1967. Again, Jerusalem is on the table, waiting for the surgeons to begin to amputate. So ironic it is that only a few days before “Jerusalem Day,” the Israeli prime minister is trying to convince the President of the United States to allow Israel to unilaterally part from our land, including parts of Jerusalem, including, almost inevitably, Temple Mount. All that Jews yearned for, prayed for, were imprisoned for, died for, poof, to be gone like a cloud in the sky, blown away by the winds of surrender, capitulation, terror, and, in the end, fear.
Yes, fear. Only a people afraid are willing to even consider parting from their most valuable possessions, in this case, not only our land, but our spirit. All the bravery and cunning, the self-assuredness, the faith, it has all seeming gone down the drain of peace. Not a peace of the courageous, rather a peace of the terrified.
Ehud Olmert, together with all his supporters, political and otherwise, is literally shaking in his pants. “PLEASE PRESIDENT BUSH, LET US GIVE AWAY OUR LAND!”
For whatever reason, and there are lots of reasons, many Israelis have lost their will and their way; they have lost their will to live and their way of life. The willingness to cut out our collective heart is unparalleled spiritual suicide and the willingness to continue to chop up our land and abandon it to the enemy is unparalleled physical suicide.
So, as we approach “Jerusalem Day,” only three days away, I ask myself, perhaps we need to preface this holiday, as we introduce Independence Day with Memorial day. With what? I would suggest moving Tisha B’Av, the traditional anniversary of the destruction of the first and second Temples, from the date of that destruction, to the day prior to Jerusalem day. Were we collectively, to fast, sit on the ground as a sign of mourning, and weep for what we lacked for two thousand years, the day before the celebration, perhaps we would better understand why we celebrate; just as Independence Day is so much more meaningful following the mourning of the preceding day.
For I fear that we may soon find ourselves marking another Tisha b’Av; one marking the destructions of the past, and a second, marking the self-inflicted destruction of the present.
And no one should dare say, “It cannot and will not happen.” We’ve been there, we’ve done that – and anyone who has forgotten should just go back and take a look at the pictures from last summer.
Don’t fool yourselves. It can happen.
With prayers for many more festive Jerusalem Days
With blessings from Hebron.