My husband and I were blessed once again to be in Jerusalem for the chock-full month of holidays that just ended, as we have been for the past few years. This trip was different.
The month tends to be packed with seeing family and friends, celebrating the Festival days and Shabbat, and keeping up with our ministry work. We aren’t looking to run around the country (though there is much we would love to see). There is much joy in living in Jerusalem, visiting the cafes and restaurants within a few blocks of the apartment we rent, being able to walk or take a short bus ride to the Western Wall, drinking in the unique aura of the city and spending as much time as we can with our Israeli daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Each year, however, we do try to set aside one day for an outing.
One year, we went to the cave of Machpela in Hebron, where Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah are buried. On our way back from there, we stopped at Rachel’s tomb. Another year, we spent a day in Shiloh, the site of Hannah’s prayer for a son and where the Mishkan, the temporary Temple, stood for hundreds of years. This year, our plan was to go to Yad VaShem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum. Neither of us had been there for a few decades and it has been entirely rebuilt from when we saw it.
We didn’t make it. There was no time to focus on the attempted extermination of Jews seventy years ago in Europe when outside our door the attempted extermination of Jews in Israel was taking place right now.
The second day my husband and I were in Israel, we went to the graves of his parents on Har HaMenuchot, ‘The Mount of Those Who are Resting.’ At the end of our stay, on the day we had set aside for an outing, we paid a shiva (condolence) call on the parents of Eitam Henkin who, along with his wife Na’ama, had just been buried on Har HaMenuchot. Driving home on the evening of October 1st, with their four sons, ages 9, 7, 4, and 9 months, they were fired on and killed by Moslem terrorists. Their deaths were the first of too many and the number is increasing daily.
Israel is a small country; the Jewish people make up a small population. You would be hard pressed to find one Israeli Jew, who does not know one of the victims of this new Intifiada. Yet, funeral attendance and shiva calls for terrorist victims in Israel are attended by hundreds, even thousands, who do not necessarily know the individuals involved. Not only is there a feeling of family but there is also a recognition that had I driven home a different way, boarded an earlier bus or walked down a different street, that could have been me. While we were in the Henkin apartment, two beautiful teenage girls came to pay a shiva call. As they hugged Rabbanit Henkin, who with her husband and Na’ama’s parents will be raising the orphaned grandchildren, they told her that the grandchildren will be all right. How do they know? Because seven years ago, that was their situation when their mother was murdered.
Think of the way you felt in the days following 9/11 and you will have an inkling of how Israelis feel. Yet, unlike 9/11 which was an aberration in America, this is their norm. Life continues, as despite the incredible tension, the heightened awareness, people continue working, shopping and going to school. We found ourselves in a business meeting, sharing ideas and laughter. Later in the meeting, the man we were meeting mentioned that his study partner had been murdered less than a year earlier. A friend told me the following story. A number of years ago, after two young boys who played hookey from school to hike in the hills behind their home were found slaughtered in a cave, she asked her daughter not to take a shortcut home that went through an undeveloped field. For a few days, her daughter obeyed. Then she came to her mother and said, “Mom, do you want me to live in Israel?” “Of course, was the reply.” The daughter said, “Then you have to let me live.” She went back to using the shortcut.
Jews are given to introspection. It is not an accident that Freud was Jewish. He may have been wrong in his ideas, and motivated by rebellion against God, but ‘go with the flow,’ and ‘eat, drink and be merry,’ are not part of the Jewish psyche. The Israeli press is filled with articles of people reminding themselves and others that not all Moslems are evil and that Israel could handle things better. There are Moslem citizens of Israel who are grateful for and loyal to the state, including serving honorably in the army, and there are Jewish ones who hate the state and do not serve. There have been scattered lone-wolf attacks by Jews against Moslems and scattered instances of Moslems saving the lives of Jews under attack. That is all true–and in terms of stopping this evil it is all irrelevant.
What matters is the majority message, the respective government’s directives and the underlying culture on each side. When a Moslem teenager viciously stabs and critically wounds a 13 year old boy riding a bicycle and is subsequently killed by the police when he refuses orders to stand still and drop his knife, and papers around the world run a headline, “Palestinian teenager killed by Israeli police,” that has nothing to do with any Israeli policy. When a Palestinian law student at an Israeli university starts stabbing Israelis, that has nothing to do with poverty. When John Kerry spouts idiocy, talking of blame on both sides, that has zero to do with the Temple Mount. When the Moslem Arab world and the United Nations choose to exploit and institutionalize refugees that has nothing to do with Israel, a country that absorbed hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from Moslem lands.
Please read Bret Stephens’ Wall Street Journal article. Please know that most of what you hear and read in the world press, including America’s, is slanted, false and misleading. You need to know this, because, while God punishes his chosen people, those who choose to side with the persecutors or to join in the persecution end up suffering too. Often, they disappear from the stage of history. (Horrifically, as when 80% of the Jewish nation remained in Egypt rather than aligning with Moses, most of the Jewish community in America is frequently on the wrong side.)
It is tragic when any human suffers. Our hearts are properly torn when a tsunami ravages any city or when any humans attack each other. There is an added element of tragedy when the world turns against the Jewish people. Whether it is fair or not, whether we like it or not, what is happening in Israel will determine what happens in America. An America founded on Judeo-Christian values was a blessing to the Jewish people and had the right to ask for God’s protection. A secular, Godless America, evolving as an enemy to the Jewish people, cannot.